If you're coupling your latest tax filing with a little spring cleaning, you may be tempted to put the whole year behind you and toss everything. After all, your return is filed and you don't need all these receipts and forms cluttering your home or office for another 365 days, right?
Well, as nice as it would be to ditch it all and rely on electronic records, there may be some hard copy documents you'll want to keep around, just in case. Here are some of the documents you'll want to save for tax and financial reasons.
If you filed a claim for credit or refund (i.e., you're getting money back), the IRS recommends holding on to both your filing and supporting documents for three years after the date you filed your original return or two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. But you should hold on to any financial documents for seven years if you're claiming a loss from worthless securities or a bad debt deduction.
And if you're not filing a return or you filed a fraudulent return? Better hold on to any supporting records indefinitely.
If you have any outstanding loans, Consumer Reports recommends holding on to all documentation until the loan is paid off. Student loans, or other loans that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, are especially important. Any promissory note will contain the terms for repayment, which will remain in effect until the loan is paid off, so make sure you have that available.
Bank and Credit Card Statements, Insurance Policies
It's smart to hold on to most monthly bills and statements for one year, and then you can shred the hard copies. If any of those records are needed to support a tax filing, however, see the rules for tax documents above. Life, health, auto, and other insurance policies should be retained for the term of the policy, normally one year.
There are some documents that will affect your taxes and finances that should never be thrown away. Birth certificates, Social Security cards, marriage certificates (and divorce decrees), and any estate-planning documents like wills and trusts should be stored -- and stored safely -- indefinitely.
If you have more questions about which documents you need to keep for tax and financial planning purposes, contact an experienced tax attorney near you.
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