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A Guide to Basic Planning Documents
The basic planning documents your parents (and you) should have.

  • A will. The executor should know where it is and how to get it.
  • Some people may need a revocable living trust instead of a simple will. This document allows you to avoid the cost and delay of probate court.
  • Durable financial power of attorney. This lets someone manage finances when the signer can't. The document can be written so it's immediately active or so it goes into effect if the person is incapacitated.
  • Health care power of attorney. It gives someone the authority to make medical decisions on the parents' behalf if he or she can't.
  • Declaration of desire for a natural death, or living will. This document spells out how the person wants to be medically treated in the event they have a terminal condition or are in a persistent vegetative state.
  • A document listing financial advisors and the places the person has money - banks, brokerage accounts, insurance policies - along with contact names, phone numbers and account numbers. A copy should be with the will, and the executor of the estate should know where it is.
  • A description of wishes for burial and a funeral.
  • A list of personal possessions and who should get what. If want this to be binding, include it in the will.

Record Retention Guidelines
These general guidelines are presented for information purposes only and should be used in conjunction with professional advice.

Note the retention period begins after the original or amended tax return is filed.

FOR BUSINESSES

Accounting Records

  • Accounts payable ledgers - 7 years
  • Accounts receivable ledgers - 7 years
  • Audit reports - Permanent
  • Chart of accounts - Permanent
  • Depreciation schedules - Permanent
  • Expense records - 7 years
  • Financial statements (annual) - Permanent
  • Fixed asset purchases - Permanent
  • General ledger - Permanent
  • Inventory records - 7 years
  • Invoices paid - 7 years
  • Loan payment schedules - 7 years
  • Purchase orders (1 copy) - 7 years
  • Sales records - 7 years
  • Tax returns - Permanent
  • Trial Balance - Permanent

 

Bank Records and Business Records

  • Bank reconciliations - 7 years
  • Bank statements - 7 years
  • Board minutes - Permanent
  • Business licenses - Permanent
  • Bylaws - Permanent
  • Canceled checks - 7 years
  • Contracts (major ) - Permanent
  • Contracts (minor) - Life + 4 years
  • Electronic payment records - 7 years
  • Insurance policies - Life + 3 years
  • Leases / notes payable / mortgages - Life + 7 years
  • Member / LLC transaction records - Permanent
  • Partner / partnership transaction records - Permanent
  • Patents / trademarks - Permanent
  • Shareholder / company transaction records - Permanent
  • Shareholder records - Permanent
  • Stock registers & transactions - Permanent

 

Employee Records

  • Accident reports / claims (settled cases) - 7 years
  • Benefit plans - Permanent
  • Employee files - 7 years after employment ends
  • Employment applications - 4 years
  • Employment taxes - 7 years
  • Payroll records (incl. withholding information) - 7 years
  • Pension / profit sharing plans - Permanent
  • Time sheets / cards - 7 years

 

Real Property Records

  • Construction records - Permanent
  • Leasehold improvements - Permanent
  • Lease payment records - Life + 4 years
  • Real estate purchases - Permanent

 


 

FOR INDIVIDUALS

If you did not file a return or filed a fraudulent return, all records should be kept indefinitely.

Accounting Records

  • 1099s - 7 years
  • Bank deposit slips - 7 years
  • Bank statements - 7 years
  • Canceled checks supporting tax deductions - 7 years
  • Charitable contribution documentation - 7 years
  • Credit card statements - 3 years
  • Dividend reinvestment records - Ownership period + 7 years
  • Divorce Documents - Permanent
  • Estate planning documents - Permanent
  • Home improvement receipts and canceled checks - Ownership period + 7 years
  • Home purchase documents - Ownership period + 7 years
  • Home repairs receipts and canceled checks - Ownership period + 7 years
  • Insurance policies - Life of policy + 3 years (** Check with your agent - liability can vary)
  • Investment property purchase - Ownership period + 7 years
  • Investment purchase and sales slips - Ownership period + 7 years
  • IRA annual reports - Permanent
  • IRA nondeductible contributions Form 8606 - Permanent
  • Loans - Term of loan + 7 years
  • Member / LLC transaction records - Permanent
  • Mutual fund annual statements - Ownership period + 7 years
  • Partner / partnership transaction records - Permanent
  • Receipts, diaries, logs pertaining to tax return - 7 years
  • Retirement plan annual report - Permanent
  • Shareholder / company transaction records - Permanent
  • Tax returns (all others) - Permanent
  • Tax returns (uncomplicated) - 7 years
  • W-2s - 7 years
  • Year-end brokerage statements - Ownership period + 7 years

 


 

COMPUTERIZED RECORDS

Generally, record retention periods are the same for computerized records as for hard copy documents. However, computerized records should be stored in a format that can be easily accessed. Since technology changes rapidly, this may require upgrading these records to a more current media. Preserving the records so the data cannot be changed should also be considered. For example, store the records as a PDF file instead of a Word or Excel file.

Keep off-site backups of all important computer files and update those frequently. Otherwise, any disaster that damages your computer will damage your backups as well.

Events Calendar
The interactive calendar highlights federal and state tax due dates, special firm events and other important dates that may be of interest to you. Because the calendar is continually updated, check back often to keep track of filing requirements, deadlines and other events that will help you stay current and up-to-date.

Client Tax Organizer
A tax organizer can facilitate the process of pulling together your tax information. This basic tax organizer is designed for new clients and allows you to enter your information right on the screen. You can then print the completed tax organizer and fax or mail it to the office. Current clients should contact the office to request a "proforma" tax organizer that includes prior year information and carryover data.

Federal Tax Forms & IRS Publications
Looking for a federal tax form? Browse this online tax forms library to find downloadable IRS forms. The forms are presented in PDF format and are acceptable for filing with the IRS. You may also choose from dozens of helpful tax publications developed by the IRS to help taxpayers have a better understanding of various tax issues. Available in PDF format, these publications are written in a plain language format geared specifically to taxpayers.