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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: It has been eight years since my boyfriend, "Grant," filed taxes. His refusal to file a tax return has caused many arguments between us.

Grant's parents got wind of it one year and gave him money to pay them off, but he spent the money to pay other bills. Grant is an only child. His parents often bail him out financially. This has begun to gnaw at me because I'm at the point where I'm thinking about marriage and children. I know we can't be married until he takes care of his tax problem.

How serious is it not paying your taxes? Is this something I should just ignore? I couldn't pay the bills if he was put in jail. Will this 30-something only child ever grow up? -- APRIL 15-PHOBIC

DEAR PHOBIC: According to the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA), a professional society of federally licensed tax practitioners, failing to file your taxes is worse than failing to pay. By not filing, your boyfriend runs the risk of paying not only the taxes he owes, but penalties and interest as well.

You need to tell Grant he can get help from an enrolled agent to guide him through the process of filing back returns and, if necessary, setting up a payment schedule with the IRS. He can locate one in his area by accessing the NAEA Web site, If he doesn't have access to a computer, his local library can help him.

More than 10,000 enrolled agents are listed. Because they are the only tax specialists licensed to practice before the IRS, Grant can be assured the matter will be handled confidentially in the most competent way.

You should not ignore Grant's behavior. Protect yourself tax-wise by filing your return separately from his until the matter is settled. Should you decide to marry him, file as "married, filing separately" so your incomes (at least in the eyes of the IRS) won't be viewed as one entity. Use the same enrolled agent or find one for yourself.

Do check out this reputable organization. Don't wait for your boyfriend to grow up to do it because at the rate he's maturing, that may never happen.

DEAR ABBY: My son "Matt" is a junior in high school. He says he's not attending the junior/senior prom this year because he doesn't have anyone special to go with.

I tried to explain that his date doesn't have to be a "girlfriend," that she can just be a friend. I told him he could also go with a bunch of guys who don't have dates.

I know later on in life Matt will regret not having gone to the prom, and I'm sad about his decision. Should I make him go even though he doesn't want to, hoping he has a good time when he gets there? Or should I drop the issue and respect his wishes even if he's making a mistake? Matt is 17 and not particularly social, and I think that's why he doesn't want to go. -- ENCOURAGING MOM

DEAR MOM: There is a fine line that separates an encouraging mom from a mom who is overbearing. Your son is only a junior, and will have a chance next year to change his mind and attend the prom as a senior. Frankly, I have never had a man write me or tell me that looking back on his high school years he regretted missing a dance. A game, perhaps -- but never a dance.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)