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How Long Should You Save Tax Returns

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How long should you keep your tax returns?

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Hold On To Your Records For A Bare Minimum Of 3 Years

“The general rule of thumb is to keep your tax returns for at least three years from the date you filed it, the due date, or the date you paid the tax, whichever is later,” explains Tom Taulli, an enrolled agent and owner of Pathway Tax.

Within three years, you can file amendments to your tax return in order to claim a credit or refund. Additionally, the IRS statute of limitations allows for questioning or auditing a return during that time frame. If the IRS has questions about your tax returns or wants to perform an audit, you’ll probably be asked to produce your tax records.

In addition to your tax returns, you should keep any supporting documentation. The things you should keep include your W2 form, 1099 forms, records of unemployment payments, credit card receipts, invoices, mileage records, statements detailing any securities transactions you made, and documents detailing contributions made to retirement-savings accounts.

You may need to keep your tax records for longer in certain situations. Generally, a more complicated tax situation will lead to a longer required holding period.

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How To Store Your Tax Documents

If you use online tax software to file your tax returns, the software will generally keep copies of your returns for you from year to year. However, you can’t always count on being able to access those forms when you need them.

While it’s unlikely that major tax-filing programs will just shut down without giving you time to obtain your records, you still don’t want to be 100% dependent on them to fulfill your obligations to the IRS. As a result, it’s a good idea to print a paper copy of your returns and keep them in a safe place in your home — or at least download your forms to your own computer.

Your tax-filing software also won’t keep receipts for your deductions or credits, nor will they keep things like bank and brokerage statements that the IRS may want to see. These documents should all be kept together, ideally with paper copies of your returns.

Keeping your returns and documents will both ensure you’re ready to answer questions if the IRS comes calling and will also help you file your returns in later years when you can refer back to forms from the past.

How Does This Expected Turnaround Compare To Last Year

How Long You Should Keep Your Tax Returns

Although the typical turnaround time of 21 days has not changed much, there is a considerable backlog causing millions of taxpayers to experience delays, said Zimmelman. This backlog goes back to the end of 2020 and is due to issues caused by the COVID pandemic, specifically, a much smaller IRS staff and past office closures due to quarantine.

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Shred Old Paper Returns So Identity Thieves Can’t Access Them

Deleting digital copies of old tax returns is easy, but if you have old paper returns, you can’t just put them in the trash. They contain a lot of personal information about you that identity thieves would love to have, such as your birth date, Social Security Number, employment information, and address. With this information, it’s easy to open up new credit accounts in your name, and that can create a major headache for you later.

When you’ve verified that it’s time, always shred old paper returns, or dispose of them in some other way that will ensure no one else can recover information from these documents.

You might decide to get rid of your old paper returns but retain digital copies just in case you’d need them for some reason in the future. If you decide to do this, make sure you have a password on your computer so that unauthorized users cannot access your important financial documents.

Your old tax returns don’t become irrelevant the second you’ve paid your tax debt or gotten your refund for the year. Keep in mind the three points listed above before throwing yours out so you don’t run into any problems later.

Other Circumstances For Extended Statutes Of Limitations

In some circumstances, the statute of limitations is longer than three years. For example, if you dont report income that youre required to report, and it exceeds 25% of the income shown on that years tax return, the IRS has six years to audit your return.

In addition, not filing or filing a fraudulent tax return allows the IRS to audit you indefinitely. So keep any tax records for those years permanently.

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Maintain Tax Returns And Records For 7 Years For Capital Losses

If you claim a capital loss from securities or bad debt on your return, keep the records for seven years. The extended record-holding period gives the IRS ample time to check into your claim to confirm that the appropriate amount of tax was paid.

In addition to your tax return, make sure to keep detailed records on the capital loss itself.

How Long To Keep Tax Records And Other Documents

How Long Do I Keep My Tax Returns?

You’ll also want to safely keep other documents for the right amount of time

Tax season is the perfect time to start culling your paper and computer files and getting everything in order.

