When in doubt, don't throw it out!

MRSB accounting technician Bev MacLaren reminds readers of the importance of keeping those reciepts and records for when you'll need them - and you will need them

Have you heard of the Six Year Rule? The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requires you to keep copies of all business records and your personal income tax records for six years from the end of the last tax year they relate to. If you file your taxes late, it is six years from the date of filing. And the Six Year Rule is only a minimum; there are of course times when documents will need to be kept longer. You should refer to the CRA rules for specific circumstances.

Anyone who wants to destroy tax documents before the six year retention period must first complete form T137, Request for Destruction of Books and Records with CRA (yes, they have a form for that) and check with your province as each has its own form. What happens if you destroy records without gaining permission and get caught? According to CRA, you can be prosecuted for doing so.

Apart from tax forms, what should you keep in the way of receipts and documents, and for how long? You should hold on to personal records such as utility bills, property tax statements, bank statements, credit card statements and so forth for a year. Items like insurance policies, loan papers and contracts should be kept for the term of the document. You should never destroy birth certificates or wills. I recently learned myself that, if you purchase an item with a lifetime warranty, it is best to keep the receipt!

Keep your records organized and in a cool, dry place. A plastic tote is a good investment to keep out dampness and critters. If your documents have been destroyed in a disaster you should call the CRA; they have a telephone number just for this situation, which shows you just how important it is to keep documents safe.

For more details see the CRA website: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/kprc/rtntnl-eng.html