How long to keep your tax return.

Learn how long to keep tax returns and why digitizing them is a safer way to store your documents.

We all know how important it is to save your tax returns, but the question remains … how long should you actually keep tax documents? This article explains for how long and why you should archive tax returns and the best way to do so.

What does the IRS say?

The IRS recommends individual taxpayers keep tax return documents for three years. Small business owners and self-employed people should archive them twice as long, or six years.

If you own a larger company, the IRS recommends you hold onto your documents for a longer time — or even indefinitely in some cases. In general, the safest bet is to keep your documents for at least seven years.

Why save tax documents?

Keeping tax documents is important in case of an IRS audit. You’ll need your tax returns to back up your claims about both paid and owed taxes.

You may also need to show tax documentation when applying for a mortgage, a large loan, or student aid. Old tax returns are also useful references when amending tax returns or filing taxes in the future.

How to archive tax returns.

The easiest way to keep your tax records is to digitize them into PDFs. Digital files can’t burn down, get wet, or be lost. Save them both locally and on a reliable online file storage platform, and your documents should be good for years to come.

You can digitize paper documents with a scanner or a mobile photo scanning app, such as Adobe Scan. Once you’ve done so, you should organize your PDFs properly. To find them quickly, merge related documents into one PDF file and compress your large PDFs for easier sharing.

You can do these organizing tasks with a PDF editing software, like Adobe Acrobat DC, or with Acrobat online services. Find out more about how to work with PDFs online.

Discover everything Acrobat DC can do to compress, organize, and share PDFs.