How Long Do I Need to Keep My Tax Returns?

Feb 1, 2024

Welcome to Tax Accountant IDM! As the premier provider of financial services, accountants, and tax services, we are here to help you navigate the complexities of your tax documents. In this article, we will guide you through the process of determining how long you should keep your tax returns.

Why Is It Important to Keep Your Tax Returns?

Before we dive into the timeframe of retaining tax returns, let us emphasize the importance of keeping these documents. Tax returns serve as crucial evidence of your financial and tax obligations. They provide proof of your income, deductions, and credits claimed, and may be required for various purposes, such as applying for loans, filing amended returns, or responding to tax inquiries.

General Retention Period for Tax Returns

The general rule of thumb for tax return retention is to keep your returns and related supporting documents for at least three years. The IRS has a statute of limitations of three years from the due date of the return or the date it was filed, whichever is later, to audit your return or assess additional tax. Therefore, retaining your tax returns for this period ensures you have the necessary documentation in case of an audit or review.

However, for certain situations, it is advisable to keep your tax records for a longer period. Let's explore these scenarios:

1. Extended Statute of Limitations

If there are indications of substantial errors or fraud on your tax return, the IRS may extend the statute of limitations. In such cases, it is recommended to keep your tax returns and supporting documents for at least six to seven years. This ensures you can defend your position and provide the necessary documentation if required.

2. Non-filers and Underreporting

If you have failed to file a tax return or underreported your income by more than 25%, the IRS has six years to initiate an audit. To stay on the safe side, retain your tax returns and supporting records for at least six years to comply with the IRS regulations.

3. Complex Tax Situations

For individuals with complex tax situations, such as those with multiple investments, rental properties, or business entities, it is wise to retain tax returns and supporting documents for a longer duration. These records can help substantiate your financial transactions, deductions, and credits in case of future disputes or inquiries.

4. Inherited Assets

If you inherit assets, such as property or stocks, it is advisable to retain the tax returns related to the inheritance indefinitely. These returns can provide important cost basis information when you eventually sell or transfer the inherited assets, potentially reducing your tax liability.

Organizing Your Tax Records

Keeping your tax records organized is crucial for easy retrieval when needed. Here are some tips to help you stay organized:

  • Separate your tax documents by year and create labeled folders or digital folders for each tax year.
  • Keep physical copies of important documents in a secure location, such as a locked filing cabinet or a fireproof safe.
  • Consider digitizing your tax records and storing electronic copies securely on a password-protected external drive or in a cloud-based storage service.
  • Maintain a spreadsheet or tax organizer to track your income, expenses, deductions, and credits throughout the year.

By following these organizational practices, you can easily access your tax records when required and minimize the risk of misplaced or lost documents.

When Can You Dispose of Old Tax Returns?

Once the recommended retention period has passed, you can consider disposing of your old tax returns and supporting documents securely. However, it is important to take proper precautions to protect your sensitive information. Here are some guidelines:

  • Shred physical copies of old tax returns and supporting documents using a cross-cut shredder.
  • If you choose to dispose of old tax records digitally, ensure that you permanently delete the files from your devices and securely erase them from any cloud storage services.
  • When disposing of hard drives or other physical media, consider using a professional data destruction service to ensure your information is completely unrecoverable.


Knowing how long to keep your tax returns is an important aspect of maintaining proper financial records. By following the general guidelines mentioned in this article and considering your specific tax situation, you can ensure you are adequately prepared in case of an audit or review. Remember, it is always better to err on the side of caution and retain your tax records for longer periods if necessary.

At Tax Accountant IDM, we specialize in providing comprehensive financial services, accountants, and tax services. We understand the importance of accurate tax documentation and can assist you in managing your tax returns effectively. Contact us today for expert advice and personalized assistance tailored to your specific needs.

how long do i need to keep my tax returns