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The right stuff: Which tax records should you keep?

Just because you've filed your taxes, doesn't mean

Just because you've filed your taxes, doesn't mean you can just toss out every receipt. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto / Twoellis

You’ve filed your taxes and said good riddance to Uncle Sam for the time being. Much as you feel as if you’ve washed your hands of all things taxes, don’t get carried away and start throwing out documents.

Here’s what to keep.

  • Hold onto the right stuff: “Saving every document isn’t necessarily the answer. Too much clutter may make important documents difficult to access when you need them quickly,” says Magdalena Johndrow, a financial adviser with Farmington River Financial Group in Farmington, Connecticut.

Still, there are some rules of thumb. “We recommend keeping a copy of each return, along with all supporting documents, like business expense receipts, and W2, bank or brokerage statements, that were used to prepare the return, for seven years. This ensures you can prove your income and deductions in an audit,” says Michael Katz, administrative partner at Sanders Thaler Viola & Katz in Jericho.

However, hold onto documents that affect multiple tax return years for the longevity of the asset. These include receipts for business machinery, equipment and furniture that are depreciated; papers related to the purchase of a house, or proof of cost basis for stocks that are sold in subsequent years.

  • Make use of technology: Luckily, files can be stored and accessed electronically. Financial institutions often will provide you with a means of accessing a digital version of your statement, but even paper copies can be scanned to a computer or through a smartphone app. Says Johndrow, “My clients can upload documents for safekeeping directly to their unique account access and store them securely online. Any printed hard copies should be kept in a fire safe or safe deposit box.”

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