Record Retention Guide

STE Corporation is a CPA firm that provides accounting services in Chicago, Illinois

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Storing tax records: How long is long enough?

Federal law requires you to maintain copies of your tax returns and supporting documents for three years. This is called the “three-year law” and leads many people to believe they’re safe provided they retain their documents for this period of time.

However, if the IRS believes you have significantly underreported your income (by 25 percent or more), or believes there may be indication of fraud, it may go back six years in an audit. To be safe, use the following guidelines.

Business Records To Keep…Personal Records To Keep…
        1 Year        1 Year
        3 Years        3 Years
        6 Years        6 Years
        Forever        Forever
  
Special Circumstances

Create a Backup Set of Records and Store Them Electronically. Keeping a backup set of records — including, for example, bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies, etc. — is easier than ever now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, and much financial information is available on the Internet.

Even if the original records are provided only on paper, they can be scanned and converted to a digital format. Once the documents are in electronic form, taxpayers can download them to a backup storage device, such as an external hard drive, or burn them onto a CD or DVD (don’t forget to label it).

You might also consider online backup, which is the only way to ensure that data is fully protected. With online backup, files are stored in another region of the country, so that if a hurricane or other natural disaster occurs, documents remain safe.

 Caution: Identity theft is a serious threat in today’s world, and it is important to take every precaution to avoid it. After it is no longer necessary to retain your tax records, financial statements, or any other documents with your personal information, you should dispose of these records by shredding them and not disposing of them by merely throwing them away in the trash. 

 

Business Documents To Keep For One Year

  • Correspondence with Customers and Vendors
  • Duplicate Deposit Slips
  • Purchase Orders (other than Purchasing Department copy)
  • Receiving Sheets
  • Requisitions
  • Stenographer’s Notebooks
  • Stockroom Withdrawal Forms

Business Documents To Keep For Three Years

  • Employee Personnel Records (after termination)
  • Employment Applications
  • Expired Insurance Policies
  • General Correspondence
  • Internal Audit Reports
  • Internal Reports
  • Petty Cash Vouchers
  • Physical Inventory Tags
  • Savings Bond Registration Records of Employees
  • Time Cards For Hourly Employees

Business Documents To Keep For Six Years

  • Accident Reports, Claims
  • Accounts Payable Ledgers and Schedules
  • Accounts Receivable Ledgers and Schedules
  • Bank Statements and Reconciliations
  • Cancelled Checks
  • Cancelled Stock and Bond Certificates
  • Employment Tax Records
  • Expense Analysis and Expense Distribution Schedules
  • Expired Contracts, Leases
  • Expired Option Records
  • Inventories of Products, Materials, Supplies
  • Invoices to Customers
  • Notes Receivable Ledgers, Schedules
  • Payroll Records and Summaries, including payment to pensioners
  • Plant Cost Ledgers
  • Purchasing Department Copies of Purchase Orders
  • Sales Records
  • Subsidiary Ledgers
  • Time Books
  • Travel and Entertainment Records
  • Vouchers for Payments to Vendors, Employees, etc.
  • Voucher Register, Schedules

Business Records To Keep Forever

While federal guidelines do not require you to keep tax records “forever,” in many cases there will be other reasons you’ll want to retain these documents indefinitely.

  • Audit Reports from CPAs/Accountants
  • Cancelled Checks for Important Payments (especially tax payments)
  • Cash Books, Charts of Accounts
  • Contracts, Leases Currently in Effect
  • Corporate Documents (incorporation, charter, by-laws, etc.)
  • Documents substantiating fixed asset additions
  • Deeds
  • Depreciation Schedules
  • Financial Statements (Year End)
  • General and Private Ledgers, Year End Trial Balances
  • Insurance Records, Current Accident Reports, Claims, Policies
  • Investment Trade Confirmations
  • IRS Revenue Agents’ Reports
  • Journals
  • Legal Records, Correspondence and Other Important Matters
  • Minute Books of Directors and Stockholders
  • Mortgages, Bills of Sale
  • Property Appraisals by Outside Appraisers
  • Property Records
  • Retirement and Pension Records
  • Tax Returns and Worksheets
  • Trademark and Patent Registrations

Personal Documents To Keep For One Year

  • Bank Statements
  • Paycheck Stubs (reconcile with W-2)
  • Canceled checks
  • Monthly and quarterly mutual fund and retirement contribution statements (reconcile with year end statement)

