Congress appears ready to put on hold a plan by the Internal Revenue Service to close 68 offices where taxpayers can walk in for face-to-face help with their tax returns and questions.

The plan, announced in May by IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson, would put 434 IRS employees at risk of losing their jobs, including 43 in Maryland and Virginia. The IRS projected that the closings of the taxpayer assistance centers, called TACs, would save about $45 million.

But the Senate Appropriations Committee expressed concern this week that some IRS proposals might reduce taxpayer services. "The committee is highly skeptical of the projected savings from closing these walk-in centers since only three of the 68 TACs are stand-alone facilities while the remainder are co-located with other IRS offices," the committee said in a report accompanying a fiscal 2006 spending bill.

As a result, the committee "prohibits the use of funds . . . for purposes of reducing any taxpayer service function or program" until additional studies have been done, the report said.

The House Appropriations Committee also has called for further review of the proposed closings to determine "the impact" on taxpayer compliance. The House bill would prohibit the IRS from spending funds to close the TACs.

IRS officials have said that the agency faces budget pressures and that the walk-in offices are the costliest customer service they provide. There are other ways -- such as telephone call centers, a Web site and volunteer assistance programs -- for people to obtain tax information, according to the IRS.

But the IRS plan has been under steady criticism from the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents more than 94,000 IRS employees. Union lobbyists have opposed the plan on Capitol Hill, and the union has organized rallies and news conferences in various cities.

"Making it more difficult for taxpayers to meet their obligations is hardly a step the IRS should be taking," said Colleen M. Kelley, union president.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the spending bill's TAC provision was designed to protect federal employees until a study can be completed by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.

In its report, the Senate committee called proposals to reduce taxpayer services "puzzling, especially given the trends in the nation's demographics, which indicate a growing elderly population and immigrant population."

The committee reminded the IRS that it expects to be kept in the loop on reorganizations and workforce issues. "Unfortunately, this year the committee learned of IRS's imminent plans to close taxpayer assistance centers prior to IRS's understanding the complete effect of this proposal on taxpayers," the report said.

Retirements

Kevin Burke, senior international relations officer at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, retires at month's end after 30 years of government service. His assignments included developing bilateral nuclear energy programs with Western Europe and Asia.

Rosario "Ross" Cirrincione, freedom of information and privacy officer for the Health and Human Services Department, is retiring today after nearly 50 years of federal service, including 43 years at HHS. He has served as president of the American Society of Access Professionals, and he served 28 years in the Naval Reserve, retiring with the rank of commander.

William D. Laignel, chief of the systems development branch of the software engineering directorate at the Air Force Pentagon Communications Agency, will retire Wednesday after 42 years of government service.

Talk Shows

Marilyn L. Glynn, general counsel at the Office of Government Ethics, will be the guest on "FEDtalk" at 11 a.m. today on federalnewsradio.com and WFED radio (1050 AM).

Natwar M. Gandhi, chief financial officer for the D.C. government, will be the guest on "The IBM Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).

"Homeland Security and the National Night Out" will be the topic of discussion on the Imagene B. Stewart call-in program at 8 a.m. Sunday on WOL radio (1450 AM).

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com