Which receipts should I keep for taxes? | SimplyWise

Tax season can be a stressful time for many individuals and businesses. One of the keys to a smooth tax-filing experience is keeping meticulous records of your financial transactions. Receipts play a crucial role in this process, helping you substantiate your income, expenses, and deductions when you file your tax return. But which receipts should you keep for taxes? In this article, we will explore the types of receipts you should save for accurate and compliant tax reporting.

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Which Receipts to Keep for Taxes

Income-Related Receipts

1. W-2 and 1099 Forms

These documents detail your earned income, such as wages, salaries, bonuses, and freelance earnings. Keep copies of these forms, as they are essential for reporting your income accurately.

2. Bank Statements

Maintain copies of bank statements showing interest income, dividends, and other financial transactions that contribute to your total income.

Receipts for Deductions

1. Charitable Contribution Receipts

If you make cash or non-cash donations to qualified charitable organizations, save the receipts, acknowledgment letters, or emails you receive. These records are essential for claiming deductions.

2. Medical Expense Receipts

It’s hard to know which medical receipts to keep for taxes. In general, you should hold onto bills, invoices, and receipts for medical expenses, including doctor visits, prescription medications, and medical equipment. You may be eligible for deductions when these expenses exceed a certain threshold.

3. Business Expense Receipts 

If you are self-employed or own a business, maintain receipts for all business-related expenses, such as office supplies, travel, advertising, and equipment.

4. Education Expense Records 

Keep documentation for educational expenses, including tuition payments, textbooks, and student loan interest paid.

Investment Records

Save brokerage statements, records of investment transactions, and any documentation related to capital gains or losses. These records are crucial when reporting investment income or losses.

Homeownership and Real Estate Records

For homeowners, maintain records related to your property, such as mortgage interest statements, property tax records, and receipts for home improvement expenses.

Copies of Tax Returns

Keep copies of your filed tax returns, including all supporting schedules and documents, for at least three years. The IRS can audit your return within this timeframe.

Other Supporting Documentation

Maintain detailed records for all deductions you plan to claim on your tax return. This may include mileage logs for business travel, records of home office expenses, and any other documents justifying your deductions.

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In conclusion, proper record-keeping is vital for accurate and compliant tax reporting. While there isn’t a universal minimum receipt requirement, maintaining organized and itemized receipts is the key to substantiating your financial claims. Being diligent in saving the right receipts will help you navigate tax season with confidence and peace of mind, and you should consider making use of a receipt scanning app to digitize and store all of this important paperwork for you.

If you have specific tax questions or concerns, consulting with a tax professional is always a wise step to ensure you’re following the most up-to-date guidelines and regulations.


How do I categorize/organize my tax receipts?

Categorizing and organizing your tax receipts is essential for efficient tax preparation and filing. By creating a well-structured system, you can easily access the necessary documents, reduce stress during tax season, and potentially maximize your deductions. Here are steps to help you categorize and organize your tax receipts effectively:

  1. Gather All Receipts: Collect all your receipts, financial documents, and tax-related paperwork. These include W-2s, 1099s, bank statements, bills, invoices, and any records of transactions, such as charitable contributions, medical expenses, or business expenses. Even if you’re not sure which of these receipts to keep for taxes, you may want to save it just in case its helpful when the time comes!

  2. Create Categories: Identify categories relevant to your tax situation. Common categories include:

    • Income: W-2s, 1099s, bank statements, and other documents showing income.
    • Deductions: Charitable contributions, medical expenses, business expenses, education expenses, etc.
    • Investments: Records of stock transactions, brokerage statements, and capital gains/losses.
    • Homeownership: Mortgage interest statements, property tax records, and home improvement receipts.
    • Tax Forms: Tax returns, copies of past tax returns, and any related forms or schedules.
    • Miscellaneous: Any other documents or receipts that pertain to your tax situation.
  3. Label Folders or Envelopes: Use folders, envelopes, or digital folders for each category. Label them clearly, so you can easily sort and locate documents. For digital organization, consider creating folders on your computer or cloud storage for each category.

