Tax and Home Records Checklist: What to Keep and For How Long

Want to purge your records — and rest assured you have all the documents you need when you need them? Read on.

By: Dona DeZube

If you're going to file a claim or take a deduction, you'd better have the paperwork to back it up. Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

If you're going to file a claim or take a deduction, you'd better have the paperwork to back it up. Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

Unless you’re living in the 123-room Spelling Manor, you probably don’t have space to store massive amounts of tax and insurance paperwork, warranties, and repair receipts related to your home. But you’ll definitely want your paperwork at hand if you have to prove you deserved a tax deduction, file an insurance claim, or figure out if your busted oven is still under warranty.

Except for tax paperwork, there’s no official guideline governing exactly how long you have to keep most home-related documents. Lucky for you, we considered the situations in which you might need documents and came up with a handy “How Long to Keep It” home records checklist.

First, a little background on IRS rules, which informed some of our charts:

  • The IRS says you should keep tax returns and the paperwork supporting them for at least three years after you file the return — the amount of time the IRS has to audit you. So that’s how long we advise in our charts.
  • Check with your state about state income tax, though. Some make you keep tax records a really long time: In Ohio, it’s 10 years.
  • The IRS can also ask for records up to six years after a filing if they suspect someone failed to report 25% or more of his gross income. And the agency never closes the door on an audit if it suspects fraud. Just sayin’.

HOME SALE RECORDS

How Long to Keep It

As long as you own the property + 3 years


As long as you own the property

Until the warranty period ends

As long as you own the property

As long as you own the property + 3 years

As long as you own the property + 3 years


Forever, just in case a lender says, “Hey, you still owe money.”

Document

Home sale closing documents, including HUD-1 settlement sheet                       

Deed to the house

Builder’s warranty or service contract for new home

Community/condo association covenants, codes, restrictions (CC&Rs)

Receipts for capital improvements

Section 1031 (like-kind exchange) sale records for both your old and new properties, including HUD-1 settlement sheet

Mortgage payoff statements (certificate of satisfaction or lien release)


Why you need these docs: You use home sale closing documents, receipts for capital improvements, and like-kind exchange records to calculate and document your profit (gain) when you sell your home. Your deed and mortgage payoff statements prove you own your home and have paid off your mortgage, respectively. Your builder’s warranty or contract is important if you file a claim. And sooner or later you’ll need to check the CC&R rules in your condo or community association.


When you read the complete article at Houselogic.com, you'll find out what documents you'll need, in the categories below, and for how long you should keep them:

  1. ANNUAL TAX DEDUCTIONS
  2. INSURANCE AND WARRANTIES
  3. INVESTMENT (LANDLORD) REAL ESTATE DEDUCTIONS
  4. MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but isn’t intended to be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice.

Dona DeZube has been writing about real estate for more than two decades. She lives in a suburban Baltimore Midcentury modest home on a 3-acre lot shared with possums, raccoons, foxes, a herd of deer, and her blue-tick hound.