We're not quite a paperless society yet. Those old bills, tax returns, bank statements, even your medical records can really pile up.
But all those documents can contain personal information that makes you susceptible to identity theft, so you don't want to just toss them in the trash.
When it comes to those important documents, it's hard to know what to keep and what to shred. Here are some basic guidelines recommended by the U.S. Attorneys General.
- Tax Returns/7 years
For your tax returns and receipts-- hold on to them seven years, to be safe. The IRS has three years to audit your return if there could be a mistake and up to six years if you may have underreported your gross income by 25 percent or more.
- Bank Statements/1 year
If you haven't signed up for online bank statements, keep your paper ones for one year. But hold onto records related to your taxes, business expenses, home improvements, mortgage payments and major purchases for as long as you need them.
- Credit Card Statements/45 days
Keep your Credit Card Statements for at least 45 days. The rules here are similar to those for bank statements.
- Medical Record/1 year
Keep medical records and bills for at least a year in case of a dispute over reimbursement.
- Insurance Records/Life of the Policy + 5 years
You should keep your Insurance policy information for the life of the policy, plus an additional five years.
- Utility & Phone Bills/Shred after paying
When it comes to your utility and phone bills, shred them after you've paid them, unless they contain tax-deductible expenses.
- Retirement Account Statements/until you withdraw the money
For IRA or 401 (k) statements, hold onto them until you withdraw the money. You can shred quarterly statements as soon as you match them with your yearly statement.
- Home purchase/sale & improvements /6 years after you sell
Paperwork for a home purchase, sale and improvements should be kept for six years after you sell. Improvements you make and expenses such as your real estate agent's commission are factored in when you sell your home, lowering your capital gains tax.
You can unload all your old documents at the annual Shred Event Saturday.
Below is a list of specific items to consider shredding:
- Address labels from junk mail and magazines
- ATM receipts
- Bank statements
- Birth certificate copies
- Canceled and voided checks
- Credit and charge card bills, carbon copies, summaries and receipts
- Credit reports and histories
- Employee pay stubs
- Employment records
- Expired credit and identification cards including driver's licenses, college IDs, military IDs, employee badges, medical insurance cards, etc.
- Expired passports and visas
- Legal documents
- Insurance documents
- Investment, stock and property transactions
- Luggage tags
- Medical and dental records
- Papers with a Social Security number
- Pre-approved credit card applications
- Receipts with checking account numbers
- Report cards
- Resumés or curriculum vitae
- Signatures (such as those found on leases, contracts, letters)
- Tax forms
- Travel itineraries
- Used airline tickets
- Utility bills (telephone, gas, electric, water, cable TV, Internet)