The Internal Revenue Service is looking for a Virginia painting contractor who hasn't made a child support payment in five years, and there are signs he is feeling the heat.

His ex-wife says he called her mother recently after receiving a letter from the IRS and "cussed her out" before disappearing again. "Get that law off my back," her mother recalls him saying.The case of the painting contractor, who owes $16,000 in legal fees and $74,000 in child and spousal support, is one of 698 child support cases turned over to the IRS under a new pilot project.

The demonstration, which involves child support cases with an average debt of nearly $21,000, could portend other changes in the child support enforcement system.

President Clinton has promised to improve child support collections as part of his overhaul of the nation's welfare system. His welfare reform task force estimates that while the potential for child support collections exceeds $47 billion, only $13 billion a year is actually being paid.

A senior official says the administration envisions the IRS playing a bigger role in child support collections.

Under the pilot project, the IRS is trying to collect on 698 support cases in 12 states, including Utah.

The task force plan also calls for a federal child support enforcement clearinghouse that would contain the names of all absent parents and the amounts they owe.

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