As part of my effort to organize myself for the New Year, I’ve found that I’m starting to become a pack rat with papers.
While I was busy purging paper and backing up the electronic data, I realized that when we don’t know how long to keep something, we end up keeping it forever… or not at all. Here’s how long we should be keeping those important papers:
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificates
- Divorce Certificates
- Death Certificates
- Military Documents
- Immunization Record
- Employment Records (Why)
- IRA Contributions (Why)
- Social Security Card
- Tax Returns: The IRS can audit your returns from 3 years ago; 6 years if you grossly under reported; indefinitely if you filed a fraudulent return or did not file. So you could pitch your returns after 7 years… however, if they claim you didn’t file, and you pitched it… well, now you know why I put tax returns on the indefinite list! You can also request copies or transcripts of past tax returns. For more details on how long to keep tax records, see how long to keep tax returns.
Keep During Ownership
- Car Titles and Service Records
- Receipts, Manuals, and Warranty Information for Appliances
- Receipts for Major Purchases like Jewelry, Furniture, and Computers
Ownership Plus 7 Years
Even after you sell investments or real estate, you’ll still need to keep the gain or loss documentation for tax purposes.
- Stocks, Bonds, and Investment Records
- Savings Certificates
- Home Improvement Documentation
- Real Estate Records
Many of the following will contain information that supports tax returns. Therefore it’s best to keep the following for seven years:
- Canceled Checks
- Credit Card Statements
- Old Bank Statements
- Retirement Plan Contributions
- Supporting Documentation for Tax Returns
Until Specified Date
- Annual Retirement Statements: Until retirement and funds are exhausted.
- Insurance Policies – Until property is sold, policy expires, and all claims are settled.
- Wills: Until replaced by a new one.
- Receipts not used for Warranties, Taxes, or Insurance
- Paycheck Stubs: Once you get your W-2, you can toss them
- Phone Bills not needed for taxes
- ATM Receipts
- Grocery Receipts