We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

For How Long Should I Keep my Tax Paperwork?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Jan 21, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

It’s often difficult to know when you can rid yourself of personal records like tax paperwork. Also, it may be hard to know what parts of one’s tax paperwork one needs to save. For example, does one need to save receipts for itemized deductions, or statements of income earned after tax paperwork has been filed?

It makes sense to understand how and when the IRS or individual states can investigate one’s tax returns. The following standards apply. The IRS can challenge your tax returns for up to three years after they have been filed. They have six years to analyze your tax paperwork and audit you if they find you have unreported income. Therefore, it makes sense to keep tax paperwork for at least seven years.

Afterwards, one may still want to hold onto actual returns, but accompanying materials, like receipts, W-2s, 1099 miscellaneous forms, and statements about interest earnings can usually be discarded. This tax paperwork should not only be discarded but should be shredded to avoid possible identity theft. Many of these documents list important information like your social security number, making it quite simple for a thief to steal your identity.

There are a few reasons why it might make sense to hold onto some tax paperwork for longer than ten years. For example, W-2s list monies paid to social security. If you have always contributed a maximum amount to social security payments, and later upon retirement the government offers you less than that to which you are actually entitled, you can use old W-2s to prove your eligibility for more money. Mistakes can happen, even in government, so having a way to prove your eligibility to receive retirement income from the state can be of value.

What you can definitely do is get rid of things like quarterly statements and pay stubs once you have received W-2s, 1099 miscellaneous forms, or year-end statements. There is no need to keep this additional tax paperwork around since it duplicates information you already have in your possession. Also, if you need to look at an old tax return, and do not have one, you can order one from the IRS. Remember to keep this filed for at least seven years, after its original filing date.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By poppyseed — On Apr 17, 2011

Wow – this was really helpful. I’ve got tax papers far older than six or seven years just because I didn’t know if the tax police could come and check me out for an infinite amount of time! Does this apply even if a person has their own home business though? It seems like it may be a little different for people running an enterprise of some sort, but I’m not sure. Any wise geek’s out there with the answer? It sure would be appreciated!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.