Financial records really fall into two categories—tax-related and non-tax related. If your paperwork was tax-related—used in calculating your tax return—you need to hold on to it for as long as you hold on to your tax records. If you’re missing any important documents, call the provider for a replacement.
That said, here are some general guidelines:
In most cases, you can toss returns and supporting records after three years. If you’re self-employed, if you have supplementary sources of income, or if you misreported your income by more than 25 percent in any year, keep your records for six years.
ATM receipts can be tossed once you’ve confirmed that they’re accurately reported on your statement. Save canceled checks and statements for seven years.
Investment statements are important to have when you sell shares. You’ll need to document how much you paid for the shares (your basis) along with any dividends and capital-gain distributions you reinvested. Keep confirmation statements from any purchases and the most recent account statement, along with year-end cumulative reports. Also keep the most recent copy of the prospectus for any mutual funds you hold.
Home improvement records.
Most homeowners can keep profits from the sale of a home tax-free. You only need to keep receipts if you live in your home for less than two years or you earn a profit of more than $250,000 ($500,000 if married/filing jointly). However, many prospective homebuyers like to see receipts from home improvements, so you may just want to keep them if selling is in your future.
Credit card and utility bills.
These can go as soon as you see them credited on the next month’s bill. Business owners should hold on to accounting ledgers, check registers, and employment contracts for at least ten years.