What to Do With Your Tax Records after Filing

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Now that you have filed your tax return and are ready to close the books on 2013, what do you do with all the leftover paperwork? What information should you save, how should you save it, and for what length of time? Use these tips for easy organization and peace of mind.

What information do I need to keep?

Generally, you should keep a copy of your return and all related documents. That includes any record of income (W-2s, 1099s, K-1s), expenses, property value, and deductions (mortgage interest statements and receipts for medical expenses and charitable donations).

Having a copy of this year's return will come in handy at tax time next year. You'll need information from this year's return in order to e-file next year; plus, you'll be able to easily compare returns to help make sure you didn't forget something.

How long do I need to keep these records?

The IRS recommends saving all tax information for at least three years after the date you filed your return. The IRS generally has three years to audit tax returns (state agencies have four years), but has six years if they suspect you've underreported income by at least 25 percent. In the unlikely event of an audit, having written documentation can help settle any disputes easily and quickly.

Is it better to save paper or electronic copies?

Saving paper or electronic copies – or both – comes down to personal preference. Both types can be saved in multiple locations.

Paper copies are advantageous if your computer becomes corrupted. Digital copies can be saved on your computer, external drive, CD or secure website, which may be safer from natural disasters.

TaxAct recommends saving both printed and digital copies (as a PDF) of returns.

What if I forgot to print or save my TaxAct Online return?

Current year TaxAct Online returns can be accessed through October 31, allowing you to print, save, or edit your return at any time.

After October 31, the IRS will charge you $50 for a copy of a previous year return. TaxAct Online customers can continue accessing returns for up to three more years by purchasing TaxAct's Data Archive Service (DAS) for a small fee.

Whether you choose a filing cabinet or secure website, choose one recordkeeping method and stick with it.