If Vice President Al Gore has his way, the only certainties for some Americans could be death and their credit card bills.

Among the items in the Vice President's plan to streamline government is a proposal that the Internal Revenue Service let people pay taxes with plastic.

"It will save time and cut the IRS' collection costs," the report concludes.

The Gore plan gives a big boost to an item that has long been on the agenda of the bank credit card associations.

"We were very pleased," said William P. Binzel, director of government relations for MasterCard International.

Bankruptcy Issue Is a Hurdle

Although it is unclear how many consumers would take advantage of the option, he said card acceptance by the IRS would be an important step in the industry's ongoing attempt to displace cash and checks as the preferred method of transactions by American consumers.

But officials of the bank card association and the IRS -- and the report itself -- point out that an important hurdle remains.

"Those who pay by credit card could avoid paying back taxes simply by filing for personal bankruptcy.

This escape mechanism can't be used today, because back taxes are, under bankruptcy, a |nondischargeable' debt," the report says.

"The use of credit cards for tax payments should be delayed until Congress has amended the bankruptcy statute to prevent taxes paid by credit card from becoming a dischargable debt."

However, bankruptcy legislation passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 16 makes it clear that credit card debt taken on for payment of federal, state, or local taxes must be repaid.

Consumer Group's Concerns

Gerri Detweiler, executive director of the Bankcard Holders of America, a consumer advocacy group based in Herndon, Va., said the convenience of IRS card acceptance outweighs the potential pitfalls.

But she said her group wants to make sure that the IRS doesn't impose a surcharge on consumers for card acceptance, and that privacy of tax-related information is maintained when payment is made through the credit card systems.

She acknowledged that some consumers who are unable to come up with enough money on April 15 may wind up paying more in interest on credit cards than they would by working out a payment schedule with the government.

But Ms. Detweiler argued that gradually paying off a bank, "is a lot better than dealing with the IRS."

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