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Clinton Signs IRS Reform Bill

President Clinton, who once opposed congressional action to overhaul the Internal Revenue Service, Wednesday signed into law a bill designed to mold the agency into a friendlier, fairer tax collector.

With Republican congressional leaders on hand to share credit, Mr. Clinton said at a White House signing ceremony that "this bill shows what we can do when we work together."

Mr. Clinton said the new law "will give the American people what they deserve," including more responsiveness on the part of the IRS and more flexibility in filing their tax returns.

The legislation makes many changes, although experts say relatively few will have a major impact on most taxpayers.

A nine-member board—including six private citizens—will oversee IRS operations and recommend the hiring and firing of the IRS commissioner, but could not intervene in individual cases.

Agency employees would be fired for covering up mistakes. And to attract talented executives, the commissioner could hire up to 40 people at salaries up to $175,400, the same as the vice president.

To make experts more available, IRS offices are to be restructured according to categories of taxpayers, replacing the present geographic divisions. The agency will have to explain why it denies a person's refund, provide the phone number of the IRS worker handling each case, and list phone numbers of local IRS offices in telephone directories.

In the handful of tax disputes that go to trial, the burden of proof would be shifted from the taxpayer to the IRS.

In other announcements Wednesday, the Clinton administration said that it will make $2.2 million in grants available to 16 communities for programs designed to reduce youth crime, gangs, and truancy.

The programs are run by civic, community, and religious groups that are collaborating with local law enforcement to give youngsters alternatives to violence and crime.

Each of the communities will get $135,000 in grants under what the White House calls its "values-based violence prevention initiative." It is based on a Boston model.

The 16 communities are Salinas, Calif., Los Angeles, Washington, Miami, Chicago, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Detroit, Kansas City, Mo., Hempstead, N.Y., Portland, Ore., Philadelphia, Charleston, S.C., San Antonio, Richmond, Va., and Seattle.

Written by Robert Burns