This time of year, its important to keep track of the tax documents youre expecting to arrive just to make sure you actually get them, says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.

Its also a good idea to keep them well-organized. McBride suggests that you put all your W-2 forms, for example, together in one place. Do the same for your 1099 forms and brokerage account statements.

If you havent yet started on your taxes, getting your paperwork in order will reduce stress and make you more efficient, he says.

Even if youve already filed your taxes, creating an organizational system now could benefit you if youre audited. It will also make life easier when you have to do taxes again next year.

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What Receipts To Keep For Taxes

As much as theyâd love to take your word for it, the IRS requires that you keep documentation that backs up the income, deductions, and credits you report on your tax return.

Here are the main types of records you should hang on to:

  • Receipts
  • Company health, safety, and any other regulatory documents
  • Annual reports

Because the burden of proof is on you to back up every item on your tax return with documentation, the best approach to recordkeeping for small businesses is to try to keep as many records as you can.

Need some help with your bookkeeping and recordkeeping? Check out Bench. Weâll do your bookkeeping for you and our platform is a secure place where you can store all your records.

How Long Do I Need To Keep Old Tax Returns

Drowning in paperwork? How long must you keep old tax records?


After being stuck at home for months, thanks to the Coronavirus, you might be wondering what to do with those stacks of old tax returns and other tax records. Can you just throw them away? Do you need to keep the hard copies? How can you get them out of sight and out of the way?

Few people know how long they must keep various tax records, receipts, and full tax returns. Another question is how to safely store these documents without feeling like you are living like a hoarder. Over the years, Ive met quite a few people who had stacks and stacks of boxes full of receipts, documents, old tax returns, even countless papers. While some of those documents were important and needed to be kept, most should have been shredded and thrown away long ago.

According to the Internal Revenue Service , the length of time you should keep your tax documents will depend on the type of file you are talking about and what kind of transaction to which it relates. You will want to keep any tax records to support your income, various tax deductions, tax credit, and exemptions until at least the period of limitations for each tax return ends. If you arent a certified public accountant or a financial planner, you are likely wondering, what the heck does that mean for me? Keep reading, and we will explain.

As you file your 2019 taxes, you may wonder if you need to keep your old tax returns.


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You Need To Keep Your Tax Returns For At Least Three Years

The IRS recommends that everyone keep their tax returns for at least three years, or two years from the date you paid your taxes, whichever is later. This way, if it decides to audit you, you should have all the necessary paperwork available. Throwing these documents away ahead of schedule only hurts you because if you’re audited, the government could disallow legitimate tax deductions if you don’t have the paperwork to prove that you were eligible to claim them.

You should hold onto your tax return for six years if you failed to report a substantial amount of income on your tax return, but hopefully, this doesn’t apply to you because you should never try to hide income from the government. The IRS recommends holding onto your tax returns for seven years if you filed a claim for a loss of worthless securities or a bad debt deduction, and you should hold onto your tax paperwork indefinitely if you did not file a return for a given year or if you filed a fraudulent return, which again, you’re hopefully not doing.

What Are The Best Practices When It Comes To Record

How long you should keep your tax returns and why

There are lots of ways to keep documentation organized and secure:

  • Recognize risky behavior Watch out for online scams. Phishing emails and clickbait might appear to come from family members, your bank or credit card company, or the IRS itself. In addition, be mindful of unusual behavior consisting of mailings or phone calls that claim to be from the IRS, traditionally the IRS will never call an individual, and if youre in doubt about any mail received, you can always call the IRS to confirm a letter, call, or email authenticity.
  • Use a password Password protect everything possible. A strong password can help you avoid cyberattacks.
  • Dont use the same password for multiple applications or files.
  • Protect yourself digitally Install and use a firewall, antivirus programs, software security, and methods of encryption.
  • Mask or remove your and family members Social Security numbers from all documents
  • Protect hard documentation Whether in a safe or a shoebox, hard documentation should be consolidated and kept safe in one secure location. Consider scanning all documentation and keeping it on a secure hard drive or in secure cloud-based storage.
  • Dont follow a link, click on an email link, or call back the phone number listed in a suspicious email.

