Toss Paper Files You Don’t Need

Home Remodeling & Maintenance

Toss Paper Files You Don’t Need

Reclaim your desk! We tell you which files to trash and which to stash -- and the best ways to turn the keepers into digital records.

Keep all of your old tax returns, and hang on to the supporting documents for three years after a return’s filing due date -- six years if you have self-employment income (some states require records from earlier years in an audit). Hold year-end investment statements and records of stock and mutual fund purchases as long as you own them. (For more on tax-related recordkeeping, see IRS Publication 552, Recordkeeping for Individuals.)

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Keep records related to your current home, including proof of the purchase price and receipts showing what you’ve spent on improvements. (You can toss those documents three years after you sell the house.) Also keep files with information on contributions and withdrawals from IRAs and 401(k) plans -- especially documents regarding nondeductible contributions, such as copies of IRS Form 8606, to avoid paying too much tax on withdrawals.

Trash bank withdrawal and deposit slips, credit card receipts and ATM receipts once you’ve compared them with your monthly statement; paycheck stubs after you check them against your Form W-2; and monthly bills for utilities, cable and credit cards, unless you need them for tax purposes. Shred any documents that include your Social Security number, account numbers or other information you wouldn’t want in the hands of an identity thief.


Digitize your records to keep paper clutter to a minimum. Save PDFs or scanned images of files on your computer and back them up on a flash drive or external hard drive, or snap pictures of receipts with your smart phone -- the Shoeboxed app (for iPhone and Android) will organize them as IRS-accepted images in a secure and searchable archive.

Access your files from any computer with free, secure online storage options, such as (which organizes your bills and saves unlimited documents in the site’s secure database as long as you have an active account) or Windows Live SkyDrive (with 25 gigabytes of free space). Other options include the Amazon Cloud Drive and Apple iCloud (each with 5GB of free storage) and (2GB of free space). Extra storage is available on all three for a fee.

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