John J. Saunders, 82, a retired chief tax reviewer for the Internal Revenue Service, died of congestive heart failure Monday at his Washington home.

Mr. Saunders was born in New York City. During World War I, he served in France with the 165th Infantry Regiment of the Rainbow Division and was wounded in July 1918.

In 1923, after lengthy rehabilitation and vocational training, Mr. Saunders went to work for the Bureay of Internal Revenue, where he specialized in corporate tax rulings. He retired from the IRS in 1962.

Following his retirement, he worked with the needy in his neighborhood and in the inner city as a member of the St. Vincent De Paul Society. He also delivered meals to shut-ins as part of the Meals-on-Wheels program. He was a frequent visitor at the Soldiers' Home and for many years played Santa Claus there during the holiday season.

Mr. Saunders was a past commander of the Washington area units of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a member of the Catholic War Veterans and the Rainbow Division Association.

He attended Ammunication Catholic Church.

His first wife was killed in a train wreck in 1943.

Survivors include his second wife, Ida E. Rudoplh, of the home in Washington; three sons, Joseph J., also of Washington, Robert J., of Los Angeles, and William A., of Wheaton; a daughter, Mary Patricia Flannery, of Hyattsville, 24 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.