skip navigation
Search Help
Navigation Help

Tax Map Index

Tax Topic Index

Affordable Care Act
Tax Topic Index

Exempt Organization
Tax Topic Index

Tax Topics

About Tax Map Website
Publication 17

What Happens After I File?(p15)

After you send your return to the IRS, you may have some questions. This section discusses concerns you may have about recordkeeping, your refund, and what to do if you move.

What Records Should I Keep?(p15)

This part discusses why you should keep records, what kinds of records you should keep, and how long you should keep them.
Where Refund
You must keep records so that you can prepare a complete and accurate income tax return. The law doesn't require any special form of records. However, you should keep all receipts, canceled checks or other proof of payment, and any other records to support any deductions or credits you claim.
If you file a claim for refund, you must be able to prove by your records that you have overpaid your tax.
This part doesn't discuss the records you should keep when operating a business. For information on business records, see Pub. 583, Starting a Business and Keeping Records.

Why Keep Records?(p16)

Good records help you:

Kinds of Records To Keep(p16)

The IRS doesn't require you to keep your records in a particular way. Keep them in a manner that allows you and the IRS to determine your correct tax.
You can use your checkbook to keep a record of your income and expenses. You also need to keep documents, such as receipts and sales slips, that can help prove a deduction.
In this section you will find guidance about basic records that everyone should keep. The section also provides guidance about specific records you should keep for certain items.

Electronic records.(p16)

All requirements that apply to hard copy books and records also apply to electronic storage systems that maintain tax books and records. When you replace hard copy books and records, you must maintain the electronic storage systems for as long as they are material to the administration of tax law.
For details on electronic storage system requirements, see Revenue Procedure 97-22, which is on page 9 of Internal Revenue Bulletin 1997-13 at

Copies of tax returns.(p16)

You should keep copies of your tax returns as part of your tax records. They can help you prepare future tax returns, and you will need them if you file an amended return or are audited. Copies of your returns and other records can be helpful to your survivor or the executor or administrator of your estate.
If necessary, you can request a copy of a return and all attachments (including Form W-2) from the IRS by using Form 4506. There is a charge for a copy of a return. For information on the cost and where to file, see the Instructions for Form 4506.
If you just need information from your return, you can order a transcript in one of the following ways. There is no fee for a transcript. For more information, see Form 4506-T.

Basic Records(p16)

Basic records are documents that everybody should keep. These are the records that prove your income and expenses. If you own a home or investments, your basic records should contain documents related to those items.


Your basic records prove the amounts you report as income on your tax return. Your income may include wages, dividends, interest, and partnership or S corporation distributions. Your records also can prove that certain amounts aren’t taxable, such as tax-exempt interest.
Note. If you receive a Form W-2, keep Copy C until you begin receiving social security benefits. This will help protect your benefits in case there is a question about your work record or earnings in a particular year.


Your basic records prove the expenses for which you claim a deduction (or credit) on your tax return. Your deductions may include alimony, charitable contributions, mortgage interest, and real estate taxes. You also may have child care expenses for which you can claim a credit.


Your basic records should enable you to determine the basis or adjusted basis of your home. You need this information to determine if you have a gain or loss when you sell your home or to figure depreciation if you use part of your home for business purposes or for rent. Your records should show the purchase price, settlement or closing costs, and the cost of any improvements. They also may show any casualty losses deducted and insurance reimbursements for casualty losses.
For detailed information on basis, including which settlement or closing costs are included in the basis of your home, see chapter 13.
When you sell your home, your records should show the sales price and any selling expenses, such as commissions. For information on selling your home, see chapter 15.


Your basic records should enable you to determine your basis in an investment and whether you have a gain or loss when you sell it. Investments include stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Your records should show the purchase price, sales price, and commissions. They may also show any reinvested dividends, stock splits and dividends, load charges, and original issue discount (OID).
For information on stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, see chapters 8, 13, 14, and 16.

Proof of Payment(p16)

One of your basic records is proof of payment. You should keep these records to support certain amounts shown on your tax return. Proof of payment alone isn't proof that the item claimed on your return is allowable. You also should keep other documents that will help prove that the item is allowable.
Generally, you prove payment with a cash receipt, financial account statement, credit card statement, canceled check, or substitute check. If you make payments in cash, you should get a dated and signed receipt showing the amount and the reason for the payment.
If you make payments using your bank account, you may be able to prove payment with an account statement.

Account statements.(p16)

You may be able to prove payment with a legible financial account statement prepared by your bank or other financial institution.

Pay statements.(p16)

You may have deductible expenses withheld from your paycheck, such as union dues or medical insurance premiums. You should keep your year-end or final pay statements as proof of payment of these expenses.

How Long To Keep Records(p16)

You must keep your records as long as they may be needed for the administration of any provision of the Internal Revenue Code. Generally, this means you must keep records that support items shown on your return until the period of limitations for that return runs out.
The period of limitations is the period of time in which you can amend your return to claim a credit or refund or the IRS can assess additional tax. Table 1-7 contains the periods of limitations that apply to income tax returns. Unless otherwise stated, the years refer to the period beginning after the return was filed. Returns filed before the due date are treated as being filed on the due date.

Table 1-7. Period of Limitations

 IF you...THEN the
period is...
1File a return and (2), (3), and (4) don't apply to you3 years
2Don't report income that you should and it is more than 25% of the gross income shown on your return6 years
3File a fraudulent returnNo limit
4Don't file a returnNo limit
5File a claim for credit or refund after you filed your returnThe later of 3 years