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Keep Tax Records And Supporting Documents For Six Years

Even if you do not have to attach certain supporting documents to your return, or if you are filing your return electronically, keep your supporting documents for six years in case the Canada Revenue Agency selects your return for a review. This six-year period starts at the end of the tax year to which the records relate.

Tax records include:

  • All supporting documents you used to prepare them, such as:
  • T-slips
  • Receipts or documents for medical, child care, charitable donations, moving expenses, any other expenses for which you received a credit or deduction

Keeping your tax records is important to support the information you have provided to the CRA.

Residents of Quebec should see this link: Keeping Records and Supporting Documents.

Are The Records Connected To Property

Generally, keep records relating to property until the period of limitations expires for the year in which you dispose of the property. You must keep these records to figure any depreciation, amortization, or depletion deduction and to figure the gain or loss when you sell or otherwise dispose of the property.

If you received property in a nontaxable exchange, your basis in that property is the same as the basis of the property you gave up, increased by any money you paid. You must keep the records on the old property, as well as on the new property, until the period of limitations expires for the year in which you dispose of the new property.

Also Check: Internal Revenue Service Tax Returns

But Some Experts Say You Might Want To Keep Documents Longer

While the IRS suggests most taxpayers only need to keep basic records for three years, theres an argument for holding onto these documents for at least seven years a year longer than the six-year statute of limitations in cases where income was substantially underreported.

If your tax return looks like the great American novel, the running of the three-year audit period may not save you, Dr. White says.

She explains that because the IRS has six years to go after you if you substantially under-reported income, you may need your records to prove you didnt underreport your income by more than 25% .

If you think youre potentially at risk of an audit, you should keep your documents longer than usual, Zimmelman advises. Being at risk for an audit doesnt mean youre doing anything wrong. It just means that your tax situation might raise a few red flags that require the IRS to take a closer look.

You should also keep copies of your tax returns forever so you can prove you filed your taxes if the IRS says you didnt, as theres no time limit on the IRS bringing a case for failure to file.

The IRS has been known to lose or misplace tax returns, Dr. White warns. The IRS receives millions of returns over a three-month period and lost returns are inevitable. So how do you protect yourself? You keep copies of every single tax return.

How Long To Keep Tax Records: Can You Ever Throw Them Away

How Long Should You Keep Your Tax Files/Returns? 2018 Tax Tip

Once youve submitted your tax return to the Internal Revenue Service each year, the last thing you probably want to think about is how to store your tax records. But making these arrangements is essential to protect yourself in the event of a future IRS audit.

The general rule is to keep your tax records for three years, but there are several important exceptions for when you might need to keep your tax records for a longer period as a taxpayer. Read on to learn how long to keep your tax records and when you can safely dispose of them.

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Reasons For Retaining Business Records

When you think about retaining records and documents, the first thing that probably comes to mind is an IRS audit. While you need to present tax filings and supporting documents if you are audited or you wish to amend a previous tax return, there are many reasons for retaining other types of documents and records. Here are a few of them:

  • Lenders whom you approach for financing might require income, sales history, and other documents.
  • When you are negotiating with landlords, insurers, and other vendors, having a clear and written history of previous leases, insurance policies, and other contracts might strengthen your position.
  • If you decide to sell your business, potential buyers will want to review historical records as part of their due diligence.
  • If you become involved in a dispute or lawsuit, you might need meeting minutes and written agreements to support your position.

What Is The Irs Statute Of Limitations

The IRS statute of limitations in the most basic case is three years. If you claimed a tax refund or deductions from worthless securities or bad debt, then that period increases to 7 years. They have a statute of limitations on employment tax records of 4 years. Maybe youre wondering, Do I have to file taxes? If you improperly fail to file a tax return, then there is no limit to the statute of limitations for the IRS. The period varies based on your specific tax situation, but the IRS rules plainly state how long the period lasts for each situation.

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