10 Minute Tidy Office Tip 70: When to Archive

by shannon on April 1, 2013

The following list is a general guideline for how long to keep your papers in your reference files before archiving them. Be sure to check with your tax consultant for their specific recommendations based on your tax filing process.

Tax documents: Keep tax returns, as well as supporting documents like W-2 forms, receipts, and real estate closing statements for seven years. The IRS may audit you within three years if it suspects good-faith errors, six years if it believes you underreported your income by at least 25%, and unlimited time if you did not file a return or filed a fraudulent one.

Investment records: Keep as long as you own the securities, plus another seven years. You’ll need them to prove capital gains and losses.

Bank statements: One month. You just need these long enough to check the accuracy of the transactions. Unless the statement is your only record for a tax-related transaction, there’s no need to keep them longer. Plus, your bank will have them available online.

Retirement plan statements: Most, one year, for tax purposes. Keep Roth IRA statements until you retire, to prove you already paid tax on your contributions.

Credit card statements: Shred immediately after checking the accuracy of the transactions. These documents are a prime source for identity theft. Unless the statement is your only record for a tax-related transaction, there’s no need to keep them longer. Plus, your issuer will have them available online.

Paycheck stubs: One year, until you receive your W-2.

Bills: One year, for tax purposes.

W-2 forms: Until you begin claiming Social Security. They’re the best estimate of your earnings and entitlements.

Read more: Important Documents to Save – How to Store Legal Papers – Good Housekeeping

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