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How Long to Keep Tax Records?

Most taxpayers don't know how long to keep tax records for. Different sources seem to also have different views of how long to keep tax records. The truth is different tax records need to be kept for different lengths of time. Also, different reasons to reuse tax records can lead to taxpayers needed tax records that have expired by any other reasons. Tax laws change often and there is always a chance that you will need your old tax records. Some tax records need to be kept indefinitely.

Why should I keep tax records?

Tax records should be kept so that your tax returns are filed and prepared properly. The current IRS tax laws do not require any special type of tax records to be kept but taxpayers should keep all receipts, canceled checks and other proof of payment plus other tax records used to claim tax deductions, credits and exemptions.

How long do I have to keep tax records for?

The IRS says that taxpayers must keep tax records for as long as they are important for the federal tax law.

How long to keep tax records for income and tax deductions?

Tax records for income and tax deduction claims should be kept until the period of limitations for the tax return runs out. The period of limitation is the period of time after which no legal action can be brought against the taxpayer for that item.

How long to keep tax records for assessment tax owed?

For assessment tax owed, taxpayers should keep all tax records for 3 years from the date they file their tax returns.

How long to keep tax records for filing claims for tax credit or refund?

For filing claims for credit or refund, taxpayers should keep records for (whichever is later):

  • 3 years  from the date they filed their original tax returns or
  • 2 years from the date they paid
Will I ever have to keep tax records for more than 3-5 years?

Yes, if you did not report income that you should have on your previous tax returns and if the unreported taxable income is more than 25% of your total income shown on your return, then the IRS has 6 years to take action against you and you need to keep your tax records for 6 years.

If your tax return is found to be false or fraudulent with intent to evade tax or if no tax return is filed for you, then the IRS can come after you any time even if the issues happened 10-20 years ago. The IRS has indefinitely to audit your tax return and assess penalties.