Organizing Tax Records and Preparing for Tax Filing Season

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The IRS suggests organizing your tax records. Well-organized records make it easier to prepare a tax return and help provide answers if your return is selected for examination, or to prepare a response if you receive an IRS notice. Devoting time to putting your tax-related documents in order should make it easier for you to prepare your tax return when the filing season arrives.

Records such as receipts, canceled checks and other documents that support an item of income or a deduction or a credit appearing on a return must be kept so long as they may become material in the administration of any internal revenue law, which generally will be until the period of limitation expires for that return. For assessment of tax you owe, this generally is three years from the date you filed the return. Returns filed before the due date are treated as filed on the due date.

Here are some things the IRS wants individuals and small business owners to know about recordkeeping.

What to keep – Individuals. In most cases, keep records that support items on your tax return for at least three years after that tax return has been filed. Examples include bills, credit card and other receipts, invoices, mileage logs, canceled, imaged or substitute checks or other proof of payment and any other records to support deductions or credits claimed. You should typically keep records relating to property at least three years after you’ve sold or otherwise disposed of the property. Examples include a home purchase or improvement, stocks and other investments, Individual Retirement Account transactions and rental property records.

What to keep – Small Business Owners. Typically, keep all your employment tax records for at least four years after the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later. Also, keep records documenting gross receipts, proof of purchases, expenses and assets. Examples include cash register tapes, bank deposit slips, receipt books, purchase and sales invoices, credit card charges and sales slips, Forms 1099-MISC, canceled checks, account statements, petty cash slips and real estate closing statements. Electronic records can include databases, saved files, e-mails, instant messages, faxes and voice messages.

How to keep them – Although the IRS generally does not require you to keep your records in any special manner, having a designated place for tax documents and receipts is a good idea. It will make preparing your return easier, and it may also remind you of relevant transactions. Good recordkeeping will also help you prepare a response if you receive an IRS notice or need to substantiate items on your return if you are selected for an audit.

For more information on recordkeeping for individuals, check out Chapter 1, “Filing Information,“ in IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax. Find small business recordkeeping information in IRS Publication 583, Starting a Business and Keeping Records. Both publications are available at or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Also available are new video and audio files explaining recordkeeping requirements in detail, located on our IRS video portal at

• Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax (PDF)
• Tax Topic 305 – Recordkeeping
• Publication 583, Starting a Business and Keeping Records (PDF)
YouTube Videos:
• Record Keeping – English | Spanish | ASL

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