Distribution centers for tax forms and publications in Richmond and in Rancho Cordova, Calif., will be closed, the Internal Revenue Service said yesterday.

The IRS said 191 permanent and seasonal employees at the two warehouses will lose their jobs. A third IRS warehouse, in Bloomington, Ill., will remain open, but at least 82 seasonal employees there will face layoffs, the IRS said.

The layoffs grow out of a job competition with the private sector that was won by an IRS employee and management team.

The IRS team and bidders from industry were asked to make their bids based on trend data that showed a 6 percent annual decline in workload at the distribution centers, said Raymona Stickell, director of the IRS office of competitive sourcing.

A good part of the declining workload, she said, can be attributed to computers and the Internet. Fewer taxpayers and corporations are ordering IRS forms and publications because tax preparation software provides the forms; more taxpayers also are downloading forms and information from the IRS Web site.

Stickell said the IRS employees have done "an outstanding job" through the years, even winning an award from former vice president Al Gore for improving the efficiency of their operations. But she said changes in technology, including the advent of online forms, had led the IRS to believe that the jobs should be put up for competition.

The White House, as part of its federal management agenda, has ordered agencies to look for work that is commercial in nature and put it up for bid to see if business costs can be reduced. The IRS conducted its competition under what the government calls A-76 rules. Stickell said she did not know the identity of the private-sector bidder that lost out to the IRS employee team.

The administration's outsourcing efforts have roiled the federal workforce and led unions to lobby Congress to stop them, in part because long-term budget savings are difficult to prove and because federal jobs are often lost when the work remains in-house.

"This is a perfect example of the problems inherent in this administration's relentless drive to contract out as many federal jobs as possible," said Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents IRS workers.

She criticized the IRS for not looking at alternatives that might have kept the warehouses open, saying the competition began in a period when the White House had set quotas requiring that a certain percentage of jobs be put up for bid.

The union said that 72 permanent and 67 seasonal employees will lose their jobs in Richmond and that at least 49 permanent employees will face layoffs in Rancho Cordova.

The IRS relies on seasonal workers to handle the surge of the tax filing season. At the warehouses, seasonals typically work from November through March.

The warehouse employees, on average, are paid in the General Schedule 3 range -- about $19,000 to $25,000 in salary, not counting locality adjustments.

Stickell said the IRS would provide assistance to the displaced employees and hopes to reduce the number being laid off by about 50 by offering early retirement and buyouts of as much as $25,000. A previous offer of early-outs and buyouts drew 124 takers, she said.

In addition, the IRS will set up rooms so that the displaced employees can look for other jobs during work breaks and will offer help in writing resumes and preparing for interviews, she said.

The IRS hopes to have the employees off the payroll by Feb. 5, she said.

Retirements

Richard T. Crichton, an international trade manager in the Textile Enforcement and Operations Division of Customs and Border Protection at the Department of Homeland Security, retired Monday after 40 years of federal service.

Deborah P. Klein, associate commissioner for the office of publications and special studies at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, will retire Aug. 31 after 38 years of federal service. She began her career as an economist management intern and, from 1986 to 1991, served as special assistant to the BLS commissioner.

Sandra Pistolesi, an information technology specialist at the Air Force Pentagon Communications Agency, will retire Sept. 1 after more than 42 years of federal service.

Yvette E. Taylor, executive assistant to the president of the National Defense University at Fort Lesley J. McNair, retired Sunday with 37 years of federal service.

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com