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When it comes to tax and important documentation knowing whether to keep it or shred it is important. We’ve compiled information to help you with this important task.

Are you a “pack rat” or a “purger” when it comes to personal documents? The best approach is somewhere between the two extremes. Try these suggestions for a sensible but streamlined way to manage your paperwork.

Keep for a Short Time

Ensuring that you have these records until they are verified can provide proof of the transaction until it’s officially posted.

  • Utility bills – Shred or delete after verifying payment on your bank or credit card account.
  • Debit/credit card receipts – Keep until you’ve checked them against your monthly statement.
  • Bank statements – Consider printing out last month’s statement in case of a data breach you can prove your balance. Shred the old statement when you print your newest one. Financial institutions are required to maintain statements for seven years.
  • Retirement plan statements – Keep quarterly statements until you receive your year-end statement.
  • Home, auto, and umbrella policies – Keep until you get your new policy. For Auto insurance, most states accept electronic versions of your insurance card, but it may also be smart to keep a printed version in your glove compartment.

Keep for Next Year’s Tax Season

Saving your important papers through the year and keeping your records organized will make tax preparation that much simpler. Here is a sampling to make tax time easier.

  • Proof of income – dividends, interest, bank statements, brokerage statements, w-2s, mutual fund statements, and 1099s
  • Deductions – medical and dental expenses, child care, and charitable giving
  • Receipts – invoices and mileage logs
  • Residential – closing and tax documents

Keep Records for IRS Recommended Period

In general, tax returns can be examined by the IRS for up to three years after filing. However, that period can increase in certain situations.  For example, it can increase to six years in cases of unreported income that is more than 25% of the gross income shown on the tax return and seven years if a claim was filed for a loss from worthless securities. The period can extend indefinitely in cases of a fraudulent return or when no return was filed. The IRS provides a list of recommended periods based on a taxpayer’s situation.

Naturally, you must be able to produce all supporting documentation.  The good news? The IRS will accept legible electronic records, so consider copying everything to a DVD or flash drive and store it with your “keep forever” documents. (Don’t forget to delete any tax-related records from your hard drive for security reasons after saving and storing copies appropriately.) 

Keep Important Records Forever

Because photocopies or scanned images of legal papers are usually not valid, store originals of these:

  • marriage licenses, divorce, and custody decrees
  • birth, adoption, and death certificates
  • wills, trusts, and financial and medical powers of attorney
  • passports and citizenship papers
  • military records

Keep Documents While You Own the Asset

  • Real estate – property abstracts, deeds, mortgage documents, closing documents , insurance policies, and receipts for home improvements
  • Vehicles – titles, purchase or lease documents, and auto insurance policies
  • Household – receipts, warranty certificates and operating instructions for household items
  • Financial – investments, stock certificates, and retirement plan records
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