As a CPA I get asked all the time “where is there a record retention guide?” and “how long to I have to keep this stuff?” Unfortunately that question is not easy to answer.
That is not a cop out; it really is not easy to answer. But I am going to give you some guidelines in this and the following pages so you can make sure you always have what you need and you are in the legal limit of maintaining your records.
First of all, think about the different types of records you have. If you have read the Home Filing System section of this web site and the Everything I Own section, you will see that there are lots and lots of paperwork we all deal with every day.
There are many reasons to keep paperwork. Let’s break down this guide into some major categories.
Keeping Tax Records – this will be the first record retention guide everyone will think about. Usually because it is on our mind a lot and we all have a fear of being audited by the IRS. We want to make sure we have all our supporting paperwork. These will include most of your financial records like bank statements, interest earnings and mortgage interest.
Personal Record Retention - this would include documents like birth certificates and other paperwork that is non-financial in nature. See the discussion at Home Filing System to understand the four types of paperwork. We will look at record retention for these types of documents.
So we will examine each of these categories and look at the record retention guide that best suits you and your situation.
Another question that is at the top of the list these days is how I can keep the records? Many people want to scan their records into a computer and save them electronically.Some people won’t do that because they are afraid they will need an original.
Which records is it okay to have a scanned copy and which records so you need an original? We will take a look at that in the next new pages as we examine record retention requirements.
And then there is the storage problem. What is the easiest way to store it so it is accessible but you’re not tripping over it?
I’m not an attorney so I am not giving you legal advice in this record retention guide. If you have a legal question regarding your documentation and the retention, please seek a qualified licensed attorney to help you.