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Video Tips: How Long Should Old Tax Records Be Kept?

Tax season may be over, but your tax records don’t hibernate with your receipts. Keeping them organized and accessible is crucial, but for how long? The answer isn’t as simple as a one-size-fits-all rule. Tax record retention periods vary depending on the type of document and the potential for future audits or claims. Don’t worry, though! This guide will demystify the world of tax records and help you determine what to keep and what you can finally shred (safely, of course!).

The 3-Year Rule: Your General Go-To

In most cases, the golden rule for tax record retention is 3 years from the due date of the return to which they apply. This means that if you filed your 2023 tax return on April 15, 2024, you should keep all supporting documents (W-2s, 1099s, receipts, etc.) until April 15, 2027. This 3-year window gives the IRS enough time to assess any potential tax deficiencies or verify your claims if you file for a refund.

Watch this video for a quick breakdown of the 3-year rule and when it applies:

Beyond the 3-Year Mark: Exceptions to the Rule

While 3 years is a good starting point, there are several situations where you might need to hold onto your tax records for longer. Here are some key exceptions:

  • Filed for a refund or credit: If you claimed a refund or credit on your return, you should keep all supporting documentation for 7 years from the date you filed your return. This is because the IRS has 7 years to audit your return and deny your claim if they disagree with your calculations.
  • Unreported income: If you didn’t report all your income on a return, the IRS has 6 years to assess additional taxes. Therefore, keep records related to any unreported income for at least 6 years from the due date of the return.
  • Stock and property records: Records related to the sale of stocks, real estate, and other assets should be kept until the statute of limitations expires for the year of sale. This is usually 3 years for federal taxes and may be longer for state taxes.
  • Fraud or failure to file: If you committed tax fraud or failed to file a return, the IRS can assess taxes for an unlimited amount of time. Keep all relevant records indefinitely in case of an audit.

When in Doubt, Keep It Out

If you’re unsure about how long to keep a specific document, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and keep it. The peace of mind knowing you have the paperwork to back up your claims is worth the extra storage space. Plus, digital records make it easier than ever to store important documents securely without taking up physical space.

Shredding with Confidence

Once the retention period has passed, you can finally give those old tax records the axe (well, the paper shredder, anyway). Be sure to shred all documents containing sensitive information, such as your Social Security number or bank account numbers. This helps prevent identity theft and ensures your financial information is protected.


  • Always consult with a tax professional if you have any questions about specific record retention periods or your individual situation.
  • Don’t rely on your memory! Keep a record-keeping system that works for you, whether it’s a physical file box or a digital folder.
  • Regularly review your tax records and declutter as needed.

By following these tips, you can ensure you’re keeping the right tax records for the right amount of time, and you’ll be ready to face any audit with confidence. Now go forth and shred (safely)!

JS Morlu LLC is a top-tier accounting firm based in Woodbridge, Virginia, with a team of highly experienced and qualified CPAs and business advisors. We are dedicated to providing comprehensive accounting, tax, and business advisory services to clients throughout the Washington, D.C. Metro Area and the surrounding regions. With over a decade of experience, we have cultivated a deep understanding of our clients’ needs and aspirations. We recognize that our clients seek more than just value-added accounting services; they seek a trusted partner who can guide them towards achieving their business goals and personal financial well-being.
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