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Amid Tax Protests, IRS Chief Details Efforts to Aid the Cash-strapped

IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman discusses efforts to alleviate the tax burden on Americans facing financial distress this year and explains why it will be hard to reform the tax code.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Our lead story. This is Tax Day, April 15th, the last day to file tax returns or extensions without incurring penalties. It's also been a day for protesters to demand lower taxes and smaller government and for President Obama to speak up about his tax policies.

    NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The rallies, dubbed "tea parties," generally were organized by conservatives and held nationwide.

    In the rainy District of Columbia, scores of protesters gathered just steps from the White House to make their sentiments known. Many at the rallies said they were nonpartisan, as in New Haven, Connecticut.

  • PROTESTOR:

    We are not mad at Republicans or Democrats. It's, to us, not a Republican or Democrat thing. It's politicians.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    That was echoed in Florida, where groups carried signs through the streets to denounce big government spending.

  • PROTESTOR:

    Our children are going to be paying enormous taxes to pay off this debt.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    And in Cincinnati, Ohio, even dogs carried protest signs.

    The gatherings were modeled on the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when American colonists dumped highly taxed British tea into Boston Harbor. And the modern-day tea parties seemed to echo today at the highest levels.

  • U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    I know that April 15th is not exactly everyone's favorite date on the calendar.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    President Obama used his own tax event to highlight his tax reforms. He said they're designed to help those hardest hit by the recession: working families.

  • BARACK OBAMA:

    This tax cut will reach 120 million families and put $120 billion directly into their pockets, and it includes the most American workers ever to get a tax cut. This is going to boost demand, and it will save or create over 500,000 jobs.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The president also vowed again to revamp the tax code.

  • BARACK OBAMA:

    It's going to take time to undo the damage of years of carve-outs and loopholes. But I want every American to know that we will rewrite the tax code so that it puts your interests over any special interests.

    And we will make it easier, quicker, and less expensive for you to file a return so that April 15th is not a date that is approached with dread each year.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    For many taxpayers, filing already is quicker, at least, as more and more file returns online.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Late today, the Obamas released their joint tax return for 2008. They reported making $2.7 million last year, nearly all of it from the president's book royalties. That was down from more than $4 million the year before.

    Now, Jeffrey Brown has more about the approach the IRS is taking this tax season in the midst of a major recession.

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