Texan Taxbusters

High noon at the IRS corral - that's what we hope to see this summer if the plans of two fast-drawing Texans work out. They are GOP Reps. Dick Armey and Bill Archer. They want to go on the road to debate their two ways of overthrowing American taxation as we know it.

Tax reform of some sort is necessary, what with all those loopholes for the rich and famous - and will be more so after the tax-cutting contortions of congressional budget balancers.

But what kind of reform? The dueling Texans could help sharpen the issues and inform the public.

"Our current income tax system ... must be completely repealed," says Mr. Armey, House majority leader. His solution is a 17 percent flat tax on business and individual income without deductions or credits but with exemptions reaching $33,800 for a family of four. File it on a postcard.

"I want to tear the income tax out by its roots," says Mr. Archer, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. His solution: Replace the income tax with a tax on consumption of goods and services, adding safeguards for low-income people.

Unifying the GOP behind one concept is the first hurdle for overhauling the tax code, says chairman Archer. The joint talk-outs with Armey could come in August, if schedules permit.

Meanwhile, radical reforms may seem like fantasyland 84 years after the Constitution's income tax amendment was ratified. But note that Senate majority leader Trent Lott and other Republicans are backing a flat 15 percent federal income tax for residents of the District of Columbia, proposed by D.C. congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat.

Neither party should let the struggle over far-reaching reform keep it from taking the less dramatic steps to make the present system fair.

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