I hate clutter. I’m a regular at the local tip and periodically donate piles of paperbacks/toys and clothes to charity. The downside is, of course, that I later wish I still had something I’ve given away and end up buying it again: this happens fairly regularly with books.
I also chuck paperwork. And that’s where it all unravels. Last week my dishwasher packed up. A quick search on my email shows I bought it last August – but of course, I can’t find the receipt. I paid for it on my credit card and I can only get the past 12 months’ credit card statements online. I did find the document which boasted there’s a two year warranty but I stupidly didn’t register its purchase because I imagined it would at least last two years before packing up. I am currently bracing myself for a long drawn out discussion with the manufacturer’s helpline and possibly my credit card provider. It would have been so much easier (I trust) had I got the receipt and registered the useless thing in the first place.
Anyway, the fruitless search for the receipt did result in a clear-up of my filing system, such as it is. So I’ve managed to file my O level certificates and all junior’s school reports. But – thanks to most bills being online these days – not a single credit card or utility bill, which might be a problem were I asked to prove identity. My sort-out produced a pile of paper for recycling including copies of tax returns dating back more than 10 years. The usual advice is that you should keep official documents such as payslips for at least 22 months from the end of the tax year they relate to. For bank/credit card/loan statements, Citizen’s Advice says to keep them for three months but when you get an annual statement, hang on to that for a year. It also says you should hang onto all important receipts for six years and insurance documents for as long as the policy lasts.
But who has that kind of space that demands? One idea is that you can keep copies of all your important documents on the cloud – there’s a review of the best cloud storage here. You can take photos of documents and save them to your hard drive too, but that’s not necessarily secure. Added to that, while the above advice about how long to save documents is sensible, there’s an interesting argument here as to why it could actually be sensible to hang onto paper documents for absolutely ages. The article points out that many of the PPI claims date back many years, if not decades, and those who had original documentation found claiming for compensation easier. Sounds like I need to get a bigger filing cabinet.
See our guide to tax here.