I just finished reading Showdown at Gucci Gulch by Jeffery Birnbaum and Alan Murray and I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand how the system works. Showdown at Gucci Gulch follows the 1986 tax reform from an idea to law.
The Tax Reform Act of 1986 was a major overhaul of our tax system. While it was not perfect, it went a long way in getting rid of tax loopholes and reducing the tax rates for individuals. This easy to read book follows the path to law from previous reform attempts and proposals, to President Reagan's call for reform, through the Congressional process, to a final bill.
Since my first tax season was for tax year 1987, the first year under the new system, I had very little exposure to the "bad old days". What concerns me is that in the years since that reform our tax system has once again become riddled with loopholes and special interest deductions. Where will the next reform movement come from?