How Long to Keep Financial Records?

If paper decluttering was one of your New Year’s goals, you may be wondering which financial documents you can safely shred. While some documents need only be kept for a few months, others should be kept for several years, or in some cases indefinitely.

The length of time varies according to the reasons you might need the documents in the future. You might need older W2 forms to answer a tax question from the Internal Revenue Service or Wisconsin Department of Revenue. Documentation of home or property maintenance costs might be useful when you decide to sell your property, and utility records might be helpful when deciding to upgrade your furnace.

The IRS has three years to audit your tax return, and you have three years to file an amended return. Still, the IRS can challenge your return for up to six years, so it’s a good idea to keep these records for seven years:

  • W-2 and 1099 income forms
  • Year-end bank and brokerage statements
  • Receipts or cancelled checks for deducted expenses
  • Home purchase or closing statements, insurance records, and receipts for

Home ownership is a special case and homeowners should keep these records for six years after selling their home. They should also retain records of legal fees and commissions related to selling their home. These expenses are added to the original purchase price or cost basis and can lower their capital gains tax.

On the other hand, some documents need to be kept for only a few months. There’s no need to hold onto most canceled checks (or their electronic copies) or debit and credit card receipts for more than three months after you’ve reconciled them with your statements. If, however, the purchase will be reported as an itemized deduction on your income tax return, keep this documentation for seven years.

And there’s no need to keep monthly loan statements once you have received a year-end summary, but always keep final payoff notices in case the loan mistakenly goes into collection and you need proof.

Still, there’s no getting around it: some records should be kept indefinitely, for example:

  • Records of IRA contributions (particularly nondeductible contributions)
  • Annual summaries of retirement/savings plan statements
  • Copies of your tax returns
  • Receipts for big purchases – jewelry, rugs, appliances, antiques, cars, collectibles, furniture, computers – as proof of their value in the event of loss

To reduce paper clutter, you can scan your records and save them as PDF files. (Be sure to back them up!) And before tossing any document that contains a Social Security number or bank account number, shred it to deter identity theft.

Additional resources:

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About Union State Bank

Honesty, integrity, commitment; hometown values that are our way of doing business. At Union State Bank our mission is to be the preferred, locally owned bank committed to providing exceptional service to achieve long lasting customer relationships. The Union State Bank has been serving the banking needs of our community since 1911, when the Farmers and Merchants State Bank was formed in Kewaunee, Wisconsin. The Bank’s slogan was "A Bank of the People, By the People and For the People - A Bank For All The People," and invited the community "if you are not a customer, become one, and we assure you that your interests will be protected in every legitimate manner." In 1934 the Farmers and Merchants State Bank consolidated with the Dairyman’s State Bank, which was located across the street, and the Union State Bank was formed. It was reported in the local paper that "The union of two banks is particularly for the benefit of depositors. All the experience, ability and training gained through many years of banking service is combined here primarily for your protection. The confidence that has been cultivated over past years is now being strengthened." We have continued to grow through the years, and slogans used include "Union State Bank, where rail and water meet" and "Union State Bank, the bank and a half, we give you our all and then some." We currently have four locations. We have two offices located in Kewaunee, Wisconsin which is along the shores of Lake Michigan, approximately 20 miles east of Green Bay. We also have an office in Green Bay, Wisconsin and an office in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Our main office is located at 223 Ellis Street in Kewaunee. Our second Kewaunee location was established in 1996 and is in the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Our Green Bay office was established in 1987 and in September of 1999 we completed an addition to that location. In April 2004 we opened our office in Two Rivers. Originally situated inside the Pick 'n Save grocery store, the Two Rivers office was relocated to a brand new building at 2221 Lincoln Avenue on April 21, 2009. We have certainly grown and changed over years, but one thing remains constant - our commitment to our customers. We are proud to be the only independent bank in Kewaunee, which allows us the ability to offer a wide array of services that are designed to meet the individual needs of our customers. We offer full-service banking from an experienced, dedicated staff of full-time employees. We still believe in the "personal touch," and enjoy getting to know our customers. Even though we are a small, locally owned bank, we offer the latest in technology services, including our website and 24-hour account access via our "Union Access" line. We are proud of our long history of high-quality, personalized service, and invite you to become a customer of Union State Bank. See how "We Make the Difference" for you.
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