The IRS does not require you to keep your records in a particular way. Keep them in a manner that allows you and the IRS to determine your correct tax.
You can use your checkbook to keep a record of your income and expenses. In your checkbook you should record amounts, sources of deposits, and types of expenses. You also need to keep documents, such as receipts and sales slips, that can help prove a deduction.
You should keep your records in an orderly fashion and in a safe place. Keep them by year and type of income or expense. One method is to keep all records related to a particular item in a designated envelope.
In this section you will find guidance about basic records that everyone should keep. The section also provides guidance about specific records you should keep for certain items.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008577
When using electronic storage systems for the purpose of maintaining tax books and records, all requirements that are applicable to hard copy books and records still apply. When replacing hard copy books and records, electronic storage systems must be maintained for as long as they are material to the administration of tax law.
An electronic storage system is any system for preparing or keeping your records either by electronic imaging or by transfer to an electronic storage media. The electronic storage system must index, store, preserve, retrieve, and reproduce the electronically stored books and records in legible, readable format. All electronic storage systems must provide a complete and accurate record of your data that is accessible to the IRS. Electronic storage systems are also subject to the same controls and retention guidelines as those imposed on your original hard copy books and records.
The original hard copy books and records may be destroyed provided that the electronic storage system has been tested to establish that the hard copy books and records are being reproduced in compliance with IRS requirements for an electronic storage system and procedures are established to ensure continued compliance with all applicable rules and regulations. You still have the responsibility of retaining any other books and records that are required to be retained.
The IRS may test your electronic storage system, including the equipment used, indexing methodology, software and retrieval capabilities. This test is not considered an examination and the results must be shared with you. If your electronic storage system meets the requirements mentioned earlier, you will be in compliance. If not, you may be subject to penalties for non-compliance, unless you continue to maintain your original hard copy books and records in a manner that allows you and the IRS to determine your correct tax.
For details on electronic storage system requirements, see Rev. Proc. 97-22, 1997-13 I.R.B. 9. taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008578
You should keep copies of your tax returns as part of your tax records. They can help you prepare future tax returns, and you will need them if you file an amended return. Copies of your returns and other records can be helpful to your survivor or the executor or administrator of your estate.
If necessary, you can request a copy of a return and all attachments (including Form W-2) from the IRS by using Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. There is a charge for a copy of a return. For information on the cost and where to file, see the Form 4506 instructions.
If you just need information from your return, you can order a transcript by calling 1-800-829-1040, or using Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, or Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Transcript of Tax Return. There is no fee for a transcript. For more information, see Form 4506-T.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008579
Basic records are documents that everybody should keep. These are the records that prove your income and expenses. If you own a home or investments, your basic records should contain documents related to those items. Table 1 lists documents you should keep as basic records. Following Table 1 are examples of information you can get from these records.
Table 1. Proof of Income and Expense
| FOR items concerning your... || KEEP as basic records... |
- Form(s) W-2
- Form(s) 1099
- Bank statements
- Brokerage statements
- Form(s) K-1
- Sales slips
- Canceled checks or other proof of payment
- Written communications from qualified charities
- Closing statements
- Purchase and sales invoices
- Proof of payment
- Insurance records
- Receipts for improvement costs
- Brokerage statements
- Mutual fund statements
- Form(s) 1099
- Form(s) 2439
Your basic records prove the amounts you report as income on your tax return. Your income may include wages, dividends, interest, and partnership or S corporation distributions. Your records also can prove that certain amounts are not taxable, such as tax-exempt interest.
If you receive a Form W-2, keep Copy C until you begin receiving social security benefits. This will help protect your benefits in case there is a question about your work record or earnings in a particular year. Review the information shown on your annual (for workers over age 25) Social Security Statement.
Your basic records prove the expenses for which you claim a deduction (or credit) on your tax return. Your deductions may include alimony, charitable contributions, mortgage interest, and real estate taxes. You may also have child care expenses for which you can claim a credit.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008583
Your basic records should enable you to determine the basis or adjusted basis of your home. You need this information to determine if you have a gain or loss when you sell your home or to figure depreciation if you use part of your home for business purposes or for rent. Your records should show the purchase price, settlement or closing costs, and the cost of any improvements. They may also show any casualty losses deducted and insurance reimbursements for casualty losses. Your records should also include a copy of Form 2119, Sale of Your Home, if you sold your previous home before May 7, 1997, and postponed tax on the gain from that sale.
