• Update: Due to inclement weather, all A+FCU branches will be closed today. Read Full Alert

Keep Or Toss: How Long Should I Hang On To My Financial Documents?

Determining which documents to keep and which are okay to get rid of can be confusing, here’s a simple guide to help.

Man sitting at a table reading a piece of paper.

Every year, it’s nice to do a bit of “financial spring cleaning” and declutter your filing cabinet, your desk drawers, and the various hiding places where miscellaneous scraps of paper tend to accumulate and multiply.

Keep reading to find out what you should be saving, and what’s OK to shred.

Keep Forever

If you’re long overdue for some organization in the paperwork department, start here! This category includes all the super-important life stuff that’s usually issued to you only once and therefore difficult to replace:

Your “keep forever” documents should be kept in a secure place. A locking file cabinet in your home is a popular choice, but consider upgrading to a safer alternative, such as a fireproof safe in your home or a safe-deposit box at your credit union or bank. Also, consider scanning these documents and having them backed up on the cloud – password protected, of course – so you can access them remotely and quickly in an emergency.

Keep For Seven Years

This category includes all supporting documents for your income tax return, plus a couple of other miscellaneous ones. This may seem like a long period of time, but it’s not an arbitrary number – seven years is how far back the IRS can go to audit a tax return. The breakdown is a little more complex; you can be audited for any reason up to three years after you file a tax return and up to six years after you file a tax return if you omitted 25% or more of your gross income – which technically makes the auditing window three to seven years.

An audit is an evaluation of your tax return to verify its accuracy and to ensure compliance with tax laws. Many people associate being audited with having committed tax fraud or some other shady financial behavior, but, in fact, a number of taxpayers are audited on a random basis each year.

If audited, you’re required by law to provide the documentation that supports the claims made in your tax return. In some cases, additional information may be required to verify a claim you’ve made – it might just be a matter of providing a canceled check, a receipt, or a bank statement. In other instances, the audit may take place on-site (meaning at your residence or workplace) or at an IRS office.

Being well-organized is the best way to make the process as quick and painless as possible. So, what types of documents should you keep for seven years?

Two people sit at a desk looking at a laptop while one types on it.
Life Guidance for:

Fraud Protection

You work hard for your money. We want to help protect it by sharing tips to help recognize scams, deter fraudsters, and take appropriate action if you fall victim.

Keep For One Year

This category mostly consists of monthly statements. A good rule of thumb is to keep your monthly statements for the current year, and then shred them once you’ve reconciled them with an annual statement. The exception is any statement needed for tax purposes – those get grouped into the “keep for seven years” category.

Keep For 45 Days

Shred credit card statements after 45 days, but hang on to those statements that you may need for business, for taxes, as proof of purchase, or for insurance.

Keep For 30 Days Or Less

ATM slips can be tossed once you’ve checked them against your monthly bank statement. Utility bills and phone bills can be shredded after you’ve paid them, unless they contain tax-deductible expenses.

Keep As Long As Active

This bonus category is a catch-all for agreements and contracts that are active for varied amounts of time:

You’ll want to hang on to the records in this category for at least as long as you own the asset. For major purchases, stapling the original purchase receipt to the user manual or warranty information will keep everything in the same spot, should you need to make a warranty claim. Documents relating to improvements and upgrades on your home or vehicle should also be saved alongside your title and loan papers.

Sorting through financial documents is a pretty straightforward process once you figure out how long you need to keep specific types of documents. Doing a periodic cleanup will save you time and hassle in the long run, and will keep your desk drawers and filing cabinets clutter-free in the meantime!

A woman walks outside a window with a cup of coffee and a cell phone.
Financial Tools To Assist You

Get A+ Online Banking

Conveniently access your accounts, move money around, and even apply for loans from anywhere – anytime!

Related Articles

Banking on each other.
Building stronger communities.®

I’m looking for…

This link takes you to something we think is useful.

But, it’s important to know you’re leaving the A+FCU website. Our site provides links to third party sites and resources not controlled or operated by A+FCU. Other websites may have privacy policies, security, and terms of use that aren’t the same as A+FCU’s. A+FCU isn’t responsible for third party content, agreements, or transactions on linked sites. If you’d rather not continue on to this site you can always call us or stop by a branch to find out more.