Monday, June 22, 2009

Document Retention Guidelines

I have been doing a lot of work with clients in their home offices over the last few weeks. One of the most common questions that I get when we are working in this area is, "how long do I need to keep this?" As a client hands me a document, a receipt, or an old bill.

I know that it is not just my clients who are wondering this about pieces of papers clogging up their files and littering the tops of their desks. I have put this list together for you to bookmark and refer to when you are purging your files.

A great way to help you keep track of when you are safe to get rid of a document is to write an expiration date on it so that when you clear out files you can throw away all documents that have passed their expiration dates.
  • Copies of Tax Returns: 7 Years
    The IRS has 6 years to challenge your return if you under reported your income. They can challenge anytime if they thing you committed fraud.
  • Warranties: Length of the product
    Reference use.
  • Quarterly Retirement and Savings Plan info: At least one year
    Keep the quarterly statements until your annual report comes for tax time.
  • Annual Report on Retirement and Savings: Indefinitely
    You should hang on to these documents until you close the accounts or retire.
  • Pay Stubs: One Year
    To check against your W2 at the end of the year. If it the information matches you can throw out your stubs.
  • Copies of Paid Bills: One year
    To dispute any arguments and show proof of payment.
  • Legal Papers (Divorce Papers, Marriage Certificates, Death Certificates, etc…): Forever
    You will need to show proof of at anytime.
  • IRA contributions: Forever
    You will need these to show that you paid tax on the contributions when it is time to withdraw your money.
  • Audit Reports: Forever
  • Bank Deposit Slips : 5 years
  • Bank Statements: 5 years
  • Brokerage Statements: Keep until you sell the security
    You will need them to show gains or losses at tax time.
  • Credit Card Receipts : Till the end of the month
    When you get your monthly statement check the receipts against the statement and if all matches up you can throw receipts away.
  • Credit Card Statements: 7 years
    If Tax related expenses are recorded.
  • Current Contracts and Leases: Life of the contract plus three additional years.
  • Housing Records: As long as you own the home plus 6 years.
    Anything documenting purchase price, cost of permanent improvements, remodeling, installations, expenses you incur in selling and buying property like legal fees, real estate commission. Keep to help lower your gains tax.
  • Insurance Records: Life of the policy plus 10 years
  • Investment Records: 6 years after the sale of the investment
    You can keep only annual statements
  • Personal health records: Names and contact info of doctors, medication lists, your medical history and family history: Indefinitely
    This complete information can save you time and energy in the future.
  • Medical Records: 7 years or until the condition is gone.
    If you deduct medical expenses keep for 7 years.
  • Medical Insurance Documents: 5 years from the date the service was received.
    Premium statements, doctor bills, copies of prescriptions, hospital bills
  • Home Insurance: 5-10 years
    The burden of proof will fall on you and not the insurance company.
  • ATM receipts: A month until you check against bank statement.
  • Utility Bills: If not using for tax purposes than 3 months
    If using for tax purposes 7 years.
    To show proof of residency.
  • Mortgage Statements: Length that you own the property plus 7 years
  • Documentation of donations to charities: 7 years
    To claim on taxes.
  • Child Care Expenses: 7 years
    To claim on taxes
  • Education Expenses: 7 years
    To claim on taxes
  • Gambling winning or Loses: 7 years
    Date and location you were at, people with you, amount you won or lost, type of activity

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