How long do I have to keep this stuff?



"How long do I have to keep this stuff?" is the usual question you ask yourself when feeling that you are running out of room for all this "paper" that may never be needed. 

The paper receipt you get from your fast-food lunch may go directly into the trash.  The prudent consumer may keep it to reconcile it with their monthly statement and then, trash it.  The natural hierarchy with receipts and documents associated with purchases is that as the price or value goes up, the more important it is to keep them.  The question becomes "but for how long?"

The following table will give you an indication on how long certain documents related to your home need to be kept according to best practices of tax professionals.  IRS recommends that records are kept for three years from the date the taxpayer files their original return or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later.  There is no time limit in the case of fraud or failure to file a tax return.

 

Document

Length of time to keep

Home Purchase/Sale Documents

Home purchase documents

Duration of ownership + 3 years

Closing documents & statements

Duration of ownership + 3 years

Deed to property

Duration of ownership

Home warranty or service contract

Until expiration

Community/Condo Association Covenants

Duration of ownership

Receipts for capital improvements

Duration of ownership + 3 years

Mortgage Payoff statements or Release of Lien

Forever, in case proof is needed

Annual Tax Deductions

Property tax statement & cancelled check

3 years after IRS due date for return

Year-end mortgage statements

3 years after IRS due date for return

Federal tax returns

3 years after filing return or
2 years after paying tax, whichever is later

Insurance and Warranties

Home Inventory

Keep current

Homeowners insurance policy

Until the replacement is received

Service contracts and warranties

Until warranty/service contract expiration

Home repair receipts

Until warranty/service contract expiration

 

Going digital with your records can make them easy to keep as well as to find when you need them.  Create a folder on your computer that automatically backs up to the cloud like Dropbox, Google Docs or OneDrive so that if something happens to your computer, you have them safely tucked away. 

The main folder could be the address of your home with subfolders for purchase documents, capital improvements, warranties, etc.

When you receive statements that are already in digital format, simply move them to the correct folder and subfolder.  If it is a paper format, scan it and save it in the proper folder so you will have it when you need it.

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