Were Ben Franklin alive today, he'd likely alter one of his most quoted observations to read: "... in this world nothing is certain but death and, for most people, taxes."

Disclosures in a Philadelphia Inquirer probe of Internal Revenue procedure would seem to justify that modification. Published as a seven-part series staring Sunday, April 14, 1974, "Auditing the IRS" suggests that the Federal agency has failed to collect billions in taxes and that tax enforcement policies have favored the wealthy.

The probe was conducted by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, The Inquirer's award-winning investigative reporting team. Over the last threee years, Barlett and Steele have won six major national awards for their special Inquirer reports, including two George Polk Memorial Awards for a series on the Federal Housing Administration in 1971 and the oil industry in 1973. They also won the 1973 Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for the oil industry series and a series on the Philadelphia judicial system.

They were assisted in the IRS study by Inquirer Labor Writer William K. Marimow in reporting and coordination statistical research. Before joining The Inquirer in 1972, Marimow was on the economics staff at Temple University.

This series, reprinted as a public service, exemplifies the type of reporting Inquirer readers have come to expect daily and Sunday.