How long do you keep paper records?

I’m keeping three years of paid bills. Anything that seems important to proof of purchase, insurance claims, I keep those longer. If I have my bank statements, do I need to keep the carbon checks?


We keep any receipts for any real estate we own to try to minimize any capital gains when we sell, especially if you own investment properties. Same goes for any financial investment. That will likely run beyond the normal suggestions by the IRS. Our CPA says 3 for personal, 7 for business, and being a bit of a tax nerd, we do 10 for personal and business.

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I also do 3 years for personal, including any bank statements I receive, and most are electronic. i do keep those in an electronic file. I keep tax returns indefinitely. I could purge those though.


I keep records for seven years as that is as far back as the IRS goes in certain circumstances I just store the info in a file box under the bed. Shred or burn after that time.

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I have a paper from awhile back that one of the banks has been sending out. It is a pretty extensive list. It even tells you where you should be keeping those important documents. I don’t mind sharing. If you are interested, let me know.

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.Hubby was a public accountant and was an income tax preparer for 7 years. He keeps up on the records requirements and found the record retention for tax payers and small business is 3 years.

I finally this year organized my paper records into the file box I had gotten years ago. (I had previously stored the records unorganized in boxes). As I am trying to declutter unnecessary items, I used a few rules from dealing with records that needed to be kept. I made separate files for each key section. Because I have had to pay IRS, twice in my lifetime (because of an ex-spouse not paying taxes properly), I have kept every year’s worth of the 1040s filed since my divorce finalized, since he remarried shortly after in case he tried to claim alimony again after not paying child support. He kept his income off the books which made my salary look bigger because I always got paid via a payroll system.) Also since I got called again ( for the 4th time) for jury duty, I now have a separate file for that since the form came to me rather than being sent to my employer as previously and I can limit recall time to jury duty. It seems they are so desperate for jurors nowadays they pull names every two years now. I also started a file for my Social Security benefits which I get a notification whenever there’s a change in the amount and one for Medicare, too. Since I no longer get employer-related healthcare coverage but Medicare coverage, I also keep a copy of any paper claim forms and medical services received, to keep track of procedures and ensure that I don’t get services I don’t need. Especially nowadays, every year, even if you stay with the same coverage, you the patient, are the only ones with the records to prove your medical history. This despite the claim by AHA, that our medical records are digitalized for record-keeping. Most doctors’ offices don’t have records on computers, they only use the computers to process claims through the insurance companies who keep changing the codes to deny claims.

As far as financial records, I only have information for my active accounts in checking and savings. I can get statements for a small fee at any branch of my bank if needed. I pay my landlord via a certified check and keep the stubs for one year. I started doing this when I noticed that checks took over 3 weeks to clear. I wanted to guarantee funds were taken out immediately, which is also why I use electronic payments to all bills, including utilities. If I need proof of account, they can send me a paper copy on request. Every other account (credit cards) is also via online payments and I can get paper copies of statements on request, but I view them monthly online. This brings me to the point, I have been trying to make, is that these types of records don’t need to be saved in paper form (hard copy), which eliminates a lot of papers from storage. I do keep certain types of records that one needs to renew your Driver’s license and paperwork, especially to prove my identity and those records have to be over 5 years old to be valid. (copy of your birth certificate with the embossed seal, school records, diplomas from school, etc). I had to get these sorted out properly since I had moved a few times and never fully unpacked everything until recently when I decided to declutter.

With all the financial apps that can scan your receipts, there’s no reason to keep everything. Paychecks can now be directly deposited into your account and if you need a copy of the paycheck, most workplaces will allow you to print out the ADP form copy through your workplace if you need to have a paper copy for certain identification purposes. The Internet has eliminated some piles of paperwork, but some paper copies still need to be kept on certain items.

On my TO-DO list is to create a living will and final will, which will be certified which will list my small assets and how I wish them to be distributed to my children (or their children). I plan to do this, so my children don’t throw my books into the trash. They will have a choice to either keep them or sell them or donate them but they can’t throw them away. Basically you first have to organize before you decide what you really need to keep.

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I keep our personal paperwork for 7 years but it seems like from reading the comments that 3 is sufficient.

I keep each months budget, bills paid, important letters in plastic bags labeled with month/year. I keep each year in one box. I have 20+ years of these boxes. So I went through the oldest and culled out power bills, water bills, normal monthly bills. Shredded them. Then went through what was left. Tax documents, receipts for things I still own, those I moved into a file cabinet. Now there are only three full years of all budgets/bills in 3 boxes. These will be easier to move, once my new home begins again to build.

As far as I know in Canada you have to keep them for 7 years unless that’s changed. I have a box full of them so now need to get another box to start the next 7 years. You have to get government permission to destroy them. I still have the T4s from when I started working in the early 70s.


i was told to keep all records for 7 years, i just started getting rid of some, being my husband passed away five years ago

Longer than I should. I mean from 1990, which is ridiculous. I need to purge.

Every year I go through important documents and shred everything after 3 years except major purchases, I keep receipts until I replace them. I just really hate clutter and unnecessary stuff hanging around.

I like to keep my IRS returns for 7 years per their suggestion, especially if the returns tend to be complicated like ours. We receive almost all of our bills via e-statements which minimizes the amount of paper we have to dispose of.

In US 7 years and in India 8 years.