BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Three million Americans annually report tax identity theft and the IRS has paid out an estimated $5 billion in fraudulent returns for a single year. While cyber attacks pose a major threat, not all attackers are found online. They can sift through trash and recycling bins to hunt for personal information, such as a name, address, or Social Security number. This information can be used to file fraudulent tax returns.
To help prevent this personal information getting into the wrong hands, H&R Block will host a free shred event in Baton Rouge on Saturday, April 1 from 1- 4 p.m. at 9540-4 Cortana Plaza. H&R Block will offer advice on which documents to keep and for how long.
"Tax and other financial documents contain some of your most important information. We are committed to protecting personal data ourselves and helping taxpayers protect their own information," said James Beason, district general manager at H&R Block. "This shred event is the perfect opportunity not only for taxpayers to safeguard their own information, but to learn best practices and other ways to protect themselves from tax identity theft."
During tax season, taxpayers often question what tax and financial documents they should shred, discard, or keep.
"The good news is that taxpayers usually need to keep only a few types of documents indefinitely," said Beason. These can include records of business income and expenses for as long as you own the business, property sales that resulted in net-operating or capital losses and records of home improvements or other expenditures that establish basis in a home.
Taxpayers should keep most of their tax-related documents for at least three years. Three years from the return due date is generally the time frame a tax return is open for review and a taxpayer could need to substantiate information on the tax return. This kind of information may include:
- Proof of charitable contributions
- Bank statements
- Printed pay stubs
- Utility bills
- Brokerage statements
- Medical and dental expense receipts
- W-2s, 1099s, and other information documents
- Tax-reporting statements like property or real estate taxes
- Closing Disclosure statements (or HUD-1 for older sales)
- Mortgage statements
- 1095s and certificates of exemption from the Affordable Care Act
- Retirement savings annual reports
- Annual brokerage statements
Taxpayers should save their tax returns a minimum of three years, but there are good reasons to save them longer than that. For example, if it has business schedules (such as Schedule C) or other information they may want to refer to in the future.
"Ultimately, whether or not you keep supporting documents, and how long you keep them, depends on whether you used them for your tax return or need them for other purposes," said Beason. "For instance, if you're not deducting rental expenses or claiming a home office deduction, you probably don't need to save utility bills."
Taxpayers should keep these tax records and supporting financial documents safe. They can do so with MyBlock, H&R Block's mobile tax app, which has bank-level encryption technology, multi-layer authentication, and other important safeguards. MyBlock users can also get free access to tax advice and year-round planning tools, prepare their taxes online, and schedule an appointment at a local H&R Block office.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 225-201-1040.