Books: The Tax Collector Gets Audited

A LAW UNTO ITSELF: POWER, POLITICS, AND THE IRS by David Burnham

Random House; 419 pages; $22.50

In the late 1950s, the literary critic and historian Edmund Wilson found himself in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service. Preoccupied with big ideas and momentous events, scraping by on stipends and feeling generally Olympian, he had neglected to file income tax returns between 1946 and 1955. The distinguished delinquent eventually paid up, but to settle the score he wrote The Cold War and the Income Tax, a 118-page pained yawp that argued there was not much difference between the IRS and the KGB....

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