How about this plan for streamlining life: Bill runs everything

The Rat has managed to survive yet another tax day. This time the sailing was a bit
smoother because he learned from last year's printing fiasco to finish his tax return well
in advance.


Naturally, like all red-blooded Americans, he waited until the last possible moment on
April 15 to mail off the money.


Cyberlife always convolutes tax preparation, so recent talk on Capitol Hill about
simplifying the tax code definitely got the Rat's attention.


It seems everyone wants to simplify the tax code, including the folks at the IRS. Tax
collectors have been hated since biblical times, and a code built on nearly a century of
congressional social engineering doesn't attract much sympathy for the revenue agents'
plight.


But somehow the Rat feels sure that tax simplification will never happen. There are too
many interests vested in a complex tax structure. And now Microsoft Corp. is horning in.


Rumor has Microsoft angling to buy Kiplinger TaxCut from Block Financial Corp of Kansas
City, Mo.--the Rat's personal favorite tax package despite all the printer driver
disasters that bedeviled his 1996 return.


Microsoft seems quite keen on cornering the financial software market. Last year, it
tried to buy Intuit Inc., the San Diego publisher of Quicken and TurboTax. When Janet
Reno's raiders blocked that maneuver at the Justice Department, Microsoft chairman Bill
Gates apparently decided to crush Intuit instead.


The cyberrodent sees the writing on the wall. In a few years, taxpayers will file their
returns through Microsoft. Actually, they won't even have to file. Microsoft will own
everyone's banking, investment and accounting software, so it will file the returns for
them--for a small processing fee.


Taxpayers will have no choice, because Microsoft will lobby hard to make the tax code
so complex that no mere mortal will be able to deal with the paperwork. Microsoft,
meanwhile, will get an IRS contract for electronic filing.


That's tax simplification for sure. And it won't end there, the Rat suspects. Having
made inroads into the Treasury Department, Microsoft will become prime contractor for the
digital delivery of tax returns, then prime contractor for all digital cash transactions
with the federal government.


Soon electronic payments will conclude with, "In Bill we trust."


Next thing we know, Microsoft will lobby for the elimination of paper currency and
coins. Panhandlers on the street will beg, "Brother, can you spare a smart
card?"


The thing that scares the cyberrodent most is that this entire financial infrastructure
will run on ... yes: Windows NT.


"The horror, the horror," the Rat shudders.


Banks will embrace dollar Bills as the scalable, enterprisewide, robust cash of the
future. In a domino effect, banks around the world will standardize on the new e-cash.
After Microsoft merges with the European Community, Europe immediately will convert to
Euro-Bills.


From there, it's just a hop, skip and jump to the Microsoft U.N. and the Microsoft
World Order.


The wired one will stock his bomb shelter with canned goods now, while he can still pay
with cash.


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets
in cyberspace.E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.


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