Tax Returns: What should I keep, what can I toss? - 4/15/2022
Updated: Jul 29
We are who we are. Some of us toss bills as soon as they are paid, some of us keep papers forever 'just in case'. I can't change who you are, but I can share with you the conventional wisdom of what to keep for how long. What you do from there is up to you.
The rule is to keep tax returns and all backup documentation for at least 3 years. In general, the IRS has 3 years from the due date or the filing date of the return (whichever is later) to assess any additional tax. There are particular circumstances where they can go back as far as 7 years, such as worthless securities or bad debt.
If the IRS believe there is a potential that there was fraud involved in the preparation of the return (fudging or omitting information) there is no statute of limitations.
Sometimes there is information on a tax return that might be useful for insurance purposes or basis of stock information. Hold on to those returns with the backup documentation of the tax return the information was used on.
Shred your old tax returns and back up documentation when it is time to get rid of them, they contain your social security number and other sensitive information.
I know, clear as mud. On the good side, in this digital information age it would be possible to recreate much of your tax return including source documents years later if needed. It is also easy to scan and save on your hard drive, the cloud, or a usb drive. Remember that these returns include your social security number and make sure to include security measures. You can also blank out the number before scanning.
If you have specific questions about your tax returns, it is best to ask a financial professional who is familiar with your situation.
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