IRS Reform: More Show Than Substance

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WASHINGTON: Yes, you'll still have to pay taxes. But Congress wants you to feel better about it -- and them. In an overwhelming show of lovable-issue bipartisanship, the Senate almost unanimously approved a $13 billion bill that aims to make the hated Internal Revenue Service a little more taxpayer friendly. President Clinton has promised to sign it, and the bill's jubilant coauthor, Senate Finance Committee chairman William Roth, promised "a new day for the American taxpayer." But FORTUNE Washington bureau chief Jeff Birnbaum sees a mostly empty gesture: "The vast majority of Americans won't feel any difference under this plan -- if anything, the changes will make things more confusing for everyone."

Naturally, the main hope of congressmen, who passed the bill 402-8 in the House and now 96-2 in the Senate, is that taxpaying voters won't notice until after November. "Politically, everybody wins," says Birnbaum. "This is something that everyone can take home for the August recess."