the taxes are done, or almost done, for another year. Once you've filed, though, the job isn't over. You're left with a desk full of papers...
Whew — the taxes are done, or almost done, for another year. Once you’ve filed, though, the job isn’t over. You’re left with a desk full of papers and receipts, wondering which you should save and which you can trash. Here are some tips from experts.
What to shred:• Returned checks. If you need proof of payment, the bank can supply a record of your check, so don’t take up storage space with bundles of old checks.
• Paycheck stubs. Keep the W-2 form, and you’ve got a government document that records your annual income — everything you need, on one piece of paper.
• Old bills. There’s no need to keep utility and credit-card statements from five years ago. There are some exceptions. If there’s a deductible item on your credit-card statement, hang on to it for six years to keep the IRS happy.
What to keep:• Tax returns. The IRS has three years to audit your tax returns, so keep those (and all canceled checks and other records for deductible items) for at least that long. But that’s only if you’re generally honest. The Feds have six years to audit if they find irregularities (for example, if you didn’t report a quarter of your income), and they can go back as far as they like if they suspect fraud or if you didn’t file. Also: For years when something big happens — say, you buy or sell a house — hold onto those tax returns indefinitely.
For more information see IRS Publication 552, Recordkeeping For Individuals. Download it at www.irs.gov or order it by calling toll free 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
• Housing records. For as long as you own your house, keep mortgage papers, home-improvement receipts, title papers, deeds and other information related to the purchase of your home.
• Records from other major purchases. If you buy a car, keep all the financial information for as long as you own that car. For purchases of appliances such as refrigerators, you probably need to keep the receipt because of a warranty. After the warranty runs out, the receipt is pretty much worthless.
• Investment records. Keep the year-end statements for as long as you own the asset. And if you’re earning money on an investment, you’ll get a statement from your broker that shows how much interest you’ve earned. Keep those for three to six years.