If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s paper clutter! Now that tax season is upon us, I’ll be going through all my paperwork and doing some serious purging to get the piles and files under control. I do have a pretty good household filing system that works for me, but any good system needs maintaining!
One of the problems I often have is knowing what can be safely shredded, and what should be kept. I recently decided to do a little research on this topic because I’ve got to believe I’m not the only one who struggles with this! I do want to preface this post by saying that I’m not a tax or financial professional. When in doubt, don’t throw it out! Consult your local tax professional first.
Caveat aside, here are some general guidelines for what to keep, and what to shred.
Papers you should always keep
The papers you should always keep are pretty obvious –
Social Security Cards
And the like. For any important property you own (such as a car or house), you want to keep the title/deed/purchase information for as long as you are in possession of that property.
Papers you should keep for a Time
Other papers you really only need to keep for a time. As you go through your taxes, take a look at those papers in your file – can you safely discard them? Here are some examples
Bills – Paid (one year is good, unless you need for tax purposes)
Bank Statements (one year is good, unless you need for tax purposes)
Taxes & supporting Documents (7 years in case of an audit)
Warranties (as long as you have the item in your possession)
Each situation is different, and part of this may depend on your unique tax situation and comfort level. Sometimes I like keeping old papers just out of interest. For example, each year my husband receives an Annual Retirement Statement. I have kept this statement every year he’s received it, because I like seeing how that fund has grown.
Can you keep a copy online?
Another way to reduce paper clutter is to consider what’s available online! Many bill, bank, and credit card statements are available for pdf download online, for instance. I use TurboTax for my taxes (here’s how & why) and they also offer a pdf download of the return.
I’ve also taken our most important documents, such as birth and marriage certificates and scanned and saved them into the computer. Having online records has come in handy on a couple occasions, such as when we refinanced our house last year.
You can also print this as a PDF: Paperwork: How Long Do I Save it?
You might also want to read these related posts:
Sources & Additional Reading:
usa.gov – Managing Household Records
Lifehacker – How Long Should I Keep Old Documents?
Consumer Reports – Conquer the Paper Piles
Bankrate – How Long to Keep Financial Records?
I’d love to hear from you – what other tips do you have for filing and storing papers? Is this a task you need to take care of?