Tax time at the Carlino household is always interesting, but predictable.

Each year, my wife bemoans how much the government and, in particular, New York State manage to vacuum out of our respective salaries and rhetorically asks why we ultimately wind up writing not-insignificant checks to both come April 15.

You want to see a pyrotechnic display before July 4th?

You’re invited to our house while a “Kerry for President” infomercial is airing and the 2004 candidate is espousing his views on eliminating tax breaks for the rich. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, Kerry’s rather curious valuations on just who qualifies as “rich” has our humble household squarely in the crosshairs of his campaign promise of doing away with unneeded tax cuts.

My wife’s ensuing responses cannot be printed here.

But I can’t argue she doesn’t have a point. Remember, this is a man whose wife once disassembled a mansion in Europe and shipped it over here for re-assembly.

But like it or not, taxes — both personal and corporate — are looming as a huge issue this election year.

Want proof? A recent report from the General Accounting Office showed that more than 60 percent of U.S. corporations didn’t pay federal income taxes between the years 1996-2000 — the boom years if you will, when profits flowed like beer at a carpenter’s union awards dinner.

That report covered just over 2 million returns from U.S. companies and nearly 70,000 returns from international concerns.

By 2003, the GAO said, corporate tax receipts shriveled to some 7.4 percent of overall federal receipts, the second-lowest level since 1934, when the country was mired in a small economic mess called The Great Depression.

I’m probably not the only one in the county who feels that individuals like me have been chosen to close this mammoth revenue hole.

The GAO report is sure to provide Kerry’s election team with another issue to fire away at President George W. Bush in their upcoming debates. Not surprisingly, Kerry has been critical of Bush for his administration’s failure to stem the  corporate tax dodge — the new dance craze sweeping the nation.

But let’s be fair.

While I don’t think President Bush is in any danger of becoming an Economics Fellow once he leaves office, Kerry himself has supported many of the same corporate tax breaks he now rails about — most notably many of those outlined in the two-year-old stimulus package.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but the period outlined by the GAO in its report occurred when one William Jefferson Clinton occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Is this a call to restructure the corporate tax code, or an alarm that stronger IRS action against purveyors of abusive tax shelter products, many of which I’m sure helped define the GAO report results, is required?

Perhaps it’s both.

Either way, it won’t help quell the hostile atmosphere at Chez Carlino on April 15, where the cry of “Four More Years” often pertains not to our elected officials, but the time needed to settle our tax debts.

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