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Important Documents to Keep


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Comments on this website are informational in nature and are not intended to
be interpreted as specific tax advice.   The comments cannot be used to avoid taxes under the Internal Revenue Code or the regulations of other tax authorities. Furthermore, this website is not intended, and should not be interpreted, to support the promotion or marketing of any tax avoidance schemes.

 

Date last modified:
01/26/17

The following are guidelines for keeping important tax, financial and legal documents.  When you are ready to discard sensitive papers, do so appropriately to protect your identity and security.  Remember that when dealing with most taxation entities, the burden of providing adequate proof is on the taxpayer.

  • Tax Returns
    Keep indefinitely!  They can be scanned and kept as electronic files burned onto a CD.  As long as the tax return does not involve fraud, tax evasion or substantial understatement of income, the IRS only has a three-year timeframe (from the filing date) in which to request proof of the numbers on the return.

  • Cancelled checks, Invoices, Statements and Receipts
    Keep them for seven years if they document deductions on a tax return.  If they do not substantiate a tax return (personal, non-deductible expenses) discard after a year or two.

  • Receipts for Property Improvements
    Keep as long as you own the property and for seven years after the property is sold, whether it is your primary residence, a rental or an investment.  Improvements affect the basis (cost) and may be critical in calculating gain on the sale.  Laws regarding  taxable gain could change in the future.

  • Escrow Statements
    Keep for seven years after you sell the property, whether it is your primary residence or investment property.  This includes all escrow statements from refinancing.

  • Brokerage Statements and Buy/Sell Confirmations
    Keep documents reporting purchases of stocks and mutual funds in order to document basis and calculate gain or loss when the issue is sold.  Keep documents reporting and relating to sales for seven years.  Brokerage statements should be kept if dividend reinvestments are reported on them, as they can be used to calculate basis.

  • Business Books
    Keep a copy of your company books at lease seven years.  Make and store a back-up of computer files off of your computer.  Some programs will allow you to print reports and ledgers in PDF format, which can also be stored electronically.