How long should you keep documents before shredding them?

To fight identity theft, experts agree that you should shred documents sooner rather than later. But, how long should you keep documents before shredding them? Here's what the experts have to say according to the "Rat Pack's Guide to Shredding"by the Federal Trade Commission:

Save forever
Keep documents related to major life events locked  securely:
  • Birth certificates or adoption papers
  • Social Security cards
  • Citizenship papers or passports
  • Marriage or divorce decrees
  • Death certificates of family members
  • Auto titles and home deeds for as long as you own the property 

Tax records
When you're making decisions about what to shred, please be careful to distinguish between “tax records” and “other records.”
  • Tax returns – Our conservative advice? It’s best to keep these forever.
  • Pay stubs – Shred them after checking them against your W-2.
  • Home improvement receipts – Keep these receipts until you sell your home, since certain expenses may reduce your capital gains tax.
  • Other tax records – like tax-related receipts and cancelled checks – Wait seven years before shredding. Why? While the IRS usually has three years to audit you, it has up to seven years under certain circumstances. 
  • If you’re unsure what tax records to keep, consult an accountant or call IRS Taxpayer Assistance at 800-829-1040.

Other records
Most experts suggest that you can shred many other documents sooner than seven years.
  • After paying credit card or utility bills, shred them immediately. 
  • Sales receipts after you are sure you won't return item, unless related to warranties, taxes, or insurance
  • Bank statements after one year
  • Medical bills after one year or as longer if insurance hasn't paid bill (unless you have an unresolved insurance dispute).   

For those who are thinking, maybe I should keep everything, just in case. . . remember that identity thieves can’t find documents you have destroyed. Destroying documents with your personal information reduces the likelihood of becoming an identity theft victim.

Rep. Winger is hosting a free "Shred Event" to help reduce the chance of your becoming a victim of  identity theft. Here is the information:

Shred Event
Saturday, July 30, 2016
9 a.m. to noon
You can bring up-to 2 boxes of paper documents to be shredded

Shredding is just one way to reduce the risk of identity theft for more information go to

Don't hesitate to contact Rep. Winger's office at 847-252-9311 for more information about the Shred Event or any other issue of importance to you.