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Managing Personal and Financial Records

Ways to keep those all important personal and financial records safe.

Nashville, Ark. - Let’s face it. We have all misplaced an important paper, which caused panic until we found it. Births, deaths, fires, annual taxes, and other life-changing events all require specific paperwork and finding this paperwork when it is needed can be critical. These types of documents are not needed often, but having quick access to them is important. Replacement of them could take weeks or months to replace when, many times, you need the information now.

Getting organized is the first step!

Getting organized is not easy, but it is well worth the effort. Organizing and keeping records in a business-like manner can save time, trouble, money, and frustration. Having an organized filing system is also important when preparing to file annual tax forms.

Before filing, the IRS urges taxpayers to file a complete and accurate tax return by making sure all documents are accounted for, including the previous year’s tax return. This includes forms W-2 from employers and forms 1099 from banks and other payers. Being organized will help avoid refund delays, penalties and the need to file an amended return.

Record keeping systems can be as elaborate as a home office or as simple as a file box. Simple filing cabinets, accordion folders, or even a storage chest that fits under the bed are inexpensive, yet efficient ways to keep documents. Records may be kept at home or in a safe deposit box at a bank.

Organizing a manageable record keeping system starts with:

  • Knowing what records should be kept.
  • Knowing where to keep records.
  • Keeping records for the appropriate amount of time.

Home files should contain items necessary for family and household operation such as:

  • Information related to current year’s taxes
  • Medical records
  • Bills
  • Insurance policies
  • Appliance warranties
  • A copy of your will
  • Inventory of your safe deposit box

Generally, these records, including appliance warranties, should be kept a minimum of three years or unless you still own the product. Older records and information can be in archived files, located in a safe, less convenient area of your home. Separate them from current files.

Store records safely.

All records that are difficult to replace, or irreplaceable, should be stored in a safe deposit box. These items may include birth certificates or adoption records, vehicle titles/bills of sale, death certificates, and marriage license. Safe deposit box rentals are available from most financial institutions and may be tax deductible if investment documents or securities are stored there.

Once you have your system in place, you will need to review it periodically. Once a year, at tax time, is a great time to sort through your active files and discard records you no longer need. These may include deposit/withdrawal slips, receipts not needed for tax purposes, and utility bills. When discarding, make sure you are doing it in a way that will protect your personal information. Shred or burn them.

In most cases, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has three years to audit federal income tax returns. All receipts, statements, or other documentation for income tax purposes should be kept with the specific year’s tax records. Receipts are important because the IRS does not accept cancelled checks as proof of payment. In unusual cases, this limit does not apply. If you failed to report more than 25 percent of your gross income, the IRS has six years to collect the tax and begin legal proceedings. There is no limit if you failed to file a return or willfully filed a fraudulent return.

You might want to visit for more information. For more information on setting up a personal filing system, contact the Howard County Cooperative Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. Ask for the fact sheet, “Home Filing System.” You might also want to check out the other fact sheets available to help answer your financial questions.

Recipe of the Week

This recipe would be great alongside the ribs and Cornish hens from the Howard County 4-H BBQ Bowl fundraiser! To place your order, contact the Extension Office at 870-845-7517 by Friday, February 3.

Chili-Garlic Roasted Broccoli

  • 2 Tablespoon olive oil

  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder

  • 1 Tablespoon grill seasoning

  • 1 large head broccoli, cut into long thin spears

  • Non-stick cooking spray

  1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Place olive oil, garlic, chili powder and grill seasoning in the bottom of a large bowl and add the broccoli spears.
  3. Toss to coat the broccoli.
  4. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  5. Place broccoli on the baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees until the ends are crisp and brown and the stalks are tender, 17-20 minutes.
  6. Yields: 6 servings
  1. Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories-150, Fat-6 g, Protein- 7 g, Carbohydrates – 22 g, Fiber – 4 g, Sodium – 360 mg


By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.