As the Environmental Protection Agency began preparing for its budget talks with the Office of Management and Budget a while back, assistant administrator John P. Horton ordered the staff to include the exact number of households that would have to be taxed to pay for their budget proposals.

"It is important to remember that the American taxpayer is supporting our work and is paying for the things we do and the things we buy," Horton said in a memo that instructed subordinates to divide their budget requests by $3,000 to produce the number. (The average tax paid on a personal income tax return was $2,922 in 1979 -- the most recent year the Internal Revenue Service could provide Horton; the IRS has since reported that it climbed to $3,368.62 in 1980.)

Horton said yesterday that so far he has had "mixed results. Some people have taken me seriously and some people have yet to learn just how serious this is to me. They will."

In his memo, Horton noted: "We should recognize how many taxpayers are required just to pay our salaries. . . ." Horton didn't do the math, but under his system, it took the taxes of 19 1/2 households to pay his.