How long you should keep financial and bank statements

Do you have filing cabinets upon filing cabinets of old documents and bank statements? Or maybe you have been banking green and your computer hard drive is full of files and statements? Either way, you are probably wondering: how long do I have to keep these financial, tax and banking documents? Good question. To find the answer, we went to one of the financial world’s leading regulators.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is a good resource for banking information, as well as personal finance tips. In the latest issue of their Consumer News publication the FDIC addressed the question of how long you need to save documents. The information from the FDIC on document retention includes the following advice:

Credit card and bank account statements: Save those with no tax significance for about a year, but those with tax significance should be saved for seven years.

Canceled checks: Those unrelated to anything you claimed on your income tax form and not needed to show you’ve paid a bill or debt probably can be destroyed after you’ve verified that your bank statement is correct. But canceled checks that support your tax returns, such as charitable contributions or tax payments, probably should be held for seven years.

And, you may want to keep indefinitely any canceled checks and related receipts or documents for a home purchase or sale, renovations or other improvements to a property you own. But once a home has been sold and another seven years have passed, checks related to renovations or improvements can be destroyed.

Of course, many banks no longer send cancelled checks, although they may provide copies of the originals. “You can keep the copies of your tax-related checks if you get them from your bank, but if you don’t get copies with your statement, you have some options,” said Evelyn Manley, a Senior Consumer Affairs Specialist at the FDIC.

“The most conservative approach is to order copies of important checks soon after your statement arrives,” she said. “Another is to keep the information on your bank statement to order copies if you’re audited in the future because, in general, banks that do not return original checks to customers are required to keep copies of checks for seven years.”

Also, she said, if you keep records electronically, be sure to back up your data. You can store it in various ways (on CDs, flash drives and so on), but as old technology is no longer supported, you will need to transfer your old data to new media. Another option is to research different companies that provide backup storage online, either free or for a small charge.

Deposit, ATM, credit card and debit card receipts: Save them until the transaction appears on your statement and you’ve verified that the information is accurate. You may make an exception for receipts for expensive items. If they are under warranty or you have to file an insurance claim, the receipt may be helpful.

Finally, before tossing away any document that contains a Social Security number, bank account number or other personal information (especially financial information), shred it to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.

For additional guidance on what records to toss and when, ask your accountant, attorney or another trusted advisor.

Source: FDIC Consumers News

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