Receipts and bills are commonly issued by service and utility providers as an acknowledgement towards payment of dues and charges by you. Some recurring bills and receipts go on piling up in heaps every month. Many people are actually confused with how long they need to keep these bills and receipts and so, they go on retaining them for years together. Suddenly they realize that, the receipt pile is occupying a major part of their drawer or filing cabinet. This space could have otherwise been used for storing other documents. Well, my article will help you deal with this very problem. Read on...
Valid Duration of Receipts and Bills
Gas and Electricity Bills
These documents make for a good proof of payment as well as proof of address. If there are any kinds of disputes pertaining to these bills, they ideally get solved in less than a year's time. However, I suggest that these bills should be retained by you for not more than 2 years at a time.
Credit Card Bills
Credit card payment bills and receipts can usually be disposed off within a period of 50 days to 3 years time. These bills are important if you can expect a rebate on the bills from your organization in the next few years. Make sure to keep a copy of the payment check along with the receipt.
Bills for Purchases
There are numerous number of purchases that you make throughout the year. E.g. jewelry, home appliances, cars, etc. As far as vehicles are concerned, these receipts clearly state the purchase value and therefore can be of use at the time of depreciating the asset. For items like jewelry, such bills are crucially important in case your jewelry gets stolen. They are essential for submitting jewelry valuation report to insurance companies. I suggest that you retain these bills along with the guarantee or warranty cards for as long as you hold these assets in your possession.
Insurance Premium Payment Receipts
These receipts are one of the most crucial documents of your investment portfolio. Ideally, you need to keep these receipts and copies of payment checks permanently. On rare occasions, when your policy lapses or expires, retain the papers for another couple of years just in case you can revive the policy.
Rent Receipts and Home Purchase Documents
All payment receipts received by you when purchasing a new house should be retained permanently. These documents act as proof of payment and ownership of your house. If however, you happen to have a rented apartment, you need to maintain the rent receipts along with your rental agreement for maximum of 6 years. Maintain your purchase or sale agreements and apartment rental agreements permanently.
IRA stands for Individual Retirement Accounts. Any receipt pertaining to these contributions should be maintained by you permanently.
The Internal Revenue Services (IRS) usually hold audits for short tax payments within a span of three years from the actual payment year. Similarly, the IRS authorities might check your tax returns filing within a span of five to six years on suspected underreporting of your annual income. In such a case, it is ideal to maintain your tax payment receipts along with a copy of your tax returns for a period of at least 6 years.
Home Loan Receipts
These receipts are ideally to be maintained permanently along with your bank loan confirmation document and house purchase agreement.
Simplifying the Maintenance Process
Most of you realize the importance of these receipts and bills and yet view their maintenance as time-consuming and boring activity. Here are few simple ways to keep your filing cabinet in order.
- Yes! Reserving a cabinet or a specific drawer for filing purpose is essential. It helps you to keep a track of your important files all the time. In case of any emergencies like a fire, you might run to this cabinet and just pick up all the files and folders in one shot and carry them away to a safe place.
- If you have never done this maintenance ever before, then segregate your pile of receipts and bills as per their nature. E.g. all credit card receipts should be stacked together and same goes for other receipts too. Now segregate these receipts chronologically. Pin up receipts for a particular year along with copies of every payment check.
- Buy some piano-styled folders with multiple compartments that go for different types of bills. Now place the segregated bills in separate sections as per their nature and tag the compartments appropriately. E.g. in a folder earmarked for year 2010, use one compartment just for credit card bills and the compartment next to it for utility bills.
- Make separate files for major assets like houses or vehicles. Place all documents pertaining to their purchases and consequent payment like rent receipts in their chronological order.
- Try to retain soft copies of certain important documents like tax return receipts and payment checks before you destroy them.
The above suggestions will not only help you put your documents in order, but will also help you recover them when they are wanted urgently. You might have to take time off from your schedule once in a while to place fresh receipts in these files whenever you get them. Also, make sure to check and clear your files annually for those documents which are not required to be maintained anymore. Sounds easy isn't it?