What Tax Records Should You Keep and How Long Should You Keep Them?

Tax Records to Keep and How Long to Keep Them

By: Ann-Marie Murphy, Quizzle.com

April is fast-approaching and with it, tax time. While tax preparation seems to get a little bit easier each year with the prevalence of online tax prep software, there's still one question that leaves many Americans scratching their heads: What records should I hang onto for tax purposes and how long should I keep them?

There are a few basic records that everyone should keep, according to the IRS, including documents that provide evidence of your income and expenses. In addition, if you own a home or have investments, the IRS recommends that you hang onto related records. Here's the breakdown:

Basic Records to Keep

For items concerning your… Keep as basic records…
  • Form(s) W-2
  • Form(s) 1099
  • Bank statements
  • Brokerage statements
  • Form(s) K-1
  • Sales slips
  • Invoices
  • Receipts
  • Canceled checks or other proof of payment
  • Written communications from qualified charities
  • Closing statements
  • Purchase and sales invoices
  • Proof of payment
  • Insurance records
  • Receipts for improvement costs
  • Brokerage statements
  • Mutual fund statements
  • Form(s) 1099
  • Form(s) 2439

Now that you know what to keep, here's the low-down on how long to keep them (also known as the "period of limitations"):

How Long to Keep Records*

If you… Then the period is…
1 Owe additional tax and (2), (3) and (4) below do not apply to you 3 years
2 Do not report income that you should and it's more than 25 percent of the gross income shown on your return 6 years
3 File a fraudulent return Indefinite
4 Do not file a return Indefinite
5 File a claim for credit or refund after you filed your return 3 years or 2 years after you paid taxes, whichever is later
6 File a claim for a loss from worthless securities 7 years

*Unless otherwise noted, the number of years you should keep records refers to the time period beginning after you filed your return. If you filed your return before the deadline, the IRS treats it as if you filed it on the deadline.

For more details about which records you should keep for tax purposes, the IRS has put together a handy publication on Recordkeeping for Individuals.

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Ann-Marie Murphy is the Director of Consumer Education at Quizzle, the free and easy way to manage your home, money and credit - all in one spot. She brings experience in financial services and writing to the Quizzle Blog, where she specializes in helping consumers with credit, money management and money saving tips.

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