How long do you have to keep federal tax returns
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The answer is not straightforward. According to the IRS, it depends on “the action, expense, or event the document records.” In general, records should be kept for the time period during in which you can claim a credit or refund, amend your return or during which the IRS can levy additional taxes against you.
Maintain your records for three years if you file for a credit or refund after filing your original return. The IRS recommends keeping records for “3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.” You should also keep records for three years if you owe additional tax and the situations described in sections 3 and 4 below don’t apply.
Keep your income tax papers for
six years if you don’t report income that you should and this unreported amount exceeds 25 percent of the gross income that you did report.
If you file a fraudulent or false return, you should keep your records indefinitely. You should also keep them indefinitely if you fail to file a return for any given year(s).
If you file a return and claim a loss from worthless securities or take a deduction for a bad debt, you should keep your income tax papers for seven years.
The types of records you should keep are anything related to your income (e.g. W-2s, 1099s, bank and brokerage statements), expenses (e.g. receipts, canceled checks and invoices) and home-related records (e.g. purchase receipts, closing records, insurance records and proof of improvements). See IRS publication 552 (resource below this article) for full details.Source: ehow.com