Whether you use old-fashioned manila filing folders, a flash drive or cloud storage, tax and personal finance authorities agree on the importance of saving tax documents and records. In addition to using the information for preparing your next income tax return, it may come in handy years from now.

Unorganized Stack of Papers

"Your tax data is helpful and often required in many non-tax financial situations," says TaxAct spokesperson Jessi Dolmage. "For instance, insurance companies, lenders and creditors often use tax information to verify income and asset value. Form W-2s can provide proof of income if your Social Security benefits are less than what they should be."

Information to save for your next tax return

Organizing and saving information throughout the year will cut tax return preparation time and can even save you money. Save any information related to:

  • Income from wages, dividends, interest or business: Forms W-2, 1099, and K-1, bank statements, brokerage statements
  • Deductions and credits (child care expenses, medical and dental expenses, business use of home, charitable gifts, vehicle sales tax, alimony): Receipts, invoices, mileage logs, bank or credit card statements, canceled checks
  • Home and property: Closing statements, invoices, proof of payment, insurance records, receipts for improvements
  • Investments: Forms 1099 and 2439, brokerage statements, mutual fund statements

While you don't need a fancy or high-tech organizing system, you do need to keep the information in a secure place. Consider saving electronic copies to the cloud or on a backup storage device in addition to, or in place of, your paper files.

"One of the key advantages of going digital is that your tax information is better protected from natural disasters," says Dolmage. "Saving electronically also means you can access the information anywhere from a mobile device."

Apps and websites make digitizing documents easy. TaxAct DocVault is a free mobile app and website specifically designed to create and save secure, digital copies of tax documents. At tax time, import DocVault images into TaxAct to save with your return.

What to keep after filing your taxes and how long

Knowing what information to save and for how long can be confusing. As a general rule of thumb, keep tax returns and related documents for at least three years from the April 15 filing deadline.

  • Three years: Tax return forms and schedules plus all information to support what you claimed on your return, especially records related to property, investments, or business assets (for depreciation). While there are exceptions, the IRS has 3 years to assess additional tax and audit returns. Three years is also the amount of time you have to amend your return.
  • Four years: Many income-taxing states have an additional year to audit individual returns.
  • Six years: Forms W-2, 1099, etc. because the IRS has six years to contact you if you've failed to report income.
  • Seven years: Any information regarding loss from worthless securities or bad debts.

Certain documents should be saved longer. "Information related to your home, property, investments and retirement plans should be kept indefinitely," says Dolmage. "If you dispose of an asset, be sure to keep the information for another three years."

Business owners should keep tax information for at least four years. That includes employment records, gross receipts, invoices, bank statements, proofs of purchase, asset records, databases, emails and even voicemails.

Refer to IRS Publication 552 at www.irs.gov for more information about tax recordkeeping, Publications 583 and 463 provide specific information for businesses. Visit www.TaxAct.com/apps to download TaxAct DocVault for free.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

January 1 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (New Year's Day) Details

January 10 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during December, report them to your employer Details

January 15 — Individuals
Make a payment of your estimated tax for 2018 if you did not pay your income tax for the year through withholding (or did not pay in enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES Details

January 15 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in December 2018

January 15 — Farmers & fishermen
Pay your estimated tax for 2018 using Form 1040-ES Details

January 21 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) Details

January 31 — All Employers
Give your employees their copies of Form W2 for 2018. If an employee agreed to receive Form W2 electronically, have it posted on a website and notify the employee of the posting.

January 31 — Individuals who must make estimated tax payments
If you did not pay your last installment of estimated tax by January 15, you may choose (but are not required) to file your income tax return (Form 1040) for 2017 by January 31. Filing your return and paying any tax due by January 31 prevents any penalty for late payment of the last installment. If you cannot file and pay your tax by January 31, file and pay your tax by April 15.

January 31 — Payers of gambling winnings
If you either paid reportable gambling winnings or withheld income tax from gambling winnings, give the winners their copies of Form W2G.

January 31 — Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2018. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full, you have until 02-10 to file the return.

January 31 — Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2018. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2018 but less than $2,500 for the fourth quarter, deposit any undeposited tax or pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

January 31 — Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2018. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

January 31 — Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2018. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

January 31 — All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2018 Details

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