You must shred your personal, financial, and confidential documents to maintain your privacy. These guidelines are provided for informational purposes only. It is recommended that you check with your insurance company, brokerage firm, government agencies, lenders or creditors to find out if you should keep your records longer based on your individual situation.
- Tax returns: The IRS has three years to challenge information in your tax return, and six years to conduct an audit based on unreported income. Keep tax returns and supporting records, such as W-2s and 1099s for at least seven years. Review IRS Publication 552 for details at http://www.irs.gov/publications/p552/ar02.html.
- Investment statements for taxable accounts: Once your brokerage firm or mutual fund company sends the annual statement that summarizes the year’s transactions, you should shred your monthly and/or quarterly statements.
- Bank statements: Keep statements that back up information on your tax returns for up to seven years. Shred other bank statements after you confirm there are no errors or unauthorized charges.
- Credit card statements: Keep statements and receipts for major purchases, like jewelry, large appliances or electronics, in case they are needed for warranty documentation. If you put charitable contributions on your credit card, keep the statement for your tax records. Other monthly statements can be shredded once you verify there are no errors or unauthorized purchases.
- Pay stubs: Pay stubs contain everything an identity thief needs to assume your identity. Keep three months of history only if you are planning to apply for a mortgage.
- ATM receipts: Shred all receipts after you check your bank statement for errors or unauthorized charges.
- Canceled checks: Unless they are needed for tax returns or other documentation purposes, canceled checks should be destroyed after one year.
- Medical bills: Keep these at least a year in case of a billing dispute. If the bill supports a tax deduction, save with your tax documents.
- Retirement plan contributions: Keep records of contributions to non-deductible individual retirement accounts, such as a Roth IRA, indefinitely. Without them, you may find yourself paying taxes again when the money is withdrawn. Some financial institutions keep records of IRA contributions, but it’s not a guarantee.
- Insurance policies, wills, birth certificates, citizenship papers, and other legal documents: These documents should be kept forever in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box at a bank or a fireproof box in your home.
- Invest in a cross-cut shredder: Since it is technically possible to reassemble some shredded documents, make sure your shredder cuts documents in several directions so it will be difficult for identity thieves to piece back together your information.
- If you store data on hard media: Invest in a shredder that chops up CDs, DVDs, credit cards, staples, and paper clips.
- When disposing or recycling your computer: Be sure to clear the hard drive of personal, financial, and confidential information so your data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
For shredding and recycling events in Fairfax County call Fairfax County Solid Waste Management Program at 703-324-5230, TTY 771 or www.fairfaxcounty.gov/recycling .