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SIMPLER TAX MAY BE ON THE WAY

As you rush to finish your income tax return this weekend, take heart in the knowledge that you're likely to get a vote next year on whether to scrap the Internal Revenue Service and the system it enforces.

That's because Congress this year and presidential candidates in 1996 will almost certainly trigger a serious debate about whether the current variable tax rate should go.The leading candidate to replace it is a single tax rate with generous exemptions and limited or no deductions. That could mean that millions of families would pay less or no tax at all. It also could mean that those who have escaped taxes through deductions would pay significantly more.

Another alternative under consideration would stop taxing income entirely and substitute a national sales tax, as exists in many European countries, to raise the money needed to run the federal government.

Congress, because the Republican majority, including House Speaker Newt Gingrich, supports the idea, is going to hold hearings on a flat tax this summer.