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IRS.gov Website
Publication 17
taxmap/pub17/p17-008.htm#en_us_publink1000170669

What Happens After
I File?(p15)

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After you send your return to the IRS, you may have some questions. This section discusses concerns you may have about recordkeeping, your refund, and what to do if you move.
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What Records Should
I Keep?(p15)

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This part discusses why you should keep records, what kinds of records you should keep, and how long you should keep them.
You probably already keep records in your daily routine. This includes keeping receipts for purchases and recording information in your checkbook. Use this to determine if you need to keep additional information in your records.
Where Refund
You must keep records so that you can prepare a complete and accurate income tax return. The law does not require any special form of records. However, you should keep all receipts, canceled checks or other proof of payment, and any other records to support any deductions or credits you claim.
If you file a claim for refund, you must be able to prove by your records that you have overpaid your tax.
This part does not discuss the records you should keep when operating a business. For information on business records, see Publication 583, Starting a Business and Keeping Records.
taxmap/pub17/p17-008.htm#en_us_publink1000264668

Why Keep Records?(p15)

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There are many reasons to keep records. In addition to tax purposes, you may need to keep records for warranty or insurance purposes or for getting a loan. Good records will help you:
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Kinds of Records to Keep(p16)

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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.
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Electronic records.(p16)

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All requirements that apply to hard copy books and records also apply to electronic storage systems that maintain tax books and records. When you replace hard copy books and records, you must maintain the electronic storage systems 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 medium. The electronic storage system must index, store, preserve, retrieve, and reproduce the electronically stored books and records in a 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 noncompliance, 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, which is on page 9 of Internal Revenue Bulletin 1997-13 at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-irbs/irb97-13.pdf.
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Copies of tax returns.(p16)

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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 in one of the following ways. There is no fee for a transcript. For more information, see Form 4506-T.
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Basic Records(p16)

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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 1-7 lists documents you should keep as basic records. Following Table 1-7 are examples of information you can get from these records.

Table 1-7. Proof of Income and Expense

FOR items concerning your...KEEP as basic records...
Income
  • Form(s) W-2
  • Form(s) 1099
  • Bank statements
  • Brokerage statements
  • Form(s) K-1
Expenses
  • Sales slips
  • Invoices
  • Receipts
  • Canceled checks or other proof of payment
  • Written communications from qualified charities
Home
  • Closing statements
  • Purchase and sales invoices
  • Proof of payment
  • Insurance records
  • Receipts for improvement costs
Investments
  • Brokerage statements
  • Mutual fund statements
  • Form(s) 1099
  • Form(s) 2439
  • Receipts for collectibles
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Income.(p16)

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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.
Note.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.
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Expenses.(p16)

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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 also may have child care expenses for which you can claim a credit.
taxmap/pub17/p17-008.htm#en_us_publink1000264690

Home.(p16)

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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 also may show any casualty losses deducted and insurance reimbursements for casualty losses. Your records also should 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 detailed information on basis, including which settlement or closing costs are included in the basis of your home, see chapter 13.
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 chapter 15.
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Investments.(p16)

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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, bonds, and mutual funds, see chapters 8, 13, 14, and 16.
taxmap/pub17/p17-008.htm#en_us_publink1000264692

Proof of Payment(p17)

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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 also should 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 1-8. Proof of Payment

IF payment is by...THEN the statement must show the...
Cash
  • Amount
  • Payee's name
  • Transaction date
Check
  • Check number
  • Amount
  • 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
  • Amount
  • Payee code
  • Transaction date
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Account statements.(p17)

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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 1-8.
taxmap/pub17/p17-008.htm#en_us_publink1000264695

Pay statements.(p17)

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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.
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How Long to Keep Records(p17)

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You must keep your records as long as they may be needed for the administration of any provision of the Internal Revenue Code. Generally, this means you must keep records that support items shown on your return until the period of limitations for that return runs out.
The period of limitations is the period of time in which you can amend your return to claim a credit or refund or the IRS can assess additional tax. Table 1-9 contains the periods of limitations that apply to income tax returns. Unless otherwise stated, the years refer to the period beginning after the return was filed. Returns filed before the due date are treated as being filed on the due date.

Table 1-9. Period of Limitations

IF you...THEN the
period is...
1Owe additional tax and
(2), (3), and (4) do not
apply to you
3 years
2Do not report income that
you should and it is more
than 25% of the gross
income shown on your
return
6 years
3File a fraudulent returnNo limit
4Do not file a returnNo limit
5File a claim for credit or
refund after you filed
your return
The later of 3 years or 2 years after tax was paid.
6File a claim for a loss from
worthless securities
7 years
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Property.(p17)

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Keep records relating to property until the period of limitations expires for the year in which you dispose of the property in a taxable disposition. You must keep these records to figure your basis for computing gain or loss when you sell or otherwise dispose of the property.
Generally, if you received property in a nontaxable exchange, your basis in that property is the same as the basis of the property you gave up. You must keep the records on the old property, as well as the new property, until the period of limitations expires for the year in which you dispose of the new property in a taxable disposition.
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Keeping records for nontax purposes.(p17)

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When your records are no longer needed for tax purposes, do not discard them until you check to see if they should be kept longer for other purposes. Your insurance company or creditors may require you to keep certain records longer than the IRS does.
taxmap/pub17/p17-008.htm#en_us_publink1000170682

Refund Information(p17)

rule
You can go online to check the status of your 2011 refund 72 hours after IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return, or 3 to 4 weeks after you mail a paper return. If you filed Form 5405, 8379, or 8839 with your return, allow 14 weeks (11 weeks if you filed electronically) before checking your refund status. Be sure to have a copy of your 2011 tax return available because you will need to know the filing status, the first SSN shown on the return, and the exact whole-dollar amount of the refund. To check on your refund, do one of the following.
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Interest on Refunds(p17)

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If you are due a refund, you may get interest on it. The interest rates are adjusted quarterly.
If the refund is made within 45 days after the due date of your return, no interest will be paid. If you file your return after the due date (including extensions), no interest will be paid if the refund is made within 45 days after the date you filed. If the refund is not made within this 45-day period, interest will be paid from the due date of the return or from the date you filed, whichever is later.
Accepting a refund check does not change your right to claim an additional refund and interest. File your claim within the period of time that applies. See Amended Returns and Claims for Refund, later. If you do not accept a refund check, no more interest will be paid on the overpayment included in the check.
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Interest on erroneous refund.(p17)

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All or part of any interest you were charged on an erroneous refund generally will be forgiven. Any interest charged for the period before demand for repayment was made will be forgiven unless:
  1. You, or a person related to you, caused the erroneous refund in any way, or
  2. The refund is more than $50,000.
For example, if you claimed a refund of $100 on your return, but the IRS made an error and sent you $1,000, you would not be charged interest for the time you held the $900 difference. You must, however, repay the $900 when the IRS asks.
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Change of Address(p18)

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If you have moved, file your return using your new address.
If you move after you filed your return, you should give the IRS clear and concise notification of your change of address. The notification may be written, electronic, or oral. Send written notification to the Internal Revenue Service Center serving your old address. You can use Form 8822, Change of Address. If you are expecting a refund, also notify the post office serving your old address. This will help in forwarding your check to your new address (unless you chose direct deposit of your refund). For more information, see Revenue Procedure 2010-16, 2010-19 I.R.B. 664, available at www.irs.gov/irb/2010-19_IRB/ar07.html.
Be sure to include your SSN (and the name and SSN of your spouse, if you filed a joint return) in any correspondence with the IRS.