The Internal Revenue Service will scrap its plans to close 68 Taxpayer Assistance Centers after Congress insisted the agency further study the potential impact of the closures.

In a statement issued late Friday, IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson thanked Congress for upping funding for the 2006 budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee fully funded the $10.68 billion that President Bush requested for the IRS, and the House has already passed a bill providing $10.56 billion. The IRS's 2005 budget is $10.24 billion.

In late May, the IRS announced a plan to close 68 of its 400 Taxpayer Assistance Centers later this year. But both the House bill as passed and the Senate Appropriations markup included provisions that would have stopped the IRS from moving ahead with the closures until usage studies were completed.

In recent years, the IRS has made significant improvements in service to taxpayers, including phone services and Internet technology, which Everson said have alleviated taxpayer demands on the walk-in centers.

"We want to create efficiencies where they'd have the least impact on service," Everson said in a statement. "Nonetheless, I appreciate the concerns raised by Congress about our walk-in centers, and have put these closures on hold." Last month, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said that the effectiveness of the centers was hard to quantify due to a lack of management information, preventing the inspector general from helping the IRS make accurate and informed decisions about the levels of service provided by the centers.

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