Which Documents to Save and Which Documents to Shred

Jan 13, 2022

Learn which documents to save and which documents to shred, tax timelines, and more!

Since we’re spending so much more time at home nowadays, it’s important to keep your affairs in order. 

If you’re one of the 25% of Americans who work from home, it might be difficult to keep everything in your desk straight. 

Purging unnecessary documents can help clean up your office space and help you get organized faster! 

But how do you know which documents to save and which documents to shred?
We’ve put together this simple guide help you know which documents to save and which documents to shred.

Let’s dive in!

Which Documents to Save and Which Documents to Shred

What to Save

Knowing what documents to save is just as important as knowing which ones to shred. While many of the documents that end up in file cabinets will eventually being obsolete, these important documents should NEVER be shredded:

  • Social security cards
  • Birth certificates
  • Proof of citizenship (naturalization papers, Green cards, etc.)
  • Licenses
  • Adoption papers
  • Wills 
  • Trust papers
  • Power of attorney papers 
  • Passports 
  • Military personal ID cards
  • Marriage or divorce papers
  • Appraisals for high-ticket jewelry, antiques, art, etc.)
  • Deeds
  • Financial account information
  • Documentation of disability status
  • Documentation of government benefits or assistance 
  • Vehicle registration 
  • Investment records

These documents should be safeguarded in a lockbox or safe to help prevent identity theft. 

What to Shred

Now that we’ve gotten through the list of things you can’t shred, let’s talk about the things you can. Don’t start putting everything that’s left into the shred pile just yet! While there are a lot of documents and personal-information containing files you can shred, there are certain timelines that need to be followed. 

What you can shred immediately 

  • Junk mail
  • Credit card offers
  • (Paid) Bills 
  • Receipts
  • Withdrawal receipts from ATM’s
  • Pharmacy Rx prescription labels 

After one year

After one year you can shred:

  • Paystubs
  • Brokerage statements

After three years

The IRS recommends that you hang on to your tax-related documents for at least 3 years from the date you filed. It’s important to keep all income-reporting documents such as:

  • W-2s 
  • 1099s, 
  • 1098s
  • Canceled checks
  • Charitable contributions 

In addition you’ll want to keep any documents that note a contribution to tax-deductible retirement accounts like a Roth IRA or withdrawals from health savings or college-savings accounts. 

This 3 year window is important because that’s how long the statute of limitations is for submitting taxes (or for the IRS to tell you you owe more).

There are, of course, certain scenarios where this timeline is pushed back. For example, if you’ve failed to report at least 25% of your income or are self-employed, you should keep your records for a minute of 6 years (this is the amount of time the IRS has to audit you if this is the case). You can read the IRS’s rules for filing here

Why at-home shredding doesn’t cut it

Now that you have a comprehensive list of which documents to save and which documents to shred, you might be tempted to go out and buy a shredder to get everything done away with. 

Don’t do this!

While at-home shredders can definitely make information more difficult to piece together, they’re not secure or effective at completely destroying your information. 

Strips of paper can easily be plucked out of the garbage and pieced back together. 

When you opt for mobile shredding services with Lemay, you are guaranteed destruction from a National Association of Information Destruction-certified employee.

You even get a certificate to prove it!

Shredding with a mobile shredding company is easy and secure. Our services render your information completely unusable, making sure you private information stays private. 
Visit our one-time purge page to learn more about the shredding services we can offer you!