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Financial Records Timeline

Taxes (returns, canceled checks/receipts, alimony, charitable contributions, mortgage interest and retirement plan contributions)

Seven Years

  • The IRS has three years from your filing date to audit your return if it suspects good faith errors.
  • The three-year deadline also applies if you discover a mistake in your return and decide to file an amended return to claim a refund.
  • The IRS has six years to challenge your return if it thinks you underreported your gross income by 25 percent or more.
  • There is no time limit if you failed to file your return or filed a fraudulent return.

IRA Contributions

Permanently

  • If you made a non-deductible contribution to an IRA, keep the records indefinitely to prove that you already paid tax on this money when the time comes to withdraw.

Retirement / Savings Plan Statements

From One Year To Permanently

  • Keep the Quarterly statements from your 401 (k) or other plans until you receive the annual summary; if everything matches up, then shred the quarterlies.
  • Keep the annual summaries until you retire or close out the account.

Bank Records

From One Year To Permanently

  • Go through your checks each year and keep those related to your taxes, business expenses, housing, and mortgage payments.
  • Shred those that have no long-term importance.

Brokerage Statements

Until You Sell The Securities

  • You need purchase / sales slips from your brokerage or mutual fund to prove whether you have capital gains or losses at tax time.

Bills

From One Year To Permanently

  • Review your bills each year. In most cases, when the canceled check from a paid bill has cleared the bank and been returned to you, you can shred the bill.
  • The exception is the bills for big purchases (jewelry, rugs, appliances, antiques, cars, collectibles, furniture, computers, etc). These should be kept in an insurance file for proof of their value in the event of loss or damage.

Credit Card Receipts and Statements

From 45 Days To Seven Years

  • Keep your original receipts until you get your monthly statement; shred the receipts if everything matches the billing statement.
  • Keep the statements for seven years, if tax-related expenses are reflected on the billing statement.

Paycheck Stubs

One Year

  • When you receive your annual w-2 form from your employer, make sure the information on your stubs matches.
  • If it matches, shred the pay stubs.
  • If there is a mistake, tell your employer that you need a corrected w-2 (which is called a w-2c).

House / Condominium

From Six Years To Permanently

  • Keep all records documenting the purchase price and the cost of all permanent improvement such as remodeling, additions, and installations).
  • Keep records of expenses incurred in selling and buying the property (such as legal fees and your real estate agent's commission) for six years after you sell your home.
  • It is important to hold onto these records because any improvements you make on your house, as well as expenses in selling it, are added to the original purchase price or cost basis. This adds up to a greater profit (also known as capital gains) when you sell your house. Therefore, you lower your capital gains tax.
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