Personal Documents To Keep For Three Years

  • Credit Card Statements
  • Medical Bills (in case of insurance disputes) 
  • Utility Records
  • Expired Insurance Policies 

Personal Documents To Keep For Six Years

  • Supporting Documents For Tax Returns
  • Accident Reports and Claims
  • Medical Bills (if tax-related)
  • Property Records / Improvement Receipts
  • Sales Receipts
  • Wage Garnishments
  • Other Tax-Related Bills

Personal Records To Keep Forever

  • CPA Audit Reports
  • Legal Records
  • Important Correspondence
  • Income Tax Returns
  • Income Tax Payment Checks
  • Investment Trade Confirmations
  • Retirement and Pension Records

Special Circumstances

  • Car Records (keep until the car is sold)
  • Credit Card Receipts (keep with your credit card statement)
  • Insurance Policies (keep for the life of the policy)
  • Mortgages / Deeds / Leases (keep 6 years beyond the agreement)
  • Pay Stubs (keep until reconciled with your W-2)
  • Property Records / improvement receipts (keep until property sold)
  • Sales Receipts (keep for life of the warranty)
  • Stock and Bond Records (keep for 6 years beyond selling)
  • Warranties and Instructions (keep for the life of the product)
  • Other Bills (keep until payment is verified on the next bill)
  • Depreciation Schedules and Other Capital Asset Records (keep for 3 years after the tax life of the asset)

 

Talk to one of our Accountants Today

OUR SERVICES

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Accounting

  • Statuary Accounts
  • Management Accounts
  • Bookkeeping
  • Business Plan
stecorporation - tax icon

Tax

  • Tax Investigation
  • Capitol Gains Tax
  • Tax Advisory
  • Corporation Tax

STECorporation consultation

Consulting

  • Registered Office Address
  • Company Formation
  • Company Secretarial
  • Legal Helpline

QuickBooks/ Bookkeeping Services

All of the financial information and data for your business should be organized and in one place so it is easy to access.  With our bookkeeping services, we will organize and manage your financial information within the QuickBooks software so you can easily access it at any time.  While we manage your financial matters on a daily and monthly basis, you will be in control as we will keep you updated and ensure you can access and monitor your finances.  If you are applying for a loan, doing your taxes, or budgeting, having quick access to your financial information is important.  We can assist large businesses and provide small business bookkeeping.

Advisory Services

Our accountants can take on an advisory role with your company through our business consulting services.  We will work with you to understand your financial goals and help you make the right decisions to reach your goals and help your business grow and become more profitable.  Our business advisory services include advisement for investments, taxes, payroll, bookkeeping, administration, and more.

Estate Planning

It is important to manage your estate to help protect its value and ensure that your assets are distributed properly between your beneficiaries.  Our accountants can assist with your estate planning, including managing the taxes to preserve its value and ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.  Our estate accountants will identify ways to protect your estate from inflation and taxes and minimize what you are paying in taxes to maximize its value.

Sales Tax / Nexus

Sales tax rates and laws are decided locally and differ between states and cities.  This can make sales and use tax difficult to manage for businesses, especially those that operate in multiple cities and states.  Our certified public accountants can help manage your sales and use taxes by ensuring that you are in compliance with applicable sales tax laws and identifying opportunities for refunds and exemptions.  We have a thorough knowledge of sales tax laws and we can even help businesses that operate in multiple states with filing their taxes.  Using Nexus tax analysis, we can help multi-state businesses stay in compliance with all applicable tax laws.

Payroll Services

We provide payroll services to small businesses and international businesses that operate in the U.S.  Our accountants will streamline your payroll process and manage the tax withholdings and benefit deductions from employee paychecks.  We can also file the tax returns for your business that account for the tax withholdings.

Call the CPAs of STE Corporation

Contact our CPA firm if you want to work with our accountants to help manage the finances for your business in Park Ridge, IL.  You can call STE Corporation at (815) 836-0100 to talk to our professionals or schedule a free consultation.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

For tax years 2018 through 2025 interest on home equity loans is only deductible when the loan is used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan. Prior to 2018, many homeowners took out home equity loans. Unlike other consumer-related interest expenses (e.g., car loans and credit cards) interest on a home equity loan was deductible on your tax return.
You may be able to take an immediate Section 179 expense deduction of up to $1,040,000 for 2020 ($1,020,000 in 2019), for equipment purchased for use in your business, instead of writing it off over many years. There is a phaseout limit of $2,590,000 in 2020 ($2,550,000 in 2019). Additionally, self-employed individuals can deduct 100 percent of their health insurance premiums. You may also be able to establish a Keogh, SEP or SIMPLE IRA plan and deduct your contributions (investments).
In 2020 (as in 2019), medical and dental expenses are deductible to the extent they exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income or AGI. If your employer offers a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), Health Savings Account or cafeteria plan, these plans permit you to redirect a portion of your salary to pay these types of expenses with pre-tax dollars.
If you’re planning to make a charitable gift, it generally makes more sense to give appreciated long-term capital assets to the charity, instead of selling the assets and giving the charity the after-tax proceeds. Donating the assets instead of the cash avoids capital gains tax on the sale, and you can obtain a tax deduction for the full fair-market value of the property.

