Tax Record Retention Guide

Storing tax records: How long is long enough?

Tax Record Retention April 15 has come and gone and another year of tax forms and shoeboxes full of receipts is behind us. But what should be done with those documents after your check or refund request is in the mail?

Federal law requires you to maintain copies of your tax returns and supporting documents for three years. This is called the “three-year law” and leads many people to believe they’re safe provided they retain their documents for this period of time.

However, if the IRS believes you have significantly underreported your income (by 25 percent or more), or believes there may be indication of fraud, it may go back six years in an audit. To be safe, use the following guidelines.

Business Records To Keep… Personal Records To Keep…
1 Year    1 Year
3 Years    3 Years
6 Years    6 Years
Forever    Forever

Special Circumstances
Business Document To Keep For One Year

Correspondence with Customers and Vendors
Duplicate Deposit Slips
Purchase Orders (other than Purchasing Department copy)
Receiving Sheets
Requisitions
Stenographer’s Notebooks
Stockroom Withdrawal Forms

Business Documents To Keep For Three Years

Bank Statements and Reconciliation’s
Employee Personnel Records (after termination)
Employment Applications
Expired Insurance Policies
General Correspondence
Internal Audit Reports
Internal Reports
Petty Cash Vouchers
Physical Inventory Tags
Savings Bond Registration Records of Employees
Time Cards For Hourly Employees

Business Documents To Keep For Six Years

Accident Reports, Claims
Accounts Payable Ledgers and Schedules
Accounts Receivable Ledgers and Schedules
Cancelled Checks
Cancelled Stock and Bond Certificates
Employment Tax Records
Expense Analysis and Expense Distribution Schedules
Expired Contracts, Leases
Expired Option Records
Inventories of Products, Materials, Supplies
Invoices to Customers
Notes Receivable Ledgers, Schedules
Payroll Records and Summaries, including payment to pensioners
Plant Cost Ledgers
Purchasing Department Copies of Purchase Orders
Sales Records
Subsidiary Ledgers
Time Books
Travel and Entertainment Records
Vouchers for Payments to Vendors, Employees, etc.
Voucher Register, Schedules

Business Records To Keep Forever

While federal guidelines do not require you to keep tax records “forever,” in many cases there will be other reasons you’ll want to retain these documents indefinitely.

Audit Reports from CPAs/Accountants

Cancelled Checks for Important Payments (especially tax payments)
Cash Books, Charts of Accounts
Contracts, Leases Currently in Effect
Corporate Documents (incorporation, charter, by-laws, etc.)
Documents substantiating fixed asset additions
Deeds
Depreciation Schedules
Financial Statements (Year End)
General and Private Ledgers, Year End Trial Balances
Insurance Records, Current Accident Reports, Claims, Policies
Investment Trade Confirmations
IRS Revenue Agents’ Reports
Journals
Legal Records, Correspondence and Other Important Matters
Minutes Books of Directors and Stockholders
Mortgages, Bills of Sale
Property Appraisals by Outside Appraisers
Property Records
Retirement and Pension Records
Tax Returns and Worksheets
Trademark and Patent Registrations
Personal Document To Keep For One Year

While it’s important to keep year-end mutual fund and IRA contribution statements forever, you don’t have to save monthly and quarterly statements once the year-end statement has arrived.
Personal Documents To Keep For Three Years

Credit Card Statements
Medical Bills (in case of insurance disputes)
Utility Records
Expired Insurance Policies
Personal Documents To Keep For Six Years

Supporting Documents For Tax Returns
Accident Reports and Claims
Medical Bills (if tax-related)
Property Records / Improvement Receipts
Sales Receipts
Wage Garnishments
Other Tax-Related Bills
Personal Records To Keep Forever

CPA Audit Reports
Legal Records
Important Correspondence
Income Tax Returns
Income Tax Payment Checks
Investment Trade Confirmations
Retirement and Pension Records
Special Circumstances

Car Records (keep until the car is sold)
Credit Card Receipts (keep until verified on your statement)
Insurance Policies (keep for the life of the policy)
Mortgages / Deeds / Leases (keep 6 years beyond the agreement)
Pay Stubs (keep until reconciled with your W-2)
Property Records / improvement receipts (keep until property sold)
Sales Receipts (keep for life of the warranty)
Stock and Bond Records (keep for 6 years beyond selling)
Warranties and Instructions (keep for the life of the product)
Other Bills (keep until payment is verified on the next bill)
Depreciation Schedules and Other Capital Asset Records (keep for 3 years after the tax life of the asset)

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