With April 15th – Tax Day – fast approaching, many of us are either starting or preparing to start filing our tax returns. The process of completing taxes alone can be stressful, but for many folks, the stress continues well after the returns are on their way to the government. Your tax returns contain some of the most personal information you’ll ever possess: your Social Security Number, your address, and your payment records are only a few examples.
No matter whether you do your own taxes or you have them completed by someone else, the task still falls to you to ensure the safety of your own personal records. But what’s the best way to go about it?
Today, we’ll walk through a few essential pieces of advice to keep your tax records, both past and present, safe and out of the hands of those who might misuse the information. Don’t worry; we know people keep both physical and digital copies, so we’ll address strategies to protect both.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Keep Copies of Completed Returns – And Keep Them Secure
Generally speaking, you’ll need to hang onto your copies of completed tax returns for at least three years after you file them. This is done in case you need to reference them for future taxes or if the government has any further questions about your submitted return. The IRS has a more detailed guide on specific circumstances in which you may need to retain them longer.
However, not all methods of storage are as effective. If you’re keeping paper copies of your tax returns (and yes, you should be), you need to keep them in a secure location, such as a safe or a locking drawer. The idea is to ensure that only you can access them and that they’ll be inaccessible should anyone else gain unauthorized access to the room in which they’re kept.
Make a Back-Up of Electronic Files
Tax records can be pretty bulky, especially when they pile up over several years. In this case, you may decide to keep electronic records instead by scanning the documents into image files, or you may decide to file online, in which case your records will be electronic right from the offset. However your records came to be digitized, they – like paper records – will require protection and secure storage.
First and foremost, you should always make a secure, electronic backup of your files. In the event that your computer malfunctions, is hacked, or is damaged beyond recovery, your backup will ensure that you’ll still have access to your tax records when you need them. You should also make sure that your digital files are properly encrypted to prevent casual access.
Protect Old Tax Records With A Purge Shredding Service
After you’ve kept your tax records for as long as you need, you’ll likely be looking forward to getting rid of them. However, you may have other extraneous documents from this year’s filing as well. Perhaps you printed out copies of your return to scribble and take notes on before filling out your final form. Maybe you have copies of your pay stubs that had coffee spilled on them and therefore were inappropriate to send off. Either way, you’re likely to have paper documents hovering around the house that contain your personally identifiable information (PII).
You must never, ever toss these documents into your trash can as-is.
We understand this may sound dramatic, but we cannot understate the damage that can be done if a thief gets hold of your tax information from your trash can. From claiming benefits in your name to faking their way into your bank accounts, the damage can take years and cost thousands of dollars to undo.
Instead, have your documents professionally destroyed by a one-time purge shredding service. Services like these can come directly to your place of residence and perform the shredding on-site, so you can verify that each page has been properly processed.
The services aren’t exclusive to paper documents, either – hard drives and other forms of e-media can also be processed through a purge shredding service, and the remnants will be recycled after the shredding concludes. Plus, a one-time shredding service ensures that you only pay for the service you need without having to commit to a long-term contract.
How to Request Purge Shredding Services
Making an appointment for a purge shredding service is as easy as picking up the phone. At A-1 Arizona, we’ll ask how many papers you have to shred, as well as whether or not there are any hard drives or e-media that need to be destroyed, and we’ll consult with you to determine the perfect date for your shredding appointment.
On that day, we’ll dispatch one of our state-of-the-art shredding trucks to your location. Our uniformed technician will collect your items and deposit them directly into the mobile shredding mechanism. Once the shredding is complete, you’ll be provided with a Certificate of Destruction to affirm that your items were destroyed in full compliance with the latest state and federal privacy regulations.
For more information on our purge shredding services, call our office at (602) 759-5103. You can also send us a message online.