How long should you retain tax materials?

Clients often ask how long tax-related documents should be retained. There are two IRS rules:
 The general rule is 3 years from the date of filing the return.
 The second, in the case of fraud, is 7 years from the date of filing.
However, there is another reason to retain certain documents after 3 or even 7 years:
if ever you have to prove the basis of an asset that you sell, such as your house, then you need to keep all documentation of purchase price and capital improvements for as long as you own that asset, in case you are ever audited.
This applies to any other asset that is not traded on an exchange, such as a work of art, and other objects that appreciate over time.
In the case of mutual funds and stocks, the fund or broker usually has the cost basis on record these days.

Estate tax update

As anticipated, Congress lifted the estate tax credit for 2011 from $1 million to $5 million, lowering the rate from 55% to 35%. Also, the date-of-death value again serves as the basis for estate assets. Also, the exemption is portable, viz. the un-used portion can be carried cover gifts by or the estate of the surviving spouse. Finally, the exemption will be indexed for inflation. (Estates can elect to use the 2010 rules for $1.3 million carry over basis for heirs).

There are some special rules: up to $1,020,000 of real property used for farming or business can get a discounted valuation; and when a closely held business comprises more than 35% of an estate, then as much as $476,000 of estate taxes can be deferred at a cost of 2% (charged by theirs).

In 2013, the exemption again falls back to $1 million and the rate goes back up to 55%, unless Congress again takes action.

For any 2010 estates, the retroactive action provides requires estates with a date-of-death valuation in excess of $1.3 million to file informational returns to report the carry over basis to the IRS and to heirs (as well as the $3 million for assets passing to a surviving spouse).

See more at Estate Planning.

(or contact us with your questions at Contact Us.)