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News Briefs II

Administration Proposes Changes To Tax Laws to Make Filing Easier

The Washington Post

Apparently figuring that April 14 is a good day to get the attention of taxpayers, the Clinton administration on Monday proposed a long list of changes in tax law designed to make filing of returns easier.

Under the plan, millions of Americans - such as those with dependents to deduct, or who lose a little money on real estate or other "passive" investments - would find it easier to complete their returns, stay within the rules and get any tax benefits they are entitled to.

"Our goal is clear: We want to make life easier for the American taxpayer," Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin said.

One proposal already in the budget would relieve homeowners of the burden of keeping track of all the houses they have owned and the improvements they have made to them in order to figure out their capital gains when they move to an apartment late in life. The proposal would eliminate the tax these homeowners would now owe on their capital gain, up to $500,000 for a couple.

Under another provision, teenagers who have savings accounts and jobs would not have to go through contortions to figure out the standard deduction to which the young workers are entitled.

The nation's tax laws and the agency that collects them, the Internal Revenue Service, have come under wide attack recently, and the Clinton administration is scurrying to show the public that it is trying to do something. The Treasury last month outlined a plan for improved management of the IRS, while acknowledging that tax laws are indeed very difficult for the average citizen to figure out.

Protest Stops Zaire's Capital

The Washington Post

This capital city ground to a halt Monday as residents stayed home on the first of two days of protests called by opposition leaders pressing for the ouster of President Mobutu Sese Seko.

Shops, offices, schools, and street markets were closed. Only a few pedestrians braved the streets of the central business district. Taxis, buses, and private cars were scarce - perhaps in fear of threat by opposition militants that stones would rain down on vehicles. At a few intersections, protesters set up barricades of burning tires.

Supporters of former prime minister Etienne Tshisekedi organized Monday's protest, and also plan demonstrations on Tuesday, despite a state of emergency imposed by Mobutu's government last week.

Tshisekedi and the rest of the political opposition here have become, in effect, the unarmed complement to the armed campaign being waged from the east by rebels led by Laurent Kabila.

Both Tshisekedi and Kabila are seeking the end of Mobutu's 31-year reign, though tension between the two movements has surfaced recently. Kabila's rebels, who have seized about half of Zaire in their six-month-old campaign, are slowly pressing toward Kinshasa, their last major target.

Army troops patrolled the city Monday in mobile units, apparently to quickly reach mass gatherings outlawed under emergency rule. Near Tshisekedi's home, soldiers fired shots in the air to disperse a small group of demonstrators, then turned on journalists. Several foreign journalists said they were detained briefly, including a group forced to lie on the ground at gunpoint.