Documents: What to keep and for how long?

 

Paper is the bane of a neat home’s existence. Each day when the mail comes, the pile of documents on that counter keeps getting larger and larger. What to throw away? What to keep—and for how long? Before you pull out the recycle bin and rid yourself of something you might later need, go through our quick handy paperwork guide:

 

Taxes

Experts recommend keeping your taxes for seven years. The IRS has six years to come after you if they think you underreported your earnings by 25 percent or more.  But don’t forget you could be audited anytime if they suspect fraud, a reason to maybe keep taxes longer.

 

Bank Statements

Seriously? You’re still getting paper statements? Hello, 21st century. Also trees! Anyway, if you’re of the Luddite variety, then keep these for about a year and if you don’t need them anymore, it’s safe to toss.

 

Credit Card Statements

These could be shredded after 45 days—once you’ve checked the statements to ensure everything checks out and there’s nothing suspicious. If a statement is related to a tax expense or deduction, then, like taxes, it’s a keeper for seven years.

 

Paycheck Stubs

You should be good to toss pay stubs after a year. Just make sure all looks right once you’ve crosschecked the figures with your W-2.

 

W-2s

These wage statements are your best proof of earnings over the years. Keep these until you begin collecting social security.

 

Retirement Plan Statements

Hold onto these until you retire. Plain and simple.

 

Receipts

Unless these relate to taxes (in which case, can we say it all together? Keep for seven years), you can get rid of item receipts once the window for returns is up. Most stores take items back for 30 to 45 days. Very few offer longer or unlimited return policies (hello LL bean and Costco). So read the retailer’s refund guidelines and decide if it’s worth keeping the receipt longer than a month.