How Long Do I Keep Financial Records
Presented by the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, an independent trade association representing federally chartered credit unions nationwide. Copyright 1998.
Deciding which records to keep and for how long can be a confusing process, one that leads too many of us to keep everything "just to be safe." Despite the revolution in online services and availability of high-tech information storage and retrieval, paper documentation is still the standard.
The IRS has three years to audit your federal tax returns for any reason, with the following exceptions:
The IRS has six years to collect tax or initiate legal action if 25% or more of gross income is not reported. There is no time limit in the case of fraudulent or never-filed returns. Any documents used to complete or support a tax return should always be readily available. They may be the evidence you need to save yourself an audit. Canceled checks that correspond to entries on your tax returns should be saved, as should medical bills,
for three years to substantiate canceled checks. Weekly and monthly salary statements can be discarded provided your annual W-2 form reflects the correct information.
In your safe deposit box
- Automobile title and lien release: Save until vehicle is sold or traded.
- Credit or installment records: Keep until debt is paid or as needed.
- Will and/or trust documents: Keep indefinitely or as needed.
- Property ownership documents: Keep until property is sold, then keep a copy of the purchase and sale agreements indefinitely.
- Investments: Keep until sold, maturity and/or redemption.
- Important records (copies of things you will need in the event that your house is robbed, damaged or destroyed): Inventory of valuable property with photographs, purchase prices and/or receipts; inventory of insurance policies and brokers; inventory of bank accounts and other investments; pension records; credit card records, etc.
In your home files
Receipts for tolls, taxis, parking fees, gas and maintenance, tips and miscellaneous, auto rental and transportation tickets: Use annually, then store with tax returns.