How Long To Keep Tax Returns?

O you have old tax returns documents, and you have no clue whether you still need to keep them or not? This article will answer all your queries regarding tax returns and how long you need to keep them.

After being stuck at home for quite a long time, because of the Coronavirus, you may be considering how to manage those piles of old tax returns and other tax records. Will you simply discard them? Do you have to keep the printed copies? How can you remove them?

Barely any individual knows how long to keep tax returns, receipts, and other tax records. Another question is how to securely store these documents without feeling like you are living like a hoarder. Throughout the years, there are many individuals who had stacks and heaps of boxes loaded with receipts, documents, old tax returns, even innumerable papers. While a portion of those documents are significant and should have been kept, most ought to have been destroyed and discarded some time in the past.

The period of time you should keep a document relies upon the activity, cost, or occasion which the document records. By and large, you should keep your records that support an item of income, deduction or credit appeared on your tax return until the period of limitations for that tax return runs out.

What is a tax return?

A tax return is a form or forms documented with a tax authority that reports income, costs, and other relevant tax data. Tax returns permit taxpayers to compute their tax liability, plan tax payments, or request refunds for the excessive charge of taxes. In many nations, tax returns should be documented every year for an individual or business with reportable income, including wages, interest, profits, capital gains, or different benefits. In the United States, tax returns are documented with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or with the state or local tax collection organization (for instance, Massachusetts Department of Revenue) containing data used to figure taxes. Tax returns are by and large arranged utilizing forms endorsed by the IRS or other important position.

In the U.S., people use varieties of the Internal Revenue System’s Form 1040 to document government income taxes. Organizations will utilize Form 1120 and partnerships will utilize Form 1065 to record their yearly returns. An assortment of 1099 structures are utilized to report income from non-work related sources. Application for programmed extension of time to record U.S. individual income tax return is through Form 4868. Commonly, a tax return starts with the taxpayer giving personal data, which incorporates their filing status, and dependent info.

How long to keep tax returns?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has some rigid standards with respect to how long taxpayers should keep their tax returns. As the IRS puts it, the length of your tax return keeping relies upon the activity, cost, or occasion affecting those returns. Those activities and those timelines, are significant, as they have an effect on the legal time limit on any revisions to your tax return, or the federal government’s capacity to request extra tax payments from you.

The period of limitations is the timeframe in which you can alter your tax return to guarantee a credit or refund, or the IRS can evaluate extra tax. The data beneath mirrors the periods of limitations that apply to income tax returns. Unless it is expressed otherwise, the years allude to the period after the return was documented. Returns recorded before the due date are treated as filed on the due date.

The accompanying data is directly from, which states how long to keep tax returns. The years indicated start after the return was documented. Reiterating what was said before, any returns recorded before the due date are considered to have been documented on the due date.

  1. Keep records for three years if situations (4), (5), and (6) below do not apply to you.
  2. Keep records for three years from the date you filed your original return or two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later, if you file a claim for credit or refund after you file your return.
  3. Keep records for seven years if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction.
  4. Keep records for six years if you do not report income that you should report, and it is more than 25% of the gross income shown on your return.
  5. Keep records indefinitely if you do not file a return.
  6. Keep records indefinitely if you file a fraudulent return.
  7. Keep employment tax records for at least four years after the date that the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later.

When to get rid of tax documents?

Prior to getting very excited and discarding your old returns, check to ensure you do not have to save it for other purposes. For example, certain creditors and surprisingly some insurance agencies may expect you to keep records longer than the IRS does. On the off chance that you do choose to dispose of tax documents, make sure that you shred them. Tax returns contain sensitive personal data that identity thieves can make use of.

What is the best way to store documents?

The most ideal approach to store printed copies of tax documents is in a fire-proof safe. Alongside your tax records you can keep other significant documents like the deed to your home, data regarding mortgage and insurance, your will or trust documents, and passwords to bank and investment funds. It is likewise a smart idea to tell one other individual where the key to the safe is (e.g., a spouse or other trusted relative or friend). Thus, if a crisis emerges, that individual will know how to get to any documents they may require to maintain your affairs in control.

