How Long Should You Keep Tax Records?

woman keeping tax records

After you file your tax return, you may wonder what you should do with your pile of tax records and financial documents. First, don’t get ahead of yourself and trash them. When in doubt, keeping a document is always the safe option. The IRS sets specific standards for record keeping that you can follow. 

How long should I keep tax records?  

For most taxpayers, the IRS recommends keeping tax records for a minimum of three years. You should hold onto all forms, receipts, and anything else used to prepare your return until the period of limitations for that tax return ends. During this time period, you can amend your tax return and the IRS can assess additional tax. So, it is essential to have proof of any tax-related records in case your return needs to be reevaluated.  

There are exceptions to the three-year period. For example, if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction, you are required to keep records for seven years. Read How to Organize Your Tax Documents for the New Year for storage and organization tips. 

If you get selected for an audit because of a substantial error found in your tax return, the IRS may investigate your records for multiple years. The maximum time frame the IRS investigates is typically six years. So, even though the recommendation is generally three years, it may be best to hold onto records for longer. For more information, read What Happens if I Get Audited? 

Can I throw away old tax records? 

If you determine you can dispose of something, be sure to use a safe method, such as shredding, to ensure confidential information is secure. Read 5 Tips to Help Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft for more on disposing personal records. 

How can I get a copy of my old tax returns? 

TaxSlayer prioritizes your security. We keep your records in case you need them and ensure your sensitive information is protected from unauthorized access. For help retrieving your records, read How Do I Obtain a Copy of a Prior Year Return?

The information in this article is current through tax year 2019.

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