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Storing tax and other financial records

Preparing to go fulltime, Smoky Sheperd asked how other fulltimers deal with the issue of tax and other financial records that historically have been filed in bulky paper format. Several forum members replied with their practices and a few caveats.

  • Use Quicken and only keep credit card receipts. Get all brokerage documents and bank statements online in PDF or TXT format. Keep very little paper. Print the tax reports for the CPA to PDFs and combine into one PDF file for emailing.
    A word of caution about uploading personal files to any web server; They should be compressed into a zip file with encryption using Winzip or another similar progams. Be sure to use a strong password and keep it in a safe place so you don't lose it.

  • Storing PDFs from Quicken on DVD.

  • Some folks have a place where they can store limited amounts of things; In such a case, they record three years of tax information on a CD to carry with them.

  • Since 1/1/98 it is no longer necessary to maintain paper tax records. The IRS accepts what they call "machine sensible" records. There are some requirements like you not only have to have the data on a media of some sort, but must have the program to use them. For example, if you have a 2003 data file for Quicken, you must have access to the 1993 tax program that created it so they can access to use for reviewing. Other normal requirements have to do with providing an audit trail. The other thing is that records don't have to be stored more than three years after the year of filing (unless you did something fradulent) or it's some sort of investment data that requires longer record keeping.

Disclaimer: As in all matters relating to taxes and personal fianances, you should consult your tax/financial advisor for the last word.