Good news taxpayers, you get a two-day reprieve this year. Your 1988 federal income tax returns don't have to be filed until April 17 instead of the usual 15th. The 15th falls on a Saturday this year thus buying you an entire extra weekend of procrastination.But that's the extent of the happy tidings for most taxpayers this year, says Al James Golato. If the two-day reprieve doesn't make you smile, there probably isn't much in the "new and improved" tax code for 1988 that will.

Unless you're very rich or very poor, that is. Those on the bottom of the IRS rolls have been dropped off entirely while those on top have found their maximum tax rate cut drastically. For the rest, concedes Golato, it is difficult to see how the "fairer" and "simpler" tax law has hit either target.

Unless you're very rich or very poor, that is. Those on the bottom of the IR s rolls have been dropped off entirely while those on the top have found their maximum tax rate cut drastically. For the test, concedes Golato, it is difficult to see how the "fairer" and "simpler" tax law has hit either target.

H&R Block's 19.8 percent earnings jump last year indicates that. People who dwlt confident doing their own tax returns under the old "complex" system can't cope with the new "simple" one.

As for whether it's fairer, "most think not," he said.

"Sure, they lowered the rates for some," said Golato, in Salt Lake to visit the local Block offices. "But the middle-class was not lowered. They remained just where they were. However, their income was broadened and their deductions narrowed."

The result of this squeeze play of the average taxpayer? Tight, higher taxes.

The big tax rewrite of 1986 was supposed to eliminate all of the loopholes and shelters that had caused many people to believe the system was rigged in favor of the rich, and for a few months it did.

"They tried to change the income tax system as a way to achieve economic objectives," said Golato, "but isn't it interesting that they are again using it for that purpose." The classic example, he said, is President Bush's campaign pledge to expand child care for working mothers, using the tax code to do it.

But so much for theorizing. The central fact for filing of tax returns in 1989 is that the rules once again have been changed. Still, it's not all bad news, Golato points out.

On the positive side, the personal exemption has been raised $50 to $1,950, the standard deduction has been increased up to $3,000 for singles and $5,000 for joint returns, and people who use their car for business can now take a standard mileage deduction of 24 cents per mile, up from 22.5, for the first 15,000 miles.

On the down side, only 40 percent of consumer interest payments can be deducted this year.

Because of the changes, Golato believers taxpayers who have traditionally itemized, might want to also run their figures using the standard deductions on the short form. They may come out ahead.