For information on which settlement or closing costs are included in the basis of your home, see Publication 530, Tax Information for First-Time Homeowners. For information on basis, including the basis of property you receive other than by purchase, see Publication 551, Basis of Assets.
When you sell your home, your records should show the sales price and any selling expenses, such as commissions. For information on selling your home, see Publication 523, Selling Your Home.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008584
Your basic records should enable you to determine your basis in an investment and whether you have a gain or loss when you sell it. Investments include stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Your records should show the purchase price, sales price, and commissions. They may also show any reinvested dividends, stock splits and dividends, load charges, and original issue discount (OID).
For information on stocks and bonds, see Publication 550, Investment Income and Expenses. For information on mutual funds, see Publication 564, Mutual Fund Distributions.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008585
One of your basic records is proof of payment. You should keep these records to support certain amounts shown on your tax return. Proof of payment alone is not proof that the item claimed on your return is allowable. You should also keep other documents that will help prove that the item is allowable.
Generally, you prove payment with a cash receipt, financial account statement, credit card statement, canceled check, or substitute check. If you make payments in cash, you should get a dated and signed receipt showing the amount and the reason for the payment.
If you make payments by electronic funds transfer, you may be able to prove payment with an account statement.
Table 2. Proof of Payment
| IF payment is by... || THEN the statement must show the... |
- Payee's name
- Transaction date
- Check number
- Payee's name
- Date the check amount was posted to the account by the financial institution
|Debit or credit card|| |
- Amount charged
- Payee's name
- Transaction date
|Electronic funds transfer|| |
- Amount transferred
- Payee's name
- Date the transfer was posted to the account by the financial institution
|Payroll deduction|| |
- Payee code
- Transaction date
You may be able to prove payment with a legible financial account statement prepared by your bank or other financial institution. These statements are accepted as proof of payment if they show the items reflected in Table 2.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008587
You may have deductible expenses withheld from your paycheck, such as union dues or medical insurance premiums. You should keep your year-end or final pay statements as proof of payment of these expenses.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008588
This section is an alphabetical list of some items that require specific records in addition to your basic records.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008589
If you receive or pay alimony, you should keep a copy of your written separation agreement or the divorce, separate maintenance, or support decree. If you pay alimony, you will also need to know your former spouse's social security number. For information on alimony, see Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008590
You may be able to deduct certain expenses connected with the business use of your home. You should keep records that show the part of your home that you use for business and the expenses related to that use. For information on how to allocate expenses between business and personal use, see Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008591
To deduct a casualty or theft loss, you must be able to prove that you had a casualty or theft. Your records also must be able to support the amount you claim.
For a casualty loss, your records should show:
- The type of casualty (car accident, fire, storm, etc.) and when it occurred,
- That the loss was a direct result of the casualty, and
- That you were the owner of the property.
For a theft loss, your records should show:
- When you discovered your property was missing,
- That your property was stolen, and
- That you were the owner of the property.
For more information, see Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts. For a workbook designed to help you figure your loss, see Publication 584, Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook (Personal-Use Property).taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008592
You must give the name, address, and taxpayer identification number for all persons or organizations that provide care for your child or dependent. You can use Form W-10, Dependent Care Provider's Identification and Certification, or various other sources to get the information from the care provider. Keep this information with your tax records. For information on the credit, see Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008593
You must keep records to prove the contributions you make during the year. The kinds of records depend on whether the contribution is cash, noncash, or out-of-pocket expenses. For information on contributions and the records you must keep, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008600
If you are under age 65, you must have your physician complete a statement certifying that you were permanently and totally disabled on the date you retired.
You do not have to file this statement with your Form 1040 or Form 1040A, but you must keep it for your records.
If the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) certifies that you are permanently and totally disabled, you can substitute VA Form 21-0172, Certification of Permanent and Total Disability, for the physician's statement you are required to keep.
See Publication 524, Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled, for more information. taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008602
If you have the records to prove your expenses, you may be entitled to claim certain tax benefits for your education expenses. You may qualify to exclude from income items such as a qualified scholarship, interest on U.S. savings bonds, or reimbursement from your employer. You may also qualify for certain credits or deductions. You should keep documents such as transcripts or course descriptions that show periods of enrollment, and canceled checks and receipts that verify amounts you spent on tuition, books, and other educational expenses.