At last, in the event that you plan on saving your records for quite a while, yet also do not want your home to be jumbled with paper, think about scanning your documents and keeping a backup of the records on an encrypted hard drive or in the cloud. The IRS acknowledges digital copies of documents as long as they are decipherable. This strategy occupies undeniably less room and is simpler to arrange than a heap of papers.

Tax return vs. Tax refund

A tax return and a tax refund. They sound quite the same and once in a while go together, however they are not exactly identical. What’s more, is that this year, there are more subtleties than in any time ever, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the $1.9 trillion March stimulus bill and checks going out now for up to $1,400 each. So how are the two different from each other, and what are the greatest changes you need to think about?

A tax return is a form you document every year with the IRS that details your adjusted gross income (AGI), costs and other monetary data. The vast majority of these subtleties comes from your W-2 statement that your workplace gives you weeks ahead of time to document your taxes, yet you may likewise have a 1099 or other form for recording your income. Your tax return will incorporate your gross income (which is not quite the same as your AGI), the amount you have effectively paid into taxes (through your organization’s retention or assessed taxes that you paid ahead of time in case you are self-employed) and other significant data you will have to record your taxes. Nonetheless, the tax return will likewise adjust deductions for your children, along with  the amount you paid in student loan interest, medical care inclusion, Roth IRA contributions, home office costs, business expense, charitable donations, etc. You should record a tax return to get a refund. Nevertheless, just because you record a return does not mean that you will get a tax refund.

A tax refund is the thing that is given to you by the US Treasury if, in the previous year, you paid more in state or government taxes than you were expected to. For instance, perhaps your workplace retained more cash than was really required from your check, or you are self-employed and ended up overpaying quarterly assessed taxes. The government will repay you, or “return,” the difference between what you paid and what you owed as a single amount payment; or, your tax return. Likewise, any deductions on your taxes can likewise add to the sum you can hope to get.

How long to keep personal records?

You need to save records for at least three years in light of the fact that the IRS normally has three years from the date you document to audit your returns, however most audits occur in a matter of two years from the date of documenting.

Be that as it may, even after three years have passed, you might not want to throw those records. In the event that the IRS tracks down a “substantial error,” it might review extra returns, however it usually does not go back more than six years. How long does one have to keep individual tax returns? People having taxable income additionally will undoubtedly keep Income Tax Return records for six years.

There is no legal time limit for reviews if the IRS speculates tax fraud or in the event that you did not document a tax return for a specific year. So remember that before you dispose of records you are not needed to keep. Having those documents available can help you in the event that you ever need to provide evidence that you adhered to the rules.

3 Years

You need to keep your tax returns as well as supporting documents, for example, your W-2s and 1099s, for at least three years. You ought to likewise keep duplicates of receipts, dropped checks, and credit card or bank statements that document any costs you have deducted or support tax credits you have claimed. Keep records identified with property for a minimum of three years after you have sold it, regardless of whether it is your home, another real estate property, or investments like bonds and stocks. Your records will help decide your benefits or misfortunes when you sell.

6 Years

In the event that you underreported your income by over 25% of the sum that appears on your return, the IRS has six years to audit you. A similar standard applies on the off chance that you underreport more than $5,000 of income from unfamiliar or foreign monetary resources.

7 or More Years

For those with more complex tax returns, numerous accountants recommend keeping tax returns for six years, because of the IRS’ legal time limit for underreported income. Under this standard, the IRS stretches out the time they need to address or review you to six years when there is a significant exclusion of income, characterized as 25% or more of the taxpayer’s gross income on the return. The IRS prescribes keeping tax documents identified with real estate for as long as seven years in the wake of selling the property. Documents asserting a useless securities loss or bad debt deduction ought to likewise be saved for seven years after you record your tax return.

In the event that you lose or accidentally toss away old tax returns, you can demand a duplicate from the last six years from the IRS by filling out Form 4506 and mailing it in. The cost per copy is $50, and it could take as long as 75 days to show up. In the event that you do not need the actual return, tax records are free and accessible online in five to 10 days for the current tax year and typically also the past three years. A tax return transcript will show most details, including your AGI and any extra forms or schedules documented, yet will not show any progressions or changes made to the first return. Different records, like the compensation and income transcript and tax account transcript, can give tax data from the previous 10 years. If and when you discard old tax returns, try to properly and carefully shred the documents to keep yourself secure against identity theft and fraud.

