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Financial Paperwork: What to Keep, What to Toss

Jim Miller

Toss Out

To avoid identity theft, be sure you shred anything you throw away that contains your personal information. It's best to use a crosscut shredder rather than a strip one, which leaves long paper bands that could be reassembled.

Keep For One Year

Keep For Seven Years

Supporting documents for your taxes, including W-2s, 1099s, and receipts or canceled checks that substantiate deductions. The IRS usually has up to three years after you file to audit you but may look back up to six years if it suspects you substantially underreported income or committed fraud.

Keep Indefinitely

Keep Forever

Personal and family records like birth certificates, marriage license, divorce papers, Social Security cards, military discharge papers and estate-planning documents (power of attorney, will, trust and advanced directive). Keep these in a fireproof safe or safe-deposit box.

Reduce Your Paper

To reduce your paper clutter, consider digitizing your documents by scanning them and converting them into PDF files so you can store them on your computer and back them up onto a USB flash drive or external hard drive like icloud.com or carbonite.com.

You can also reduce your future paper load by switching to electronic statements and records whenever possible.