What financial records you need to keep and how to organise them
21 Feb 2019
A quick guide to organising your financial paperwork
With Marie Kondo’s books and TV shows riding high in the charts, it feels as though everyone’s talking about the joys of decluttering and tidying up.
But when you’re drowning in a sea of old bank statements, utility bills and receipts, it can be difficult to know where to make a start.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a global lifestyle guru to make a positive change. Even making some simple changes can put you on track to taming your paperwork and:
- make it easier to find what you need at tax time
- help your loved ones find documents easily if something happens
- find important documents in an emergency.
What financial records and paperwork do you need to keep?
This is the fun bit…it’s time to start throwing stuff away.
So be ruthless. But there are some bits of paper that you should hang on to.
Anything you need for your tax return…
- Payments you’ve received such as wages, interest, dividends and rental income
- Expenses related to income such as work-related outgoings or rental repairs
- Sale or purchase of assets such as property or shares
- Donations, contributions or gifts to charities
- Private health insurance
- Medical expenses, both your own and those of any dependants.
You need to keep these documents for five years after you lodge your tax return in case you’re asked to substantiate your claims. And it’s a good idea to keep your Notice of Tax Assessments for five years as well.
…anything related to property you own…
- Property deeds
- Mortgage papers
- Renovation approvals
- Warranties relating to work undertaken.
…and some other important bits of paper
- Tax file numbers
- Powers of attorney
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Immunisation records
- Current insurance policies
- Current superannuation documents
- Loan documents
- Vehicle registration
- Vehicle service history
- Business registrations
What financial records and paperwork can you throw away?
There are some documents you can toss. As a rule, once a document has been replaced by a newer version, it’s safe to dispose of the older copy. And let’s face it, do you really need that electricity bill from your old house back in 2014?
There’s also no need to hang on to credit card receipts once you’ve reconciled them against your bank statements, unless they’re needed for warranties.
You should probably keep hold of credit card and bank statements for a year but you can throw away other household paperwork like utility bills.
Four quick steps to organising your paperwork
Congratulations! You’ve finally taken a wrecking ball to the mountain of paperwork, the shredder bin is full and you’re feeling pretty good.
But you’re only halfway there. You need to put a system in place to avoid creating yet another mountain.
1. Protect yourself
Financial documents can contain sensitive personal information so it’s not a good idea to simply throw them in the bin. Buying a shredder or using a document disposal company should keep your details safe against identity theft.
2. Go digital
Many companies are moving towards electronic statements to help you reduce your paperwork and give the environment a boost at the same time! You can also make electronic versions of your old documents with a scanning app such as CamScanner, Genius Scan or Scannable.
3. Think files and folders
Whether you choose to keep paper or electronic copies, it’s a good idea to have a filing system with physical or electronic folders and labels to remind you how long to keep them for. Record-keeping apps like Evernote or Sign-N-Send can help.
4. Back it up
Think about storing important documents in a fireproof safe or offsite in a safety deposit box. For extra security, you can back up online files on an external hard drive or a cloud-based solution.
While you’re at it…
Organising your paperwork also presents the ideal opportunity to review your financial commitments.
A financial adviser can help you find ways to get on top of your finances.