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File or trash: Documents to save in the case of an audit

If you have been following our blog on tax audits, you have learned why the IRS may require an in-depth tax review and what factors may lead to an audit. Although you file your tax returns in a timely manner and provide honest information on your tax return forms, you realize that declaring the validity of filed information will not suffice if you are audited in the future. So what information should you retain in order to defend yourself during a tax audit?

While it's not necessary to save every scrap of paper that details your salary, medical procedures and ATM activity, there are certain documents you will want to keep for the long term, file for immediate review and shred. If you organize your statements in this manner, you can be certain to have the necessary information on hand should you be required to prove your expenses.

Documents to file away

1. You should save tax returns for at least three years. Certain individual states have up to four years to review information filed.

2. W-2 forms ought to be retained for six years. The IRS can to contact you regarding the source of your income over this time period.

3. Keep your pay stubs for the calendar year in order to verify income reported on your W-2.

Information to save in an active file

1. Documents to save for a year include those that increase your tax deductions: child care records, receipts from donations to charities, and medical and dental bills.

2. Financial files, such as saving accounts and investments, should be retained for the short term. Thanks to online banking and investing, many of these documents are stored online and can be easily accessed.

3. Information relating to your property, like home insurance and receipts proving home improvements, should be preserved.

Records to shred

1. Bills and ATM records can be destroyed after you have established that the appropriate funds have been removed from your bank account.

Your place of residence does not need to serve as a warehouse for all paper and digital documentation of your expenses. If you keep your filing up-to-date, you can prepare for this year's filing and any other reviews that may show up in the future.

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