“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.