Irving Perlmeter, 71, a retired official of the Internal Revenue Service who was an assistant White House press secretary under President Truman, died of cardiac arrest Saturday at the Washington Hospital Center. He had undergone abdominal surgery for a circulatory ailment.

Mr. Perlmeter came to Washington about 1938 as a correspondent for the Associated Press and was assigned to cover the Treasury Department and the White House. About 1943, he went to work for the IRS, where he was director of public information.

In 1951, he was appointed to the White House staff as an assistant press secretary and speech writer and remained there until Truman left office in January 1953. In a letter to Mr. Perlmeter at that time, Truman said:

"A large share of the 'Well done, Mr. President' telegrams that came in after my farewell broadcast really belong to you. You not only helped me set the tone of that speech, but for more than two years you have worked consistently with the difficult details of television, radio and public address to see that the best technical know-how available was used to advantage in all of the President's public appearances."

Mr. Perlmeter returned to the IRS after his White House years. Among the projects on which he worked was the publication "Your Federal Income Tax" and simplified directions for filling out tax forms. He was a special assistant to the comissioner of Internal Revenue at one time and was assigned to the planning section at the time he retired in 1976.

A native of Omaha, Neb., Mr. Perlmeter graduated from Creighton University School of Journalism. He worked for the Lincoln (Neb.) Star and joined the AP in Lincoln in 1934.

He was a member of the National Press Club and of Temple Emanuel in Kensington.

Survivors include his wife, Faye, of Chevy Chase, where the family lives; three daughters, Corinne Kamerow of Bethesda, Joan Felker of Chevy Chase, and Amy Baron of Las Vegas; a sister, Bernice Betensky, of Portland, Ore., and three grandchildren.