How Long Should I Keep Tax Records and Bank Statements?

Managing your financial records can be a tedious but crucial part of maintaining your financial health. When it comes to tax records and bank statements, it’s essential to strike a balance between holding onto documents for an appropriate amount of time and decluttering to keep your financial life organized.

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In this article, we’ll explore the recommended retention periods for tax records and bank statements, as well as the reasons behind these guidelines. We’ll draw insights from trusted sources, such as 1st United Credit Union and Investopedia, to provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to manage these essential financial documents.

Tax Records: What to Keep and for How Long

Tax records are among the most critical financial documents you’ll need to keep for a specific period. Maintaining your tax records appropriately ensures you have the necessary information for filing returns, supporting deductions, and substantiating your financial history. But how long should you keep your tax records? Let’s delve into the details.

The General Rule: Three Years

1st United Credit Union suggests that, in most cases, you should retain your federal tax returns and any supporting documents for a minimum of three years. This three-year timeframe is a general guideline outlined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for most taxpayers. It’s based on the statute of limitations for the IRS to audit or assess additional taxes, which is generally three years from the date you filed your return.

This means that if you filed your 2022 tax return by the April 15, 2023 deadline, you should keep your tax records and documents related to that return until at least April 15, 2026. This period allows you to be prepared in case of an audit or any questions from the IRS regarding your tax return.

Exceptions to the Rule: Six Years or More

While three years is the general guideline, certain situations may warrant a more extended retention period. For example, if you underreported your income by 25% or more, the IRS has six years from the date of filing to assess additional taxes. Hence, in such cases, it is advisable to keep your tax records for at least six years.

Additionally, if you didn’t file a tax return or filed a fraudulent one, there is no statute of limitations, and the IRS can assess taxes at any time. To protect yourself in these cases, it’s wise to hold onto your tax records indefinitely. This is also recommended by Investopedia.

Special Considerations: Investment Records and Real Estate

Investors and homeowners should pay special attention to their tax records. If you own property or have investments, you might need to keep specific documents for a more extended period. These include records related to the purchase and sale of real estate, as well as investment-related documents, such as stock purchase confirmations and records of reinvested dividends.

1st United Credit Union recommends keeping these records for at least seven years after the property or investment is sold. This is not only helpful for tax purposes but can also be crucial for calculating capital gains and losses and complying with various tax regulations.

Digital Records: Scanning and Storage

As technology advances, many people opt for digital record-keeping. The IRS has confirmed that electronically stored records are acceptable for tax purposes, as long as they are accurate and legible. When scanning your paper records, it’s essential to maintain digital copies in a secure and organized manner.

However, you should remember that the responsibility for proving the accuracy of your tax return falls on you. Therefore, if you choose to keep digital records, ensure that they are easily accessible and well-organized in case the IRS requests them. Additionally, make sure your digital storage is secure to protect sensitive financial information.

What to Keep

Your tax records should include all documents and information necessary to complete your tax return. This typically consists of:

  • Tax Returns: Copies of all federal and state tax returns you have filed.
  • Supporting Documents: These include W-2s, 1099s, and any other income-related documents, as well as receipts, invoices, and other proof of deductions.
  • Real Estate Records: Documents related to the purchase and sale of property, as well as records of home improvements that may affect your capital gains or losses.
  • Investment Records: Records of stock purchases, sales, and reinvested dividends.
  • Retirement Accounts: Statements related to contributions and withdrawals from retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s.
  • Business Records: If you are a business owner, you should retain financial records, accounting reports, and all relevant tax documents.

Safely Disposing of Old Records

When it’s time to part with old tax records, it’s essential to do so securely. These records contain sensitive information, so merely throwing them in the trash can pose a risk. Shredding or burning old paper records is a safer way to ensure your personal information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. For digital records, securely delete or wipe the information to prevent unauthorized access.

Bank Statements: How Long to Keep and Why

Bank statements are a different kind of financial document but are equally important. These records provide a detailed history of your financial transactions, and they are often requested for various financial activities, including applying for loans, tracking expenses, and reconciling accounts. But how long should you keep your bank statements, and why?

The General Guideline: One Year

1st United Credit Union recommends keeping your bank statements for at least one year. This is a useful guideline for the average consumer who needs to verify transactions, resolve billing disputes, or manage their budget effectively. Holding onto bank statements for a year allows you to have a clear record of your financial activity for the preceding 12 months.

Exceptions and Special Considerations

There are situations where it might be wise to retain bank statements for a more extended period:

1. Tax Documentation: If your bank statements contain information that supports deductions on your tax return, such as charitable donations or business expenses, it’s a good idea to keep them for the same period you retain your tax records (typically three to seven years).

2. Warranty and Returns: If you’ve purchased items with warranties or have a habit of returning items, it’s advisable to keep the related bank statements until the warranty period has expired or until you are sure you won’t return the items.

3. Financial Goals and Planning: If you’re working on long-term financial goals, like saving for a down payment on a house or planning for retirement, retaining bank statements for several years can help you track your progress and financial habits.

Online Banking and Digital Statements

With the rise of online banking and digital statements, many consumers receive their bank statements electronically. In this case, you don’t need to worry about physical clutter, but you should still organize and back up your digital records. Electronic records can be easy to access, search, and print if necessary. Ensure that you have a secure and organized digital system for storing your statements.

What to Keep

Your bank statements typically include the following information:

  • Transaction History: A list of all the deposits, withdrawals, and transfers for the statement period.
  • Account Balances: Beginning and ending balances for the statement period.
  • Check Images: Copies of checks you’ve written or images of checks you’ve deposited.
  • Statements of Interest and Fees: Information about interest earned and fees incurred on your account.
  • Electronic Payments: Records of automatic electronic payments or debits from your account.

Keep in mind that you can often access old bank statements online through your bank’s website or app, so maintaining a digital archive of these statements can be a convenient option.

Secure Disposal of Old Statements

When it’s time to dispose of old bank statements, the same security measures that apply to tax records also apply here. Shred or securely dispose of paper statements to prevent identity theft or unauthorized access. For digital records, make sure you securely delete or wipe the information to protect your sensitive financial data.


Properly managing your tax records and bank statements is essential for your financial well-being. The guidelines provided by 1st United Credit Union and Investopedia offer a clear roadmap for how long to keep these documents, ensuring you’re prepared for various financial scenarios while also decluttering your financial life. Remember that while these guidelines are helpful, individual circumstances can vary, so always consult with a financial advisor or tax professional for specific guidance tailored to your situation.

By following these recommendations and staying organized, you can maintain financial peace of mind and have access to the necessary records when you need them, all while reducing the clutter and stress that can come from excessive document retention.

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