WHAT'S THIS? A kinder, gentler Internal Revenue...

WHAT'S THIS? A kinder, gentler Internal Revenue Service?

After years of scaring the heck out of taxpayers, the IRS is trading in its guts-to-jelly intimidation regime for a user-friendly approach. The idea, Commissioner Shirley D. Peterson recently told a congressional hearing, is to get people "back into the system."


The agency reckons that upwards of 6 million individuals and businesses, honest folks mostly, haven't filed returns. Some are intimidated. Others have fallen from grace by failing to report income or simply failing to file a return and are now too scared to creep back into the fold.

Not to worry. A newly warm and fuzzy IRS is prepared to set up payment plans and other arrangements. The truly clever may even be able to shirk their overdue tax burden altogether by convincing the agency that they can't possibly cough up what they owe.


If this doesn't do it, a poignantly delivered excuse for not filing -- say divorce or severe illness -- could be worth a penalty waiver.

But don't change the number of dependents on your W-4 to 25 just yet. The IRS still wants its money. One New Yorker recently got a friendly missive from the agency noting that he had lowered his estimated tax payments significantly. He was cheerfully reminded that even if he was having a hard time meeting his obligations, he should be sure to file on time.

* * * POOR Glenda Jackson. She is the real loser of the British election.

The magisterial actress, a splendid comedienne on the side, once played the great Queen Elizabeth I to world acclaim.

Now she must chuck her acting career to spend five years on the back benches of an opposition party, in the House of Commons, arena of the sloppiest acting and worst diction in all British Thespiandom.

It would be all right if she could pursue her screen and stage career in addition. But it is the ruling Conservatives, whom she opposes, who maintain that sitting in Parliament is a half-time job that allows one to do other things.

Labor, Ms. Jackson's party, maintains that just sitting in Commons in opposition is a full-time job. As a good party person, Ms. Jackson had better not give the game away by doing what she does best. Pity.

* * *


THERE IS good news and bad from the world of stadiums.

The good news is the publication of the revised edition of Philip K. Lowry's encyclopedic 1986 work, "Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of all 271 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present."

The bad news is that there is not a word about the new Oriole Park at Camden Yards in the book.