Household Record-keeping Tips

Suggested Home Files: In addition to documents kept in a safe deposit box (costly or hard-to-replace items such as original birth and marriage certificates, property titles, etc.), many important records need to be filed systematically and conveniently at home. The following chart lists records and important papers typically needed by many families. Because your household is unique, you may have additional records for your household file or safe deposit box. Space to list these appears at the end of the chart.

WHAT?WHY?HOW LONG (usually)?
1. Bank Records
      Cancelled checks*
      Bank statements
      Deposit slips
      List of account numbers
      Savings acct. statements
Proof of payment of bills; tax claims*
As a monthly financial record
Comparison with bank statements
Information for family members
Information for family members; tax claims*
3-6 years*
2 years
3-6 months
While in force
While in force plus 3-6 years*
2. Church RecordsReference and information for family membersPermanent
3. Debt RecordsProof of terms of transactions; income tax deductions (non-consumer credit)While in force plus 3-6 years*
4. Educational RecordsFor employment references and/or admission to training programs or educational institutionsPermanent
5. Employment RecordsTo document work and income history for Social Security and other benefits (including annual IRS form W-2)Permanent
6. Farm or Other Family Business RecordsAnalysis of farm or other family business enterprise; income tax preparationUp to 6 years*
7. Genealogy (family tree)Reference for family membersPermanent
8. Health Records of Individual Family MembersSchool admission; passport; reference of family membersPermanent
9. Home Purchase & Improvement RecordsTo calculate basis and capital gains or losses when property is sold; support income tax claimsDuring ownership (plus 3-6 years after taxable disposition of property)*
10. Household Account BookAs basis for planning future spending; reference for financial analysis2 or more years
11. Income and Employment RecordsReference for income tax, social security and retirement contributions; employment documentation6 years to permanent*
12. Income Tax RecordsSupport claims if return is audited (also keep supporting records)3-6 years or permanent*
13. Insurance Policies**Reference for periodic updating of coverage and/or payment of claimsWhile in force**
14. List of Contents of Safe Deposit BoxReference and information for family members; documentation for insurance settlement should loss occur (fire or theft)***Revise as contents change
15. List of Credit Cards (with address and phone number of each creditor)For notification of creditors and replacement in case of lossReview annually; revise as creditors change
16. List of Creditor Addresses and Telephone Numbers for BILLING ERROR NotificationAddress for “billing error notification” often is different than either the payment address or the “lost card notification” addressReview annually; revise as creditors change
17. List of Creditor PAYMENT ADDRESSES, Telephone Numbers, and Payment DatesFor quick reference in case statement or payment notice does not arrive in mailReview annually; revise as creditors change
18. Net Worth StatementFor overall list of financial assets and liabilities; traces financial progress and serves as starting point for future financial planningUpdate annually; retain as interested
19. Personal Property Inventories (copies of originals kept in safe deposit box)Reference and information of family members; documentation for insurance claimsRevise annually (especially when new items are acquired or when items are sold or discarded)
20. Property Tax RecordsProof of payment; tax preparation; future reference3-6 years* or permanent
21. Receipted Bills and Sales Slips (tax deductible items*)Proof of paid bills; support income tax claims; proof of ownership for property insurance claims**3-6 years* or during ownership**
22. Retirement and Pension PlansReference and information for family membersWhile in force
23. WarrantiesReference and information; adjustments of defects of equipment or partsDuring ownership
24. Other (list)
25. Other (list)
26. Other (list)
* Note that the Internal Revenue Service has three (3) years in which to audit Federal income tax returns (or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later). However, this limit does not apply in “unusual” cases. If an amount of income that should have been reported was not reported, and it is more than 25 percent of the income shown on the return, the period of limitation does not expire until six (6) years after the return was filed. There is no period of limitation when a return is false or fraudulent, or when no return is filed. (See IRS Publication #552, “Record-keeping for Individuals.”) While you don’t have to keep all possible financial records for tax purposes, if audited you will want to have cancelled checks and/or payment receipts relating directly to entries on your tax return. In some cases, it is advantageous to keep records longer than the typical periodfor example, when selling your principal residence and claiming the capital gains exclusion allowed by IRS, documentation of original purchase price and capital improvements can be required. ** Check with your insurance agent or broker for company requirements of proof of purchase and/or ownership of real and personal property in the event an insurance claim is filed. (In some cases, payment receipts are required; in other cases a written inventory and/or photographs is adequate documentation.) *** Contents of a safe deposit box usually are not covered by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Check with your insurance broker/agent regarding coverage under your homeowners insurance policy or other coverage provisions available.

This fact sheet is intended for educational purposes only. Mention of a proprietary product, trademark or commercial firm in text or figures does not constitute endorsement by Ohio State University Extension and does not imply approval to the exclusion of other products or firms. For specific advice, consult your financial or legal advisor.

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