How many years of tax filing paperwork do I need to keep?

by Daria D. Palaschak, CPA | May 22, 2019


How many years of tax filing paperwork do I need to keep?

Generally, you would want to keep your tax records for at least three years from the date the tax return for a particular year was filed. This is due to a three-year statute of limitations that applies to income tax returns. In other words, the IRS has three years from the date the return was filed to make changes to your return, and you have three years to file an amended return.

There may be situations where you would want to keep the records longer. For example, if you claimed a loss from a worthless stock or a bad debt deduction, you should keep the records for seven years from the time you filed the return. If the IRS believes fraud was involved, there is no statute of limitations, and the IRS can request records for any prior year. 

In addition, if information in any prior years’ returns support the cost basis of any property, which is later sold, you should keep the prior years’ returns and supporting records for a period of three years from the date of filing the tax return reporting the sale of that property.

The IRS’s website has more specific information regarding record retention, which I’d recommend you check out.

For more resources, check out PICPA’s Money & Life Tips, Ask a CPA, or CPA Locator.

Answered by: Daria D. Palaschak, CPA, is a tax partner with Sisterson & Co. LLP in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The responses are based on the limited information provided by the questioner and apply the laws and regulations at the time of posting. Other options could arise as rules and regulations may change over time, including but not limited to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. They are intended to provide general information, not specific accounting or tax advice; they are not intended or written to be used and cannot be used for the purpose of avoiding or evading taxes or penalties under the IRS code or regulations. Views expressed do not imply an opinion of the PICPA, its officers, directors, employees, or members.
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