paper shredder tax season

Profect against identity theft with a paper shredder while doing your 2012 taxes

It’s almost time to file your taxes! In the United States, tax return season runs from January 1 – April 15 in 2013. Be prepared and protect your identity during this crucial time by shredding sensitive documents while filing your tax returns. Even if you believe your past paperwork is too old, outdated or insignificant, any personal information that ties back to your identity can be used by thieves. W2 forms, specific tax related forms such as 1040 or 1040A, and any other receipts, statements, and invoices have your personal information and should be eliminated after filing.

Your name, address, social security number and income numbers are plainly displayed and should only be viewed by authorized personnel, such as the IRS. Identity thieves know that this is a prime time to collect your information and up their efforts to rummage trash for old forms, receipts and invoices. This is the best time to shred all of your financial or personal information and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

You were probably saving your pay stubs, receipts and statements all year in preparation for your taxes. While you’re collecting the previous year’s paperwork, why not use the time to shred older papers and documents you may have stored away? You will likely bring up your storage of old documents, statements, invoices and forms from past filing seasons.

There are many benefits to shredding your old documents while doing your taxes:

  • •  Save time as you sift through outdated documents and keep your important files up-to-date
  • •  Free up current space and save storage space
  • •  Easier organization and even easier to find what you need
  • •  Unclutter cabinets for a head start on your spring cleaning 

The IRS suggests keeping documents that support your tax returns for at least three years in the event of an unexpected audit. However, if you’re absolutely sure the threat of an audit has passed, or you’re confident that you’ve done your taxes accurately and reported all income, keep a copy of that year’s tax return and shred everything you used to reference the return.

ATM receipts, credit card statements, business invoices, write-offs, paycheck stubs, bank statements, investment records, insurance policies and big purchase warranties can all be safely shredded after you no longer need the information for that year’s filing.

These days, you do not need paper versions of your receipts and forms. The IRS accepts electronic versions, so scan what you need and keep them safe in a USB flash drive or another secure virtual storage box. Banks offer online statements, and you can download applications directly from the IRS’ website if necessary.

In the event your house is destroyed, having digital backups become invaluable, and when kept off-site (such as with a trusted party out of state or in a safety deposit box) you have little fear of your information being intercepted or simply picked apart with a paper trail.

Documents that do require a paper version include birth, death and marriage certificates, documents related to home ownership, wills, powers of attorney, business agreements, and divorce or child care orders, to name a few. Do not make additional paper copies – however, if you do, make sure the copies are shredded as soon as you don’t need them. Tax season is a good time to look over what can be safely disposed.

Ensure your personal and financial information’s security and use a high quality micro-cut or cross-cut shredder right after filing your taxes. Micro-cut and cross-cut shredders cut paper into multiple pieces, rendering it impossible for a thief to re-assemble. Keep one at home and well-maintained for years of security and protection from identity theft. Unclutter your space, save time and gain peace of mind this tax season with a smart investment on a quality paper shredder.