Monday, June 20, 2011
Tax-related papers. It's easy to be overwhelmed by them, and have them take up an inordinate amount of space.
While you should certainly ask your own tax accountant or tax attorney about his or her recommendations on record retention, I personally follow the guidelines I see most often: Keep the returns themselves forever, and keep all supporting documents for seven years. (That's a general rule; there are exceptions.) And since I've seen conflicting advice on whether or not it's OK to rely on scanned copies, I keep paper originals for all those "last seven years" papers.
But even with this approach, I had much more paper than I wanted, or needed — and I wasn't storing it well. For the last couple years I've been using my ScanSnap to make scans of all tax-related papers, and then filing them in my file cabinet — and that worked well. But before then I'd been keeping my tax-related papers in fireproof boxes, and the boxes were taking up room I wanted for other purposes. And the old tax returns, dating back to the 1980s, were taking up room in my file cabinet.
So this past weekend I finally embarked on my "clean up the tax records" project.
Paper reduction: I scanned all the old returns, after blacking out my social security number and my signature. (I don't need either of these floating around in electronic form.) After making sure I had a good backup in place, I then shredded the returns. I have a very full recycling bin this week!
Improved storage: For returns within the 7-year period, I scanned what had not yet been scanned, and put the papers in my file cabinet — in the space that used to hold all those really old returns. Since I have electronic copies, I'm no longer afraid of losing the originals, and see no need for those fireproof boxes.
I'm not quite done with the project, but it's well underway and I'll finish it this week — and then I'll Freecycle all those boxes.
While all the scanning was a bit tedious, a good scanner (and a good shredder) made things go pretty quickly. And now I have a lot of reclaimed space — and I have all my tax information at my fingertips, in well-organized computer files.