Storing tax records: How long is long enough?
April 15 has come and gone and another year of tax forms and shoeboxes full of receipts is behind us. But what should be done with those documents after your check or refund request is in the mail?
Federal law requires you to maintain copies of your tax returns and supporting documents for three years. This is called the “three-year law” and leads many people to believe they’re safe provided they retain their documents for this period of time.
However, if the IRS believes you have significantly underreported your income (by 25 percent or more), it may go back six years in an audit. If there is any indication of fraud, or you do not file a return, no period of limitation exists.To be safe, use the following guidelines.
Personal Documents To Keep For One Year
While it’s important to keep year-end mutual fund and IRA contribution statements forever, you don’t have to save monthly and quarterly statements once the year-end statement has arrived.
Personal Documents To Keep For Three Years
- Credit Card Statements
- Medical Bills (in case of insurance disputes)
- Utility Records
- Expired Insurance Policies
Personal Documents To Keep For Six Years
- Supporting Documents For Tax Returns
- Accident Reports and Claims
- Medical Bills (if tax-related)
- Sales Receipts
- Wage Garnishments
- Other Tax-Related Bills
Personal Records To Keep Forever
- CPA Audit Reports
- Legal Records
- Important Correspondence
- Income Tax Returns
- Income Tax Payment Checks
- Property Records / Improvement Receipts (or six years after property sold)
- Investment Trade Confirmations
- Retirement and Pension Records (Forms 5448, 1099-R and 8606 until all distributions are made from your IRA or other qualified plan)
- Car Records (keep until the car is sold)
- Credit Card Receipts (keep until verified on your statement)
- Insurance Policies (keep for the life of the policy)
- Mortgages / Deeds / Leases (keep 6 years beyond the agreement)
- Pay Stubs (keep until reconciled with your W-2)
- Sales Receipts (keep for life of the warranty)
- Stock and Bond Records (keep for 6 years beyond selling)
- Warranties and Instructions (keep for the life of the product)
- Other Bills (keep until payment is verified on the next bill)
- Depreciation Schedules and Other Capital Asset Records (keep for 3 years after the tax life of the asset)