This is an age old question for which there is no absolutely correct answer. There is no way to be exactly right, keeping something or destroying something each entails a certain amount of risk which no one can assume for you. Immediately below are my general recommendations.
These recommendations may not be appropriate for your situation. Following those recommendations are some links that might help you decide what is best for you.
Income Tax Records:
Generally, I recommend seven years from the date of the tax year in question if the returns were filed on time. That covers the statute of limitations for grossly understated taxes (more than 25%) The problem is that the statute doesn’t start to run until the return is filed. In serious cases of fraud the statute doesn’t start to run until the fraud is discovered. If you are confident that the IRS has accepted your returns then you can safely destroy all supporting tax documents three years after the returns are filed. There are special rules for documents relating to worthless stock, bad debts, and employment records.
Keep what you need to support your tax returns (see above) and destroy the rest.
IRA Contribution Records:
Probably forever (until the account is closed) if you make a contribution to a ROTH IRA.
Retirement Plan Statements:
Keep the quarterly statements for one year then replace them with the annual statement. Keep the annual statements until you close the account.
Keep them until you receive your W-2 and compare them to the W-2 for accuracy then destroy.
Real Estate and Other Property Records:
Keep purchase and mortgage documents for at least seven years after you have sold the property.
Credit Card Statements and Receipts:
I would keep any receipt that support your tax returns for seven years and the same for the corresponding statements. However, once I had satisfied myself that the credit card statement is correct and not needed for tax purposes I recommend shredding both.
General Bills and Receipts:
Review your saved bills and receipts annually, you may want to shred any that you don’t need for tax reporting. However, it is a good idea to keep bills that support purchase dates for warranty service or big ticket items in case you need to prove their cost for insurance.
One Size Does Not Fit All:
As you can see, how long you keep your records depends on your individual situation. No matter which records you destroy, it is important to completely destroy those records to protect your credit by avoiding identity theft.
To learn more about your personal situation consult your CPA and read more at the links below:
Scott A Mitchem CPA, CVA, CFE
Director of Valuation and Litigation Services
Price Kong & Company