Your 2013 tax return is filed. What tax records can you toss?

The short answer is: none. You need to hold on to all of your 2013 tax records for now. But this is a great time to take a look at your records for previous tax years and determine what you can purge.

At a minimum, keep tax records for as long as the IRS has the ability to audit your return or assess additional taxes, which generally is three years after you file your return. This means you likely can shred and toss most records related to tax returns for 2010 and earlier years.

But you’ll need to hang on to certain records beyond the statute of limitations:

  • Keep tax returns themselves forever, so you can prove to the IRS that you actually filed. (There’s no statute of limitations for an audit if you didn’t file a return.)
  • For W-2 forms, consider holding them until you begin receiving Social Security benefits. Why? In case a question arises regarding your work record or earnings for a particular year.
  • For records related to real estate or investments, keep documents as long as you own the asset, plus three years after you sell it and report the sale on your tax return.

If you’re ready to toss any documents older than the retention period, ensure that they are destroyed if they contain any personally identifiable information (PII).

This is only a sampling of retention guidelines for documents. If you have questions about other documents, use our records retention guides for reference (for individuals or for organizations) and contact us with questions.