This is the first in a series of weekly tax tips from the Internal Revenue Service that will run in the Sunday Business section. Earlier is better when...

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This is the first in a series

of weekly tax tips

from the Internal Revenue Service

that will run

in the Sunday Business section.

Earlier is better when it comes to working on your taxes. Taxpayers are encouraged to get a head start on tax preparation, especially since early filers avoid the last-minute rush and get their refunds sooner.

Here are some easy ways to get a good start long before the April deadline is here:

Gather your records in advance. Make sure you have all you need, including W-2s and 1099s. Don’t forget to save a copy for your files.

Get the right forms. They’re available around the clock on the IRS Web site, www.irs.gov.

Take your time. Don’t forget to leave time for a coffee break when filling out your tax return, as rushing can mean making a mistake.

Double-check your math and verify all Social Security numbers. These are among the most common errors on tax returns.

Taking care will reduce your chance of hearing from the IRS and speed up your refund.

E-filing is easy. E-filing catches math errors, provides confirmation your return has been received and gives you a faster refund.

Get the fastest refund. When you e-file file early, you receive your refund faster. When you choose direct deposit, you receive your refund sooner than waiting for a check.

Don’t panic. If you have a problem or a question, remember the IRS is there to help. Try the IRS Web site or call the IRS customer service number at 800-829-1040.

Are you concerned that your efforts to get ready early may be affected by the alternative minimum tax legislation passed by Congress last month?

Most individuals will not be affected, so it is still a good idea to get an early start on your preparations.

Even if you are filing one of five forms affected by the recent legislation, the IRS expects to be ready for your return by Feb. 11.

You can review a list of forms and find out the latest news about when the IRS will be ready at the IRS Web site.

— Internal Revenue Service