How long to keep tax returns after death?

As stated before, the IRS’s legal time limit for a review is three years. This implies that any of the deceased people’s tax returns are dependent upon arbitrary reviews for the following three years. In any case, tax specialists suggest that you protect all tax records for at least seven years in the event that there are inquiries concerning the deceased individual’s returns.

How long to keep tax returns for business?

You will have to hold on to your business tax returns and all supporting documentation until you cannot be examined for that tax year anymore. In the US, the IRS expects organizations to keep their business tax returns for in any event three years, starting from the time of tax documenting. In any case, do not wrench up the paper shredder on the third year. The IRS additionally says that it can come after your business for neglecting to report income for as long as 6 years in the wake of recording, and for as long as 7 years on the off chance that you took deduction on a bad debt. That is the reason most accountants suggest that you keep your tax return and all supporting documentation for seven years from the time of recording.

Is there any reason to keep old tax returns?

Remember that compliance incorporates federal (IRS) rules along with state rules, as there is regularly a distinction in the legal time limit for both. For instance, while the IRS has a three-year time limit, the state of California has a four-year time limit. Being found tossing out 2013 tax information this year (despite the fact that it was recorded in 2014) could be a main problem on account of a state review.

In the electronic age, firms and customers have normally effectively built up a framework for scanning documents, receipts and emails after the year closes for simple access. Revenue Procedure 97-22 provides that the IRS acknowledges and accepts scanned documents. The weight of confirmation for an item of income or cost rests with the taxpayer, and keeping paper documents may not be a choice. Nevertheless, technology does change, and information recovery might be required years after later. Along these lines, the strategy for capacity and recovery should be considered. Electronic records should be pretty much as exact as paper records and taxpayers should have the option to file, store, protect, recover and duplicate the records (to deliver a printed copy if necessary). Further, in business, accounting software changes consistently and access is needed at all times.

As per the IRS, how long to keep a document relies upon the activity, cost or occasion recorded by the document. For the most part, keep records that support an item of income, allowance or credit appeared on the tax return until the time of limits for that tax return runs out.

As you are dealing with your taxes, it is vital to recollect that you may have to get to them again in case of a review by the IRS. In light of that, a shoebox with heaps of papers or documents dissipated all through your hard drive is anything but a good move. All things considered, start a documenting framework that puts together the entirety of your records by year and by category, for example, bank statements, income forms and receipts. Consistently, ensure you are keeping up that framework so all that bodes well when you document – and if the IRS demands something from an earlier time, you will have the option to find it rapidly. In case you are actually managing a weighty measure of paper, there are a lot of applications, like Expensify or CamScanner that digitize and make your life easy.

Should you keep tax returns forever?

Property records can be kept forever. At the point when you sell a property at a profit, you will owe capital gains tax on that profit. In order to figure out your capital gains, you are frequently expected to hold on tight to your records as long as you own your investment. You will require those records to compute the cost basis for the property, which is the actual expense, adjusted upward or downward by different elements, like significant upgrades to the structure.

Ascertaining the cost basis on the property you live in is generally basic in light of the fact that the vast majority can try not to pay capital gains tax on their main living place. On the off chance that you sell your main living place, those documenting individual returns can exclude up to $250,000 in gains from taxes, and couples recording together can exclude up to $500,000. You probably lived in your home for at least two out of the last five years to fit the bill for the exclusion. All things considered, you will need to save your records of the transaction for at least three years after selling the property.

On the off chance that your deal does not meet the above measures, you will need to keep records of important upgrades for in any event three years after the sale. IRS Publication 523, “Selling Your Home,” illuminates what upgrades you can add to your cost basis — and decrease your capital gains bill. This is the same for any rental property.

Most brokerages will figure your cost basis for stocks, bonds and shared assets, despite the fact that they are just to ascertain your cost basis for stock exchanges since 2011 and common assets since 2012. It is a smart idea to keep all your transaction records, nonetheless, on the off chance that you change brokers. Also, keep a record of any acquired property and its worth when the proprietor passed away, which will turn into your tax premise.

