How Long Should I Keep Tax Documents?
September 12, 2017
When can you get rid of old tax documents?
 
If you’re like me as soon as your tax return is filed the last thing you want to do is hang on to all those tax forms and schedules, but do you know how long you really should hang on to them?   Tax records should be kept for a minimum period of three years after the tax return is filed, but they may end up needing to be retained forever.  It’s crucial to keep all documents related to a tax return (all the way down to the annoying gas station receipts) on the off chance you are audited.  The IRS will require you to prove you were entitled to the deduction and you want to have all the proof you need.
The IRS offers the following recommendations 1:
 
  1. Keep records for 3 years if situations (4), (5), and (6) below do not apply to you.
  2. Keep records for 3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later, if you file a claim for credit or refund after you file your return.
  3. Keep records for 7 years if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction.
  4. Keep records for 6 years if you do not report income that you should report, and it is more than 25% of the gross income shown on your return.
  5. Keep records indefinitely if you do not file a return.
  6. Keep records indefinitely if you file a fraudulent return.
  7. Keep employment tax records for at least 4 years after the date that the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later.
 
 
There’s one particular instance aside from the ones mentioned above that you will need to retain your tax records for longer than three years, but not quite forever.  For example, what if you have tax records related to a property you purchased or received?  You would want to keep those records until the period of limitations expires for the year you dispose of the property.  In this case tax records can mean anything from receipts for property taxes paid, interest on a mortgage, repairs made, etc.  Keeping these records can make calculating any gain or loss you may have on the property a lot simpler. 
 
In today’s technology many individuals and businesses rely on the cloud or other internet storage to store documents.  If you need to add some storage space in your desk drawer or your filing cabinet it may be beneficial to look into scanning your records into the cloud. 
 
We all know how Murphy’s Law works.  The minute you get rid of those tax records, no matter how old they are, you’ll need them for something!
 
 
 

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