Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Do I Really Need My Last 5 Years of Electric Bills?

Oh, it's that time of year to begin sorting through all your files to find the info for your tax returns. After doing some research, here are some suggestions on what to keep and how long:

Taxes, 7 years
The IRS has 3 years from your filing date to audit your return if it suspects good faith errors. The 3 year deadline also applies if you discover a mistake in your return and decide to file an amended return to claim a refund. The IRS has 6 years to challenge your return if it thinks you underreported your gross income by 25% or more. There is no time limit if you failed to file your return or filed a fraudulent return.
- Items to retain: Tax returns and forms, records for all tax deductions

IRA contributions, Permanently
If you made a nondeductible contribution to an IRA, keep the records indefinitely to prove that you already paid tax on this money when the time comes to withdraw.
- Item to retain: Investment statement

Retirement/savings plan statements, 1 year to permanently
Many people view their statements online which is great, less shredding at the end of the year. You only need your annual summary for your records. Keep these until you close the account or retire.
- Item to retain: annual account summaries

Bank records, 1 year to permanently
Keep only those related to taxes, business expenses, home improvement and mortgage payments. With online banking bill pay, use your monthly bank statments.
- Items to retain: monthly bank statements and check records

Brokerage statements, Until you sell the securities
You need the purchase/sales slips from your investments to show capital gains or losses.
- Items to retain: Purchase and sales records

Bills, 1 year to permanently
Once your utility bill is paid, you no longer need the bill. Unless you claim it on your taxes, then you keep it with your Tax files. For large purchase items (appliances, cars, furniture, computers, jewelry, etc), you need to keep for proof of purchase in event of loss or damage for insurance.
- Items to retain: Purchase receipts, bills for tax purpose

Credit cards, 45 days to 7 years
Keep your receipts until your monthly statement and everything matched up (and you have decided you are not going to return the item). If there are tax deductions, then keep statements/receipts for 7 years.
- Items to retain: receipts and statements for tax purposes

Paycheck stubs, 1 year
If your annual W-2 matches your information, then shred your stubs. If the numbers do not add up, then request a corrected form called a W-2c.
-Items to retain: Annual W-2

Home records, 6 years to permanently
Keep all records documenting the purchase price and costs for home improvements. Along with records of expenses in selling and buying your property. These items are added to the original purchase price, increasing your profit. When you sell your home, you can lower your capital gains tax with these records.
-Items to retain: Home purchase and improvement records

What's the oldest paper in your files?


Anonymous said...

AHHH....Tax time....time to look back on the year and ponder what you did right and where you goofed.
U.P. here it seems most are glad..away from the hussle and bussle, a sort of laid back feeling.All is well in this world.
My new friend and neighbor Claudia has allowed me use of her computer
and this allows me to say HELLO, hope all is well and HUG THEM BOYS FOR ME !!! p.s. nice tips on taxes

Phyllis said...

I bet if I rummaged in my basemet or attic, I'd find some type of bill or check registry from my college days... 30 years ago. lol.

Janet Barclay said...

If you bank online, I think you should still print your statements (or save as PDF, if possible) because some banks only keep them online for 1-2 years, and if you decide to close your account, you'll lose all that information.