April 15 has come and gone and another year of tax forms and shoeboxes full of receipts is behind us. But what should be done with those documents after your check or refund request is in the mail?
Federal law requires you to maintain copies of your tax returns and supporting documents for three years. This is called the “three-year law” and leads many people to believe they’re safe provided they retain their documents for this period of time.
However, if the IRS believes you have significantly underreported your income (by 25 percent or more), it may go back six years in an audit. If there is any indication of fraud, or you do not file a return, no period of limitation exists. To be safe, use the following guidelines.
Business Documents To Keep For One Year
Correspondence with Customers and Vendors
Duplicate Deposit Slips
Purchase Orders (other than Purchasing Department copy)
Stockroom Withdrawal Forms
Business Documents To Keep For Three Years
Employee Personnel Records (after termination)
Expired Insurance Policies
Internal Audit Reports
Petty Cash Vouchers
Physical Inventory Tags
Savings Bond Registration Records of Employees
Time Cards For Hourly Employees
Business Documents To Keep For Six Years
Accident Reports, Claims
Accounts Payable Ledgers and Schedules
Accounts Receivable Ledgers and Schedules
Bank Statements and Reconciliations
Cancelled Stock and Bond Certificates
Employment Tax Records
Expense Analysis and Expense Distribution Schedules
Expired Contracts, Leases
Expired Option Records
Inventories of Products, Materials, Supplies
Invoices to Customers
Notes Receivable Ledgers, Schedules
Payroll Records and Summaries, including payment to pensioners
Plant Cost Ledgers
Purchasing Department Copies of Purchase Orders
Travel and Entertainment Records
Vouchers for Payments to Vendors, Employees, etc.
Voucher Register, Schedules
Business Records To Keep Forever
While federal guidelines do not require you to keep tax records “forever,” in many cases there will be other reasons you’ll want to retain these documents indefinitely.
Audit Reports from CPAs/Accountants
Cancelled Checks for Important Payments (especially tax payments)