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Clinton Signs Bill That Aims to Reform IRS

Taxes: Law targets abuses within agency's entrenched bureaucracy. Program of oversight, restrictions may not be enough, some say.

July 23, 1998|RALPH VARTABEDIAN and JONATHAN PETERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

"The IRS had become so far removed from the expectations of the people that you needed to do something to right that balance--and that's what this bill does," said Goldberg. "It creates the possibility of success that hasn't existed in decades."

For his part, Clinton was initially cautious about joining the bandwagon to transform the IRS, part of his Treasury Department. But as the Republican-led push gained popular support, the president joined in.

In his remarks Wednesday, the president said the IRS has made progress in improving its service, including expanded office hours, telephone accessibility and programs for filing taxes via telephone and computer.

"All this meant quicker refunds, less paperwork and fewer hassles for American taxpayers," Clinton said. "But clearly there is more to do to build an IRS for the 21st century."

Agreed Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin: "We have devoted a great deal of time and resources to moving forward on these problems. Since then, we have made real progress in using technology more effectively, which was the first matter we addressed; fair treatment of taxpayers; and improving customer service.

"But without question, there is an enormous amount of work that lies ahead. These problems developed over years, in some cases even decades, and it will take a long time to get this thing to where it needs to be."

At the bill-signing ceremony, Clinton also maintained that it would be the "wrong course for America" to have a major tax cut, as sought by Republican leaders, before resolving the long-term financing issues of Social Security.

House Republicans have stepped up pressure to force an election year confrontation with Clinton over cutting taxes.

Times staff writer Janet Hook contributed to this story.

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