Anti-Tax Groups Rally On T-Day

The current tax system has got to go, according to political groups planning debates, rallies and even mock funerals to spread their message as tax filers scramble to meet the midnight Wednesday deadline.

The political stir is part of a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign by these groups to push their vision of a tax overhaul.

Americans for Fair Taxation is planning a funeral procession in front of the Internal Revenue Service's Baltimore office. A coffin and musicians playing a dirge will symbolize the group's push to bury the federal tax code.

The group plans to spend $10 million by the end of the year to promote replacing the current federal income tax and Social Security payroll taxes with a 23 percent national sales tax on "all final sales of new goods and services."

To offset the regressive nature of such a tax, the group would send to all taxpayers a monthly rebate check to cover basic living expenses and purchase necessities. It contends a national sales tax would make Americans more aware of their federal tax burden on a daily basis, not just every time April 15 rolls around.

"That's part of the benefit of this: People will know the cost of government, truly," said Grover Jackson, president of Americans for Fair Taxation and a former general counsel at Coca-Cola. "I think a lot of people are confused with the situation now."

To offset the sting of protests, IRS Commissioner Charles O. Rossotti is going before the cameras at a National Press Club luncheon.

Rossotti hopes to throw some positive light on taxes, with a new poll from Louis Harris & Associates Inc. that indicates 76 percent of people who had direct contact with the IRS say they were treated fairly while 21 percent were treated unfairly.

But just across the street from the White House, a coalition of taxpayer and conservative groups will celebrate the "Taxpayer Day of Outrage." A featured speaker is Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, an influential political strategist and confidant of House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other GOP leaders.

His group spent $450,000 lobbying on tax and other issues in the first half of 1997, political analysts said. Norquist, a flat tax proponent, founded his group in 1986 to support the dramatic tax reform plan President Reagan signed that year.

And tax day wouldn't be complete without a "Tax Freedom Day" calculation by the Tax Foundation, a corporate-backed research group. The Foundation measures how many days an average taxpayer has to work to pay his federal, state and local taxes. This year, "Tax Freedom Day" day reached a record high of May 10. Last year, it was May 9.

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