Keep Tax Records In One Filing Location {Plus When To Discard Old Returns}

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Today's mission is to keep tax records in one filing location, plus to declutter extremely old tax returns that you don't need to keep anymore.


Organizing Receipts & Tax Documents Challenge
This mission is designed to be done while working on the Organizing Receipts & Tax Documents Challenge here on the site, which is one of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenges.

Step 1: Gather All Tax Records From Previous Years Into One Place For Filing

It's also a quite simple mission. Every year you file your tax return with the government, and then keep a copy for yourself, along with all the backup documentation necessary to prove the amounts listed in your tax documents, if necessary.

The first step of the process is to gather up all these filed tax returns and back up documents into one location, and get them filed in your home filing system.

How to organize old tax returns, including how long to keep tax records before decluttering then {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest
I suggest you keep one file for each year, perhaps with subfiles if necessary, if you had to file multiple returns (such as a personal return, partnership or other business return, etc.).

The reason for this is that you don't want some years of taxes in one location, and others in another, but instead for everything to be all together in one place. That makes it easier on you, if you ever need to reference these papers again, to find them easily.

Step 2: Declutter Old Tax Returns

The second part of this mission is also simple, which is to declutter (by shredding) any old tax returns that you don't need to keep anymore, so you can get rid of the paper clutter.

It's a very common question for people to ask -- "how long should I keep tax records and returns?"

The answer, since the government is involved, is, of course, not that simple.

However, I've attempted to answer that question with both the general rules as well as the exceptions to those rules in my article all about how long to keep various types of paperwork. That article also provides a one page printable cheat sheet you can print out to reference as you are decluttering various types of paper in your home so you can feel more comfortable about what to keep versus what to get rid of.

Before doing the second step of this mission I highly encourage you to read that article so you don't discard anything that you are legally required to keep, or that would be extremely helpful to you to keep if you ever get audited.

I will also say that while I love getting rid of paper clutter the cautious part of me says to really assess how much space you've got for filing papers when doing this mission. If you have more than enough room in your file box or filing cabinet it may be helpful to you to just keep these documents for peace of mind.

Another possibility is to scan and digitize the records so they don't take up physical space anymore, but you can still get copies of them if needed in the future. (Obviously you'll need to keep the digital files in a secure location to keep the information away from hackers or identity thieves, and keep backups so the information is not lost.)

Finally, the main part of the tax paperwork that takes up the most room is the back up tax documentation, like all those receipts, etc. that you keep to prove the amounts you claimed on various lines of your tax return. Typically the copy of the return itself is just a few sheets of paper, and small in comparison. You could also just keep the tax return itself, and get rid of the bulky back up documentation for years that are past the requirements for keeping everything (which is typically 7 years after filing).

To get you inspired to do this simple mission I've shown you an example, below, of how one reader organized her old returns within her files. I'd love to see your results too, once you've done the mission so make sure to submit your photos here and I'll add the best ones to the site!

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Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to bill clutter.

How To Organize Old Tax Returns & Records In Your Home Filing System

How to organize tax records and returns in your home filing system, plus tips on how long to keep tax records before you can declutter them {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

I explained above how to organize your old tax returns and records in your home filing system, but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a photo of it in action from a reader, Elisabeth.

She said, "We use manila envelopes to sort each year. As papers/receipts come in for the year, they are put into the folder and are ready for entering. We prefer this to the open folders because the little stubs and such are contained."

You can definitely contain everything in manila envelopes to contain all the back up paperwork, as well as the returns themselves, to make it even easier on yourself as you're filing these old returns away for later reference if needed. Great job Elisabeth!

Are You Ready To Declutter Your Home?

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I hope seeing these pictures and instructions has inspired you to get rid of your paper clutter, including old tax documents, or at least organize it better.

When you begin to declutter the feeling you get is contagious, so if you're loving the results you're getting I would encourage you to keep going.

I've got a whole series of 15 minute decluttering missions (eventually 365 of them!) that you can do.

Just pick and choose the ones you want to do, that will make a big impact in your home. But if you want someone else to tell you the order you can also grab the 15 minute daily decluttering mission calendars and follow along as we all get our homes clutter free together!

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Go From Keep Tax Records In One Filing Location Mission To Home Page

Comments for How To Organize Old Tax Returns & Records In Your Home Filing System

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Progress on shredding old tax documents
by: Wombat

I am really pleased with my husband. He has anxiety attacks when I declutter. I have done some tidying up for the unpaid bills and receipts and bought a couple of wire containers for each so they don't get mixed up. He liked that.

Today, for today's mission was managing tax returns. I was pleased to hear that he had shredded 14 years of returns and only kept 7 years. Progress, slowly but surely.

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Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to bill clutter.


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