How long should you keep your tax documents?

Your tax documents are very important documents that you may need to refer to way after the time you actually file your return. More importantly, the IRS may need to refer to these documents at some point in the future and you therefore need to make sure that you do not dispose of your tax documentation once you have filed your returns thinking that you will never need the documents again.

Whilst most people are aware that they need to keep their tax documents for a certain amount of time many are not sure how long they should keep them for. Of course, it is impractical to hoard your tax documents forever, as otherwise you may find that you can no longer move in your office of home due to the amount of folders, paperwork and documentation that you have!

However, it is important to keep your documents for at least a set minimum number of years and if at all possible for as long as you can – something you could do if you have some sort of storage facility available to you such as an unused garage where you could store old tax folders (although you must ensure that the facility you use is secure due to the personal information that your tax documentation can contain).

One thing to bear in mind when deciding how long to hang on to tax documents is that tax offices in different states will hang on to your documents for varying amounts of time. For example, in some states the IRS is able to carry out an audit within three years of your tax returns being filed, which means that after that period they will most likely get rid of the documents. In other states they may have four years from the date of the return to carry out an audit should they decide to do so. You should make sure that you find out what the timescales are in your state and hang on to your records for at least the same amount of time as the IRS so that you have something to refer to in the event of an audit.

However, another thing to consider is that if you get rid of your tax documentation once the IRS also gets rid of it there will be nothing to refer to in the event that you need the information for other purposes in the future, which is why some people like to hang on to their tax documents for as long as they are able to.

Andrew writes frequently about personal finance as well as issues effecting both consumers and small businesses, covering everything from credit cards to mortgages to how to setup an umbrella company .