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Want to Save Space? Here’s How Long to Keep Bank Statements, Tax Returns, Receipts + More

Expert tips for knowing when you can tame the paper clutter in your home. 

Bank statements, credit card bills, tax papers — it’s amazing how many different types of financial documents we live with, even in the digital age. “The biggest reason to hang onto financial records is in the event that you need documentation of something later — that could be a tax audit, it could be for a warranty, an insurance claim or refund or just to verify accuracy,” says Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst for But that doesn’t mean you have to keep everything forever. Whether you’re looking to reduce clutter around your home or just streamline your records, it can be confusing knowing which financial documents we have to save — and for how long — and which ones can be tossed in the trash pretty quickly. Here, a guide for how long you should keep bank statements, tax returns and any other important documents and when you can safely shred them without worrying about needing them in the future.

How long should you keep bank statements?

Bank statements can be shredded at the end of the statement cycle or once the new one comes in, says McBride. “Verify all of the transactions, but then there’s no need to hang on to the statement.” The exception, says McBride, would be if you’re in the process of applying for a loan. You might then need several months’ statements, but those can always be downloaded, so hanging onto the hard copies isn’t really necessary.

How long should you keep bank records?

Keep monthly mortgage and bank statements only until the next version arrives in the mail or your inbox.  “Verify all of the transactions and then shred them,” says McBride. “The exception would be if you’re in the process of applying for a loan, you might need several months’ statements, but you can always download those later.”

How long should you keep tax returns?

Tax returns, including supporting documentation and charitable gift receipts, should be kept for seven years, says Gabrielle Gioia, CFP, CRPC a Financial Adviser for Rodgers & Associates, a wealth management firm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Since the IRS has six or more years to audit you, if there are substantial errors on your return, keeping these documents around for seven years beyond the tax year for which they are filed means you’ll have them handy just in case.

See this video from on how long to keep tax records:

How long should you keep credit card statements?

You’ll generally want to keep credit card statements for 60 days in case you need to dispute any errors. That’s because the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) gives you 60 days from when the issuer sends the statement to dispute any charges. If you do dispute a charge, you’ll want to hang onto the statement until you’re sure the issue is resolved or until you no longer have the card. If your credit card statement contains any charges that relate to your taxes, though, you’ll then want to keep the statement for seven years — just in case you need to document those expenses later.

How long should you keep property records?

If you own your own home, you’ll want to hold onto any documents related to the purchase of the home as well as any documentation of substantial improvements made to the property for at least seven years after you sell the home. While the IRS requires that you keep these records for at least three years, there are instances when you may need to keep them for seven years.  The reason why explains McBride, “because you file your taxes in the year after you earned the income (i.e. 2023 taxes filed in 2024) 6-year clock starts ticking when tax return is filed (2024 + 6 = 2030). 2030 is 7 years after the 2023 tax year on which the income is based.”

How long should you keep benefit statements?

If you’re drawing on a pension, then you’ll need a special statement once a year to go with your tax documents, so hang onto these along with that year’s tax documents. But there’s no need to keep the regular monthly or quarterly statements beyond the close of the year, says McBride.

How long should you keep brokerage/investment statements?

young Asian woman using online banking app on smartphones trying to figure out How long should you keep bank statements.

If these include transaction records that confirm your purchase or sale of stocks, bonds and other investments, you’ll want to save those for at least three years after you’ve sold the investment, say the folks at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). That’s because your brokerage firm isn’t required to keep such records indefinitely.

How long should you keep estate planning documents?

“Keep wills, trusts and estate planning documents for the duration of your lifetime, or until updated,” says Gioia, who also advises making sure any executors or heirs know where to find these documents.

How long should you keep personal documents?

Though not technically financial records, personal documents like your family birth certificates, social security cards, passports and your marriage license are items you’ll keep secured forever. “These should be kept in a safe deposit box or a fire-resistant safe,” says Gioia.

How long should you keep receipts?

Receipts can generally be thrown away as soon as you’ve reconciled them against your bank statement at the end of the month. “If it’s a big ticket item that could be something [involved] in an insurance claim, or if there’s a warranty on it, then you want to hang onto [the receipt] as long as you have the item,” says McBride. But for daily run-of-the mill receipts, there’s no need to hang onto those beyond the transaction posting to the credit card or bank statement. If the item is something you plan on claiming for tax purposes – say, you own a rental property and paid for snow removal – then follow the seven year rule for keeping the receipt.

See this video from the Bank of Hawaii that talks about how long to keep receipts (and other papers):

How long should you keep loan agreements?

A loan agreement includes all of the details on the loan itself, such as the interest rate, number of payments and payoff date, so this should be kept until the item is paid off or ownership is transferred. Once the loan is paid off, keep the final documentation of that until you no longer own the item. If the payoff was for, say, your student loans, then hang onto the final documentation until you see the final payment documented on your credit report. After that, you can throw it away. 

How long should you keep utility bills and ATM receipts?

“It’s okay to get rid of most bills as soon as you see the payment has cleared,” says McBride. Save ATM receipts until you can reconcile them against your bank statement. Then they can be tossed in the trash as long as long as they don’t contain any identifying information.

How long should you keep pay stubs and W-2 forms?

Pay stubs don’t need to be kept beyond when you receive your annual W-2 statement, says McBride, because the W-2 summarizes them. “They can be useful during the year for tax planning purposes,” he says, but many employers use electric pay services now that will allow you to print them out whenever you need them. W-2 forms should be held onto with your tax documents for at least seven years.

See this video on how long to keep these and other documents:

In the digital age…

“As more and more of our lives are online, more documents are being sent electronically,” says Gioia. “You should be saving these digital files following the same instructions as if they came via the mail. All documents saved or scanned to computers should be backed up regularly.” And follow the same timelines for saving electronic documents as you would for saving paper ones.

See this video from The Money Guy on how long to keep financial records – and on how to store them electronically:

For answers to more money-related questions, click through the links below!

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