Hard Questions for a Paperless Life.
June 26, 2008 5:21 PM   Subscribe

I want to go paperless. What should I keep an original hardcopy of?

I just bought a new Fujitsu ScanSnap S300m to get rid of the massive clutter of documents and filing cabinets in my apartment. I live a semi-mobile life and would like to get to the point of only keeping the most important documents around in hardcopy, with everything else scored digitally. However, I am unsure what I can throw away (after scanning them) and what I have to keep.

1. Should I still keep a hard copy of retail store receipts, PG&E bills, or gym membership receipts?

2. What must I absolutely, positively not throw away? (Aside from social security cards and birth certificates)

posted by Spurious to Work & Money (9 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Anything tax-related. I put all my tax-related receipts, w2s, copies of documents as-filed, etc. in folders by year. I believe you can be audited for 10 years, so throw out anything from 1997.

You don't need to keep any receipts except
a) anything with a discrepancy that you're contesting,
b) anything that you might want to return or need to prove a warranty, or
c) anything house-improvement related (if you own) because supposedly you can get some sort of tax writeoff if you have these when you sell the house. Not for tools and studfinders, but for anything that stays in the house permanently, like lumber.
posted by GardenGal at 5:39 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would think that anything with a signature on it ought to be kept in the original.
posted by JohnFredra at 5:40 PM on June 26, 2008

Unclutterer had a great series on going paperless a few months ago.

More advice from Get Rich Slowly.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 6:01 PM on June 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Off the top of my head: Contracts. Anything tax-related. Anything medical-records-related. Anything you use as identification.

Don't throw away your tax stuff just because you can't be audited anymore. If the government makes a mistake twenty years from now (say, on your social security, or they just randomly think you never paid taxes for some past year), you'll want to have the paperwork to prove they're wrong.

Why are you keeping receipts for gym memberships, retail store purchases, etc.? I mean, at all? Unless it's for a warranty or you're planning to deduct it on your taxes or something, throw that shit away. Well, keep it until you get your credit card statement, if you put it on credit, just in case of discrepancies, but you don't need to hold onto it in your files.
posted by joannemerriam at 6:27 PM on June 26, 2008

Diplomas. Deeds.
posted by Wet Spot at 6:52 PM on June 26, 2008

And, for most purposes, just *having* the document will suffice. More often than not, these kinds of disputes involve you faxing a document to someone else. Nothing wrong with faxing a copy. So, scan everything and throw them into storage. They are functionally out of your life, but do exist if you need them.
posted by gjc at 7:25 PM on June 26, 2008

See also, perhaps, a previous AskMe question on saving receipts along with the Bankrate.com page offering advice on financial-record retention linked to therein.
posted by yz at 7:37 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconded! (I had to produce an original of my university diploma to apply for a visa.)
posted by whatzit at 3:56 AM on June 27, 2008

Would it be acceptable to have a copy of a receipt for tax purposes?
posted by Spurious at 10:09 PM on June 28, 2008

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