Learn How Long To Keep Tax Records

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how many years to keep tax returns

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“Save your hard copies of your tax documents and financial papers,” Zimmelman advises. “Keep in mind if you filed an extension, the IRS will have three years from the date you submitted the return,” Dr. White warns.

All tax situations are different and not everyone gets a refund. Fees apply if you have us file an amended return. The IRS allows taxpayers to amend returns from the previous three tax years to claim additional refunds to which they are entitled. Applies to individual tax returns only. Fees apply if you have us file a corrected or amended return. It can be tempting to throw out paperwork that you think you just don’t need anymore, but your tax returns and related documents are important to keep.

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Businesses have more detailed requirements for keeping records because they can take tax deductions for ordinary and necessary business expenses. For example, they must show business purpose on travel receipts and other receipts. Always shred your old tax and financial documents. You don’t want anyone to be able to gain access to your identifying information. Scan your tax documents and save them to a CD-ROM or flash drive, even if you eventually toss the paper copies. Scanned copies of your documents take up far less space than paper files.

how many years to keep tax returns

You should keep every tax return and supporting forms. This includes W-2s, 1099s, expense tracking, mileage logs, records supporting itemized deductions and other documents. The Internal Revenue Service statute of limitations for an audit is three years. In some specific instances it can be longer. Financial experts suggest that records be held for an additional two to three years in case there are questions about the deceased’s final return. The Internal Revenue Service time limits for keeping tax records are the same for both businesses and individuals. You’ll need these records for calculating cost basis and gain or loss for any capital gains tax.

In most cases, you should plan on keeping tax returns along with any supporting documents for a period ofat leastthree years following the date you filed or the due date of your tax return, whichever is later. Paper files organized by the year with tax returns and related documents all in the same folder. Call the IRS and ask for a “Record of Account” for a particular tax year. Sometimes adjustments are made to tax returns after they’re filed and you might not know about it or you might have forgotten about it. This is an opportunity to make sure any IRS problems for a particular tax year have been settled before you throw away your important documentation. Internal Revenue Service Bulletin , the tax preparer must keep tax returns, along with supporting documentation for a minimum of three years and in some situations, it is recommended to keep them longer. For instance, if a taxpayer claimed a loss on worthless securities the IRS can look back seven year.

If you’re doing your own taxes, double and triple check your numbers. If your math skills are lacking, perhaps consider using a tax preparation software or working a tax preparer to help you avoid costly errors.

There’s a long list of tax records to keep, but the specifics of which ones you should store and for how long depend upon your situation. And you should keep tax records — at least for a while. In some situations, you may even want to keep some forms forever. No matter how eager you are to streamline your life by clearing out clutter, there’s a good chance you’ll think twice about throwing out tax records.

Here is a rundown of some of the basic tax documents you should keep on file for three years, provided you have been filing honest, complete returns every year. And if you’re lying on your tax returns, well, you might want to call a lawyer instead of reading this article.

When it comes to investments and property you own, you’ll need to save some records at least three years after you sell. For example, you should keep records of contributions to a Roth IRA for three years after the account is depleted. You’ll need these records to show that you already paid taxes on the contributions and shouldn’t be taxed on them again when the money is withdrawn. By authorizing H&R Block to e-file your tax return, or by taking the completed return to file, you are accepting the return and are obligated to pay all fees when due. At the beginning of this post you were wondering how long you should keep tax returns – and hopefully you found the answer.

When the IRS suspects someone entered illegal information on a return, it can investigate at any time, not just within the standard three-year window. If you’re not satisfied with your purchase and have not filed or printed your return, return it to Intuit within 60 days of purchase with your dated receipt for a full refund (excluding shipping & handling). After you file your tax return, the IRS could notify you that they’ve found an error on your return. They could have a question about information in your return. Or, you could discover you made a mistake on your return and need to file an amendment. You might even need information from a past year’s return in order to file this year’s return.

There are three things you should know before you decide to dump your old tax returns in the trash. Having copies of important tax records — as well as your past returns — can help you cope with an IRS audit or letter and ensure you’re equipped to file an amended return if you need to. Your past tax information will also be helpful in filing future returns. As you’re working on your taxes, it’s crucial to remember that you may need to access them again in the event of an audit by the IRS. With that in mind, a shoebox with loads of papers or files scattered throughout your hard drive is not a good move. Instead, start a filing system that organizes all your records by year and by category, such as bank statements, income forms and receipts. Throughout the year, make sure you’re maintaining that system so that everything makes sense when you file – and if the IRS requests something from the past, you’ll be able to track it down quickly.

Many states follow the federal time period of three years, but others have longer time periods. The IRS indicates that it can go back longer than three years to audit a return if they find a “substantial error.” It says that it “usually” doesn’t go back longer than six years, however.

How Long Should I Keep Records?

Her writing appears on Orbitz’s Travel Blog and other websites. Stevens holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from the State University of New York at Albany. For inherited property, check court records or talk to the attorney who handled the trust or estate.

how many years to keep tax returns

Once tax season is over, you might not even want to think about taxes — let alone deal with tax forms — for another year. What do you do with all the tax forms — whether paper or digital — when tax season ends? Holding onto those forms probably seems like a smart idea to a lot of people — a 2020 IRS survey says that 62% of taxpayers are so fearful of an audit that they wouldn’t even think of cheating on their taxes. We think it’s important for you to understand how we make money. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials. Figuring out how long to keep tax records requires some research.


If you file a claim for a loss of worthless securities or bad debt deduction, you must keep records for seven years. Additionally, if you amortize, depreciate, or buy or sell property, you should keep property records until the statute of limitations expires for the year in which you dispose of the property. Remember, property isn’t just land or buildings; it includes stock, office equipment and other assets.

  • When it’s finally time to wave goodbye to that mountain of paperwork, it’s important to remember that getting your tax documents would be a criminal’s dream come true.
  • You’ll need these records for calculating cost basis and gain or loss for any capital gains tax.
  • So, a home office can qualify, if you use it for work and work only.
  • 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.

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You must submit a copy of your old tax return for that year or any other paperwork you have with a Request for Correction of Earnings Record form. That’s not to say you can never throw out your old tax paperwork. You just need to know when it’s safe to do so and how to get rid of those documents the right way.

How Long Should You Keep Tax Returns? Longer Than You Think

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Every so often, the income from your W-2 or your self-employment taxes won’t show up on your Social Security statement. The SSA has procedures in place to help you correct any errors you might find. Making significant charitable donations will make you eligible for some substantial deductions during tax season. However, if you don’t have the documentation to support the validity of your contribution, don’t claim. For example, the IRS is going to notice a tax return that claims $10,000 in charitable deductions when that tax payer’s annual salary was only $40,000.

How Long Should You Keep Irs Tax Records?

The IRS recommends keeping your paperwork for longer in these situations because there’s an extended time limit for the IRS to take action. If you don’t report more than 25% of gross income, for example, the IRS has six years to initiate legal action to try to collect.

The IRS defines several periods of limitations that define how long you need to keep the tax return. If you did not report income your parent received that you should have, and it is more than 25 percent of the gross income shown on the return, the IRS can look back 6 years. If the return that was filed had fraudulent information or a final return was not filed, there is no limit on the number of years the IRS can look at past returns. If none of the above applies and additional tax is owed, the period of limitation is 3 years. Keeping tax returns for the three-year time period is tied to the IRS statute of limitations. Likewise, the IRS generally has only three years from the filing date or due date of the return to assess an additional tax. Keep property records until the period of limitations expires for the year when you sold or disposed of the property.