  4. Sort and File: Go through your receipts and place them in the corresponding category folders. Make sure each document is correctly filed, and consider arranging them in chronological order to further simplify the process.

  5. Use Digital Tools: Consider using a receipt scanning app to digitize and store your receipts electronically. There are several receipt scanning apps and software that can help you convert paper receipts into digital files. Check out this guide for choosing the best receipt scanner for your needs!

  6. Review and Update Regularly: Consistently review and update your organization system throughout the year as you receive new receipts and documents. This will help you stay on top of your record-keeping and reduce the stress of tax season.

By implementing these steps, you’ll have a well-organized system to keep your tax receipts in order. This organization will not only simplify the tax-filing process but also ensure you’re well-prepared for any potential audits or inquiries from tax authorities.

Do I need to keep paper receipts?

The need to keep paper receipts for tax and financial records depends on your individual preferences, record-keeping habits, and the specific requirements of your tax situation. While the IRS accepts digital records and electronic documentation, having paper receipts can provide additional assurance and backup. Here are some considerations to help you decide whether to keep paper receipts:

  1. Digital Record-Keeping: In recent years, the IRS has increasingly accepted digital records, including scanned or photographed receipts, as evidence for tax purposes. You can maintain a digital archive of your receipts using a receipt scanning 

  2. Audit Preparedness: While the IRS generally accepts digital records, having physical paper receipts can be especially useful in case of an audit. A paper trail can provide tangible evidence and help you substantiate your claims.

  3. Ease of Retrieval: Paper receipts can be quick to locate and provide a tangible reference for your financial transactions. Some people find it easier to access and review paper records than digital files.

  4. Specific Requirements: Certain tax deductions or expenses may require original paper documentation, particularly for real estate transactions, large donations, or some business expenses. It’s essential to check specific requirements related to your tax situation to determine which receipts to keep for taxes.

So while you are not required to keep paper receipts for most tax purposes, it’s a good practice to have a backup of your financial records, whether in paper or digital form to keep for taxes.

Can I use credit card/bank statements as receipts?

Credit card and bank statements can be valuable supporting documents for tax purposes, but they are not always considered receipts in the traditional sense. While the IRS generally accepts credit card and bank statements as evidence of financial transactions, it’s important to understand when and how they can be used in place of traditional receipts to keep for taxes:

  1. For Deductions and Expenses:

    • Credit card and bank statements can be used to provide a record of expenses. These statements show the date, the payee (vendor or business), and the transaction amount, which can be sufficient to support certain deductions.
  2. Substantiating Deductions:

    • When you use a credit card or make electronic payments, the corresponding credit card or bank statement can help substantiate deductions. For example, if you paid for a business expense or made a charitable contribution with your credit card, the statement can demonstrate the transaction.
  3. Limitations:

    • It’s important to note that credit card and bank statements might not provide the same level of detail as receipts. Some expenses may require more detailed documentation, such as itemized invoices or receipts that indicate the nature of the expense.

While credit card and bank statements can be used to substantiate expenses and deductions in some cases, they are most effective when combined with other forms of documentation, such as itemized receipts. This is why it’s so important to know which receipts to keep for taxes – it’s crucial to maintain organized financial records and retain the relevant documentation for tax reporting. 

How often should you organize daily/weekly/monthly?

Daily: If you deal with a high volume of financial transactions, such as running a business, managing rental properties, or freelancing, you might find it most efficient to organize receipts daily. This ensures that you stay on top of your record-keeping and don’t become overwhelmed.

Weekly: For individuals with moderate financial activity or regular expenses, setting aside time each week to organize your receipts can be a good balance. This frequency allows you to maintain a consistent record-keeping routine.

Monthly: If your financial transactions are relatively simple and infrequent, organizing receipts on a monthly basis may suffice. This can work well for salaried employees with limited deductions, for example.

Upon Receipt: Some people prefer to organize receipts immediately upon receiving them. This approach minimizes the risk of losing or misplacing receipts and simplifies the overall record-keeping process.

Ultimately, the key is to be consistent in your approach. No matter the frequency, it’s essential to have a dedicated system for organizing and categorizing the receipts to keep for taxes.

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