WASHINGTON (AP) _ After criticism of its collection practices, the IRS announced new interim rules requiring senior-level review before agents seize taxpayers' cars, homes or other property for nonpayment of taxes.

``This higher level of approval is a prudent step to ensure that collection enforcement tools such as seizures are only used in appropriate cases,'' said IRS Commissioner Charles O. Rossotti. The move Tuesday was Rossotti's first public initiative since he took over the agency on Nov. 13.

In 1996, the IRS made about 10,000 property seizures. The agency's collection practices were challenged during a series of Senate Finance Committee hearings in September.

In the past, an IRS group manager could approve most property seizures, with an IRS district director approving seizure of a taxpayer's home.

Now, collection division chiefs of IRS districts must approve all seizures, and district directors must approve seizure of a home, its contents or ``perishable goods,'' the agency said in a statement.

The interim procedures will stand until the agency completes two nationwide reviews of its enforcement tactics, expected in March 1998.