updated 2/22/2005 3:58:42 PM ET 2005-02-22T20:58:42

A little patience and attention can go a long way toward preventing mistakes in preparing a tax return. Rushing through this chore can cause costly errors.

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Avoid these common mistakes by spending time before the deadline looms to get organized and get started.

Missing information
Don't miss out on a tax benefit because you couldn't find the receipt for a charitable deduction. Don't waste time getting extra copies of bank statements because you lost the originals. Collect tax information as it arrives and ease the burdens on yourself or your tax preparer.

Missing forms
There's nothing like making a midnight run to your local post office _ only to find the rack of tax forms empty _ to add to a procrastinating taxpayer's stress. Gather the forms and instructions you need early. They can be found at post offices and libraries, ordered from the IRS by telephone or downloaded from the IRS Web site.

Incorrect numbers
Make sure to write accurate Social Security numbers on the return. Incorrect or missing Social Security numbers will delay the processing of your return. Also make sure to copy the numbers from bank statements, paycheck statements and other documents correctly. Check and double-check the figures, then double-check your math. A simple review can save headaches down the line.

Improper deductions
Following the same route through your tax return every year might not always yield the lowest tax bill. Think about major events such as home ownership or medical expenses that might make it more profitable to itemize deductions. Married couples might want to calculate whether they get a better benefit by using the recently increased standard deduction.

Incorrect filing status
Think twice about whether your filing status has changed. Did you get married or divorced? Take in your elderly parents? Send your kids off to their first jobs? Tax benefits can change whether you're a single filer, a married couple or the head of a household. Make sure you file using the correct status.

Incorrect taxes due
If you're filling out your tax return in the old-fashioned way, without computer software, check again to be sure you looked up the correct amount of taxes due from the table in the IRS instruction booklet.

Unsigned return
The IRS won't accept your return without a signature at the bottom. Both a husband and wife must sign a joint return. If a professional prepared your return, make sure that person also signs the form in the space provided.

Wrong bank account
You can get a speedy refund if you ask the IRS to directly deposit the money into a bank account, but that won't work if you've provided the wrong account and routing number. Double check them so your refund arrives smoothly.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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