Frequently-Asked-Questions-min

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY ABOUT US

“Everyone at STE has been amazing. As a small business owner it is essential to have people on your team that are experts in all areas. When it comes to finance and taxes Jim and the team at STE fill that need. Thanks for being great at what you do and always be there!”

“STE has been handling our personal, business accounting, and payroll for years. They are knowledgeable, easy to reach, and very welcoming. Would definitely recommend them.”

“I have had nothing but pleasant experiences at STE. They are knowledgeable and provide great service.”

“We have used STE Corporation for our payroll and tax service needs over the past 3+ years and extremely pleased with the partnership we have created.”

“My husband has operated his painting business since 2004, first as a sole proprietorship and later as an S corporation. STE has been instrumental in helping him grow his business and remain in compliance. I cannot thank Mike, Marybeth, Jim, and Lisa enough for helping him get organized and stay that way. They have truly been the business office he needed in order to focus on the part of his business he enjoys – painting and customer service Their professional staff literally have never let him down – payroll, state taxes, federal taxes, consultation, ledger reconciliation, profit and loss sheets, and probably lots of things I do not even know about! Hiring this firm was the best decision he could have made. He looks forward to visiting the office, everyone makes him feel like family. I appreciate their professionalism and efficiency. Thank you STE!”

OUR SERVICES

stecorporation - accounting icon

Accounting

  • Statuary Accounts
  • Management Accounts
  • Bookkeeping
  • Business Plan
stecorporation - tax icon

Tax

  • Tax Investigation
  • Capitol Gains Tax
  • Tax Advisory
  • Corporation Tax

STECorporation consultation

Consulting

  • Registered Office Address
  • Company Formation
  • Company Secretarial
  • Legal Helpline

QuickBooks/ Bookkeeping Services

All of the financial information and data for your business should be organized and in one place so it is easy to access.  With our bookkeeping services, we will organize and manage your financial information within the QuickBooks software so you can easily access it at any time.  While we manage your financial matters on a daily and monthly basis, you will be in control as we will keep you updated and ensure you can access and monitor your finances.  If you are applying for a loan, doing your taxes, or budgeting, having quick access to your financial information is important.  We can assist large businesses and provide small business bookkeeping.

Advisory Services

Our accountants can take on an advisory role with your company through our business consulting services.  We will work with you to understand your financial goals and help you make the right decisions to reach your goals and help your business grow and become more profitable.  Our business advisory services include advisement for investments, taxes, payroll, bookkeeping, administration, and more.

Estate Planning

It is important to manage your estate to help protect its value and ensure that your assets are distributed properly between your beneficiaries.  Our accountants can assist with your estate planning, including managing the taxes to preserve its value and ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.  Our estate accountants will identify ways to protect your estate from inflation and taxes and minimize what you are paying in taxes to maximize its value.

Sales Tax / Nexus

Sales tax rates and laws are decided locally and differ between states and cities.  This can make sales and use tax difficult to manage for businesses, especially those that operate in multiple cities and states.  Our certified public accountants can help manage your sales and use taxes by ensuring that you are in compliance with applicable sales tax laws and identifying opportunities for refunds and exemptions.  We have a thorough knowledge of sales tax laws and we can even help businesses that operate in multiple states with filing their taxes.  Using Nexus tax analysis, we can help multi-state businesses stay in compliance with all applicable tax laws.

Payroll Services

We provide payroll services to small businesses and international businesses that operate in the U.S.  Our accountants will streamline your payroll process and manage the tax withholdings and benefit deductions from employee paychecks.  We can also file the tax returns for your business that account for the tax withholdings.

Call the CPAs of STE Corporation

Contact our CPA firm if you want to work with our accountants to help manage the finances for your business in Park Ridge, IL.  You can call STE Corporation at (815) 836-0100 to talk to our professionals or schedule a free consultation.