MY HANDS SWEAT whenever I get a letter from the IRS. I can merely feel inside the mailbox and the texture of officialdom travels through the nerve endings to tell the brain how to respond, which is with stringent misgiving. This is not the proper response, but it is my response and I suspect I share it with a great company.

The problem here is not even one of guilt. It is purely an involuntary sweat reaction. Mrs. Lord, a lady who helps people repair their tax returns, has noticed this phenomenon, too. She says that if the taxpayer makes a mistake, the government just sends along a bill. "It is like a plumbing bill," contends Mrs. Lord. "People don't sweat when they get a bill from the plumber." I understand what Mrs. Lord is saying. The plumber made a swath through the neighborhood recently and when the bills arrived, no one broke into a sweat. The fellow below me wept, and the one up the road swore.

I like Mrs. Lord's image of government-as-plumber, however. She has given me a picture of a fellow in an old panel truck, setting out to work on the economy with pipe wrench and Roto-rooter.

What I think has happened is that the IRS has been using stationery left over from the draft board. These envelopes, permeated with the compounded power of homesickness, powdered eggs and infantry life, could account for part of this mailbox angst.

We are speaking here of a kind of generalized trauma, which has become an important function of the government. I suspect this is not were whimsy and that the government considers trauma part of its normal functioning, providing jobs for psychologists, counselors and the drug companies. I do not have any statistics on hand but I suspect trauma is a growth industry and, as such, is entirely within the American frame of reference.

For those of us yet to pay homage to trauma as a commodity, I see two immediate ways for the government to spare us. One, the people in the IRS should buy their stationery individually and, when the odd occasion arises, write the taxpayer a handwritten letter. Two, the IRS needs a porch. The IRS's porch could be either a back or a front porch, but it should have railings, so everybody could put their feet up. The feet need to be up during a good problem-solving, as this takes away purchase for bellicosity.

I think taxpayers should be able to pay in services, also. This is not a new idea, but rather an old idea's revival, going back to when people in the neighborhood paid their taxes by hauling gravel for their roads. I would like to be able to pay at least part of my taxes in firewood, and I think Mr. Craig over the way should be able to pay part of his in goose eggs. What kind of government is it that can't use a few cords of seasoned hickory or a few goose eggs?

There is one final thing, too. When I fork over the IRS's due bill, I would like to do this to a famniliar face, preferably someone in the neighborhood, with a porch. That way, if I have a complaint, I'll know where to go and put my feet up.