For information on qualified education expenses, see Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008603
If you are claiming an exemption for your spouse or a dependent (a qualifying child or a qualifying relative), you must keep records that support the deduction. See the discussion related to exemptions in Pub. 501 Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008604
If you have employee business expenses, see Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses, for a discussion of what records to keep.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink1000202664
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides numerous tax incentives for individuals to invest in energy-efficient products.
- Residential Energy Property Credit.
- Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit.
- Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle Credit.
- Plug-In Electric Vehicle Credit.
- Plug-in Electric Drive Conversion Kits.
- Treatment of Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit as a Personal Credit Allowed Against AMT.
You must keep records to prove:
- When and how you acquired the property.
- Purchase price.
- Deductions taken for casualty losses, such as losses resulting from fires or storms.
The following documents may show this information.
- Purchase and sales invoices.
- Manufacturer's certification statement.
- Canceled checks.
- Insurance Claims.
In addition to filling out a Form 5405, all eligible homebuyers must include with their 2009 tax returns certain documents to receive the credit. See Form 5405 and the related instructions for detailed information. taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008605
You must keep an accurate diary of your winnings and losses that includes the:
- Date and type of gambling activity,
- Name and address or location of the gambling establishment,
- Names of other persons present with you at the gambling establishment, and
- Amount you won or lost.
In addition to your diary, you should keep other documents. See the discussion related to gambling losses in Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions, for documents you should keep.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008606
For each qualified medical expense you pay with a distribution from your HSA or MSA, you must keep a record of the name and address of each person you paid and the amount and date of the payment. For more information, see Publication 969, Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008607
Keep copies of the following forms and records until all distributions are made from your IRA(s).
- Form 5498, IRA Contribution Information, or similar statement received for each year showing contributions you made, distributions you received, and the value of your IRA(s).
- Form 1099-R, Distribution From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc., received for each year you received a distribution.
- Form 8606, Nondeductible IRAs, for each year you made a nondeductible contribution to your IRA or received distributions from an IRA if you ever made nondeductible contributions.
For a worksheet you can use to keep a record of yearly contributions and distributions, see Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs).
In addition to records you keep of regular medical expenses, you should keep records of transportation expenses that are primarily for and essential to medical care. You can record these expenses in a diary. You should record gas and oil expenses directly related to that transportation. If you do not want to keep records of your actual expenses, you can keep a log of the miles you drive your car for medical purposes and use the standard mileage rate. You should also keep records of any parking fees, tolls, taxi fares, and bus fares.
For information on medical expenses and the standard mileage rate, see Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses (Including the Health Coverage Tax Credit).taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008609
If you paid mortgage interest of $600 or more, you should receive Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement. Keep this form and your mortgage statement and loan information in your records. For information on mortgage interest, see Publication 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008610
You may be able to deduct qualified moving expenses that are not reimbursed. For more information on what expenses qualify and what records you need, see Publication 521, Moving Expenses.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008611
Use the worksheet in your tax return instructions to figure the taxable part of your pension or annuity. Keep a copy of the completed worksheet until you fully recover your contributions. For information on pensions and annuities, see Publication 575, Pension and Annuity Income, or Publication 721, Tax Guide to U.S. Civil Service Retirement Benefits.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008612
Form(s) W-2 and Form(s) 1099-R show state income tax withheld from your wages and pensions. You should keep a copy of these forms to prove the amount of state withholding. If you made estimated state income tax payments, you need to keep a copy of the form or your check(s).
You also need to keep copies of your state income tax returns. If you received a refund of state income taxes, the state may send you Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments.
Keep mortgage statements, tax assessments, or other documents as records of the real estate and personal property taxes you paid.
If you deducted actual state and local general sales taxes instead of using the optional state sales tax tables, you must keep your actual receipts showing general sales taxes paid.taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink1000206159
If you are claiming a deduction for state or local sales taxes paid on a vehicle (new car, light truck, motor home, and motorcycle) you purchased, you need to keep your purchase contract to show how much sales tax you paid. If you bought a vehicle in a state that does not have a sales tax, such as Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, or Oregon, you can deduct fees or taxes that are a per unit fee or are based on the vehicle’s sales price. taxmap/pubs/p552-001.htm#en_us_publink10008613
You must keep a daily record to accurately report your tips on your return. You can use Form 4070A, Employee's Daily Record of Tips, which is found in Publication 1244, Employee's Daily Record of Tips and Report to Employer, to record your tips. For information on tips, see Publication 531, Reporting Tip Income.