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Keep it or toss it: How long do I keep paper?

Article posted on Tuesday, September, 9th, 2014 at 1:24 AM

“How long do I keep paper?” is one of the questions I get asked the most. Many people are afraid to throw papers out. To help, I compiled this list from several sources including the IRS, for which there is a direct link to their recordkeeping document at the bottom.


These recommendations are for residential recordkeeping. Business recordkeeping varies, please check with your accountant.


Save for 1 month

  • Credit-card receipts
  • Sales receipts for minor purchases
  • Withdrawal and deposit slips. (Shred after checking against your monthly bank statement.)


Save for 1 year

  • Paycheck stubs (Shred after your W-2 arrives.)
  • Monthly bank, credit-card, brokerage, mutual-fund, and retirement-account statements
  • Utility bills


Save for 7 years

  • W-2s, 1099s, and the other “guts” of your tax returns
  • Year-end credit-card statements, brokerage and mutual-fund summaries
  • Cancelled checks relating to tax records


Save indefinitely

  • Tax returns (after 7 years you can shred the guts – see above)
  • Receipts for major purchases (or for as long as you own the item)
  • Real estate and residence records
  • Wills and trusts


Save in a safe deposit box or fire-proof safe

(Any document that would be difficult or impossible to replace)

  • Birth and death certificates
  • Adoption papers
  • Marriage licenses
  • Insurance policies
  • Original Social Security cards
  • Passports
  • Property deeds
  • Car titles
  • Military service records
  • Loan pay-off documents
  • Business incorporation certificates
  • Jewelry, art and furniture appraisals
  • Valuable jewelry or coins
  • Inventory of everything in your home (list or photo/video of items)


For more information, go to IRS.gov – Topic 305 – Recordkeeping






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