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Tax Center / Financial Advice and Guides
Tax Preparedness Series: Tax Records – What to Keep
Note to Editor: This is the fifth in a series of reminders to help taxpayers prepare for the upcoming tax filing season.
WASHINGTON – As tax filing season approaches, the Internal Revenue Service has information for taxpayers who wonder how long to keep tax returns and other documents.
Generally, the IRS recommends keeping copies of tax returns and supporting documents at least three years. Some documents should be kept up to seven years in case a taxpayer needs to file an amended return or if questions arise. Keep records relating to real estate up to seven years after disposing of the property.
Health care information statements should be kept with other tax records. Taxpayers do not need to send these forms to IRS as proof of health coverage. The records taxpayers should keep include records of any employer-provided coverage, premiums paid, advance payments of the premium tax credit received and type of coverage. Taxpayers should keep these – as they do other tax records – generally for three years after they file their tax returns.
Whether stored on paper or kept electronically, the IRS urges taxpayers to keep tax records safe and secure, especially any documents bearing Social Security numbers. The IRS also suggests scanning paper tax and financial records into a format that can be encrypted and stored securely on a flash drive, CD or DVD with photos or videos of valuables.
Now is a good time to set up a system to keep tax records safe and easy to find when filing next year, applying for a home loan or financial aid. Tax records must support the income, deductions and credits claimed on returns. Taxpayers need to keep these records if the IRS asks questions about a tax return or to file an amended return.
It is even more important for taxpayers to have a copy of last year’s tax return as the IRS makes changes to authenticate and protect taxpayer identity. Beginning in 2017, some taxpayers who e-file will need to enter either the prior-year Adjusted Gross Income or the prior-year self-select PIN and date of birth. If filing jointly, both taxpayers’ identities must be authenticated with this information. The AGI is clearly labeled on the tax return. Learn more at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.
Taxpayers who need tax information can request a free transcript for the past three tax years. The ‘Get Transcript’ tool on IRS.gov is the fastest way to get a transcript.
If taxpayers are still keeping old tax returns and receipts stuffed in a shoebox in the back of the closet, they might want to rethink that approach. Keep tax, financial and health records safe and secure whether stored on paper or kept electronically. When records are no longer needed for tax purposes, ensure the data is properly destroyed to prevent the information from being used by identity thieves.
If disposing of an old computer, tablet, mobile phone or back-up hard drive, keep in mind it includes files and personal data. Removing this information may require special disk utility software. More information is available on IRS.gov at How long should I keep records?.
2017 Standard Mileage Rates for Business, Medical and Moving Announced
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2017 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2017, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:
- 53.5 cents per mile for business miles driven, down from 54 cents for 2016
- 17 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down from 19 cents for 2016
- 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations
The business mileage rate decreased half a cent per mile and the medical and moving expense rates each dropped 2 cents per mile from 2016. The charitable rate is set by statute and remains unchanged. The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.
Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.
A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.
These and other requirements are described in Rev. Proc. 2010-51. Notice 2016-79, posted today on IRS.gov, contains the standard mileage rates, the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.
(IRS Newswire, Issue #IR-2016-169)