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Keeping Checks and Statements, How Long?

How long do you hold onto statements, physical checks and registers?

A similar question is answeredhere. The old rule of thumb was to keep them for seven years and that was tied to IRS retention rules and proof of payment. The IRS period of limitations can be used as a good guide for this and calls for retention of certain items for three years, others for six and still more for seven years or longer. It depends on what is being saved. The IRS Pub. 552 Recordkeeping for Individuals should help with the time frames.

Retention is easier in today's electronic banking environment. Many banks provide electronic statements and imaged checks. This makes retention easier because they take less space. If you have e-statements, be sure to back them up. Don't just leave them on a hard drive, and be sure to encrypt and/or password protect them.

You don't necessarily need to save all items. Many checks could be retained because you want proof of payment for a debt. On your next statement for that debt, if you see the prior month's payment you don't need to keep that check any longer. If it is a tax deduction, you may want to still keep it seven years. Some people like to make a simple rule and they retain checks, all of them, for a year. When they get to month thirteen, they shred the oldest.

Remember too, that your bank retains items for a period of time. This can vary by bank, by state, but just because you don't have that copy, doesn't mean there isn't one.

Published on 4/13/07