TAXING ISSUES

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In the wake of Sept. 11, Americans have a renewed faith in government — a sentiment that extends even to the Internal Revenue Service. A record 63 percent of Americans nationwide, polled by the Gallup Organization after Sept. 11, say they have a “positive view� of the IRS — a 19 point increase in positive opinion since the previous September.

How long this will last is anyone's guess. Historically, Americans have felt their taxes are too high, but in times of war tend to be more amenable to taxation. The idea: that one supports one's government through paycheck deductions. This seems to be playing out to some extent in recent surveys. In the latest polls on taxes, Americans favored increased government spending over tax cuts. In November 2001, 56 percent of Americans advocated increased government spending, above the 32 percent who wanted new tax cuts. As of January 2002, that proportion has decreased slightly (46 percent versus 41 percent), but tax cuts still fell behind more spending. If anything, people seem more concerned with paying up than with cutting taxes.

More people are concerned about how others report their taxes than about the IRS abuses. Americans believe that a significant number of taxpayers are dishonest about their tax filings. A 1998 Harris Interactive poll found that Americans on average estimate that 38 percent of taxpayers fail to report their income and an equal 38 percent claim unwarranted deductions. In their estimation, only 31 person are honest and needlessly bothered by IRS investigations. Perhaps this year, Americans will come down even harder on such perceived deceit. Evading taxes equals eschewing patriotic duty?

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