How long should I keep my tax returns?

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If you’ve crossed the finish line and already filed your taxes this year, remember to keep that info in a secure place. 

As a rule of thumb, you should keep your tax records for at least three years from the filing date, experts say, due to the statute of limitations for an IRS audit. Some experts advise keeping your records for even longer — up to seven years — depending on your tax situation for the year. 

This goes for anything like tax returns, W2s, 1099s or other paperwork that will support deductions or credits that you have claimed.

“The safest place to keep your documents is a safe deposit box,” says Michael Belfer, partner at accounting firm Anchin. “Be neat and organized. If you’re being audited, the more organized you are the better. If you’re messy or don’t have the right documents, an IRS agent may dig a little deeper.”

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What tax deductions and credits can I claim?:Here are 9 overlooked ones

An accountant chewing on a pencil while closely examining figures from his printing calculator.

3-year rule

You can benefit from keeping your records for three years because that is the set amount of time to claim tax refunds. The IRS generally will go back that amount of time if they need to verify what you have claimed on your taxes.

To be sure, it may be best to keep your records indefinitely. If you don’t file, the IRS has no statute of limitations. Also, if you’ve underreported your income by 25% or more, the IRS can go back six years.


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By Javier Manning

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