Safeguard Your Tax Records

Mar 09, 2015

MoneyLife100 There are many reasons you need to be sure that your tax and other financial records are safe and available when you need them. At this time of year, for example, as you prepare and file your tax return, it’s important to have easy access to receipts, the tax forms you receive from employers, and other tax-related documents. There are many other instances, such as applying for a mortgage or other type of loan. While easy access is important, you want to be sure that your personal documents remain confidential. With that in mind, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) offers these tips on protecting your critical information.

Add Electronic Options

The original paper copies of important documents should be kept in secure, fireproof containers that will provide protection in the case of an emergency. In addition, it’s a great idea to have electronic copies of recent tax returns, W-2s, 1099s, receipts used for tax deductions, and any other evidence to back up entries on your tax return. You can do this by scanning copies of the documents to both your hard drive and to a removable USB drive that you keep in asecure location. The second drive is your security in case a disaster—such as a fire, flood, or hurricane—strikes the location where your original hard copies and your computer are kept. You should take the same precautions with your will, insurance policies, and other important documentation. 

Use IRS Resources

If your critical financial data is lost or destroyed, the IRS has helpful resources for businesses and individuals. Its website includes tips on preparing for disaster and reconstructing your records. If you’re missing past tax returns, use IRS Form 4506 to get a copy from the IRS or call (800) 908-9946. 

Protect Your Privacy

You need access to your financial data, identity thieves do not. When it comes to tax information, these scammers often use a technique called phishing, in which they send out e-mails claiming to be from the IRS. They may tell you that you are being audited or that your tax information was incomplete, and ask you to supply bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers. It’s important to be aware that the IRS does not use e-mail, text messages, or other social media to initiate contact with taxpayers, so don’t respond to these phishing attempts or open any attachments. Instead, contact your local IRS office to see if the IRS was actually trying to get in touch with you. If you receive any communication from the IRS and are unsure how to respond, remember that your CPA can help you determine if it is a legitimate request and offer advice on what to do next. In addition to avoiding phishing attempts, shredding paper documents before you discard them can help prevent identity thieves from getting your personal data. 

Your Local CPA Can Help

Tax season is a great time to talk to a CPA about your financial records and how to keep them in order. Be sure to turn to your CPA with other financial questions or concerns you have as well. To find a CPA in Pennsylvania by location or area of expertise, visit

The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) is a premiere statewide association of more than 22,000 members working in public accounting, industry, government, and education. Founded in 1897, the PICPA is the second-oldest state CPA organization in the United States.

Money & Life Tips are a joint effort of the AICPA and the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), as part of the profession’s nationwide 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program.