There is nothing amiss with saving your records longer than the legal limits on the off chance that it gives you peace of mind, and you can stand the messiness. You should seriously mull over putting away a few records in the cloud — remote computer storage space that you rent. Albeit numerous individuals keep paper records, it is likewise ideal to have the documents changed over to electronic documents and put away in the cloud. It is a smart thing to have two copies, in the event that one is destroyed.

How to get rid of your tax records?

At the point when it is time to say farewell to that heap of desk work, it is essential to recall that getting your tax documents would be a criminal’s blessing from heaven. These documents incorporate your name, address, Social Security number and all the data expected to take your personality, so disposing of them requires additional consideration. According to Bankrate, “When you dispose of tax records, make sure you keep your information safe. Shred paper documents and wipe electronic records before disposing of old electronics to protect yourself from identity theft. Whether you retain paper or electronic documents, ensure they are safe and secure and keep an encrypted back-up.”

Tax-related documents you need to keep

By and large, the IRS suggests keeping all documents that demonstrate how much income you procured and anything that supports credits or allowances you guarantee. However, try not to stress over keeping each and every document. For instance, your W-2 structure will sum up the amount you have procured, so you do not have to document each and every compensation stub. Here is a once-over of some fundamental tax documents you should keep on record for a very long time, if you have been documenting fair, total returns each year. Furthermore, in case you are lying on your tax returns, indeed, you should call a legal counselor as opposed to reading this article.


Your taxes begin with how much you made. Therefore, keep a track of all the amount you were paid in a specific year.

  • 1099 forms
  • W-2 forms
  • K-1 forms


If you are earning extra cash from your investment portfolio, those records also need to be kept safe.

  • 1099 forms
  • Annual brokerage statements
  • 2439 forms


Purchasing and selling a home comes with huge tax implications.

  • Mortgage interest deduction forms
  • Proof of payment
  • Purchases and sales invoices
  • Insurance records
  • Closing statements


In case you are a self-employed or freelance worker, it is very important that you keep proof of all the amount you had to spend in order to keep your business running.

  • Invoices
  • Sales slips
  • Annual bank statements (check with your bank to see if these are also stored in your online banking account)
  • Canceled checks or other proof of payment
  • Receipts

Health insurance

When you record your taxes, you do not have to submit evidence of your insurance, but you still need to show the IRS that you were covered.

  • Form 1095-C (Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage)
  • Form 1095-B (Health Coverage)
  • Form 1095-A (Health Insurance Marketplace Statement)
  • Payroll statement that shows money was deducted for your health insurance
  • Insurance cards
  • Time limit exceptions
  • Statements from your insurance provider

Retirement accounts

As you plan for retirement, make sure to keep the IRS updated on how your funds are doing.

  • Annual statements
  • Form 5498, Roth and traditional IRA contributions
  • 401(k) and other company-sponsored plan statements
  • Form 8606, nondeductible IRA contributions
  • Form 1099-R distribution records


Kindly do not simply toss your old returns into the trash. There is such a lot of individual data on your tax returns, your Social Security number, for instance. You do not need this data to fall into some unacceptable hands. Whenever you have examined your tax documents, try to discard them safely. At any rate, shred them prior to tossing them in the garbage. Past your actual tax returns, check and check whether you need any of the supporting tax documents for different purposes. You should save any agreements for things like vehicle credits, home loans, protection documents, hospital expenses, and warranty data. The list of documents you should keep is longer than the list of what the IRS requires.

Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett

Tony Benett makes his living in the insurance industry by teaching and consulting. He is also recognized by the legal profession as an expert on insurance coverages. His insurance experience includes having worked at the company level, owned an independent general agency and having worked for an insurance association. He has received various certificates over the past few years and helps his clients and readers by giving them a realistic outlook on what they can expect to achieve within their set targets. At Insurance Noon, he is known for his in-depth analysis and attention to details with accuracy. He has been published as one of the most referred agents by his peers in the insurance community. Tony loves the outdoors and most sport events. His passion other than providing excellent advice is playing golf.