How long should you keep important documents

How long do you need to keep your tax forms, bills, credit union statements and other important documents? Each document is different, and you don’t want to discard something before its time. The information below will help you sort what you should save – and for how long – from what you can shred immediately.

Anything that has a name or other personally identifying information on it could be used by an identity thief and should be shredded. Things like credit card bills, credit union or bank statements, canceled checks, receipts, credit reports, insurance policies, utility bills, credit and identification cards or badges, pay stubs – even envelopes with the address of your financial institution, investment advisor or medical providers.

Just like junk mail and credit card offers, household paperwork should be considered for shredding. Anything that expires should be immediately shredded. For everything else, don’t shred the bill until your payment clears your account or until your receipt matches your bill.

Keep anything with long-term implications, such as paperwork related to taxes, home improvements or business expenses, and marriage licenses, birth certificates and receipts for large purchases.

How long to keep documents chart

Item How long to keep
Monthly utility bills Until they’re paid, unless you are deducting part of your home off your business taxes.
ATM receipts Until you have balanced your checkbook.
Medical bills Until they’re paid, unless you deduct medical expenses from your taxes.
Canceled checks Shred immediately unless you need to keep them for tax purposes.
Credit union statements Until your checkbook has been balanced, unless you need them for tax purposes.
Pay stubs Until you have balanced your W2 at the end of the year. If you’re considering a loan for a major purchase, like a house, keep until the loan is closed.
Monthly/quarterly account statements Until the annual statement arrives.
Credit card statements One year, unless needed for tax purposes.
Credit card receipts One year, unless needed for tax purposes.
Expired credit cards

Destroy immediately.

Tax returns and supporting documents Seven years. You can be audited for no reason up to three years after you file a return. If you omit 25 percent of your gross income, that period extends to six years.
Records of selling a house Keep seven years as documentation for Capital Gains Tax.
Records of buying a house Until you have sold the home. Any documents related to taxes should be held for seven years.
Records of home improvements Seven years after filing the tax return which includes the income or loss on the home when it is sold.
Product warranties Until you no longer own or use the product, or until the warranty expires, whichever comes first.
Retirement plan statements Keep the annual statements as long as you have assets in the plan.
Year-end account statements Until you no longer own the investment.
Loan paperwork Until the loan is paid. If you receive a payoff statement once the loan is paid, keep that indefinitely.
Insurance policies As long as you own the policy.
Marriage license Never destroy this document.
Birth certificate Never destroy this document.
Wills Never destroy this document.
Adoption papers Never destroy this document.
Death certificates Never destroy this document.
Records of paid mortgages Never destroy this document.


Learn more about Shred Day


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