There are many reasons to keep household records, including keeping track of your expenses, maintaining records for insurance purposes or getting a loan. You should have the same approach to managing your tax records, even after your tax return is filed. Records you should keep include bills, credit card and other receipts; invoices; mileage logs; canceled, imaged or substitute checks; proof of payments; and any other records to support deductions or credits you claim on your return. Read our quick tips below for more detail on what to keep and for how long.
Here are some quick tips for keeping your tax return records:
- If you file a claim for credit or refund after you file your return, you’ll want to keep your records for three years from the date you filed your original return or two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
- Supporting documentation for your tax returns includes not only your forms W-2 and 1099 but also bills, credit card and other receipts, invoices, mileage logs, canceled, imaged or substitute checks, proofs of payment, and any other records to support deductions or credits you claim on your return.
- If you claim depreciation, amortization, or depletion deductions, you’ll want to keep related records for as long as you own the underlying property. That includes deeds, titles and cost basis records.
- If you claim special deductions and credits, you may need to keep your records longer than normal (for example, if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction, you should keep those records for seven years).
- If you have employees, including household employees, keep your employment tax records for at least four years after the date that payroll taxes become due or is paid, whichever is later. This should include forms W-2 and W-4, as well as related pay information including benefit forms.
- If you claim any other special tax benefits not mentioned above (for example, the first time homeowner’s credit), a good rule of thumb is to keep your records for as long as the tax benefit runs plus three years.
- If you have property that will result in a taxable event at sale or disposition (like stocks, bonds or your home), you’ll want to keep records which support your related tax consequences (capital gains, etc.) until the disposition of the property plus three years.
- If you receive property as the result of a gift or inheritance, you’ll want to keep records that support your basis in that property. Generally, if you inherit property, your basis is the stepped up value as of the date of death; if you receive a gift, your basis is the same as the donor’s basis. Don’t toss those old records just because you’re the new owner of the assets.
You should keep copies of your tax returns as part of your tax records. In the event of your death, copies of your returns and records can be helpful to your survivor or the executor, or administrator, of your estate. You may also need tax returns from previous years for loan applications or to estimate tax withholding.
Keeping good records will help us explain any tax position we take on your return and arrive at the correct amount of tax with a minimum amount of effort on your part. If you don’t have records, you may have to spend time getting statements and receipts from various sources. In the event of an IRS audit, if you cannot produce the correct documents you may have to pay additional tax and be subject to interest and penalties.
We are happy to answer any questions you may have about what records you should keep and for how long in your particular situation. For general guidelines, you can download or print our Tax Records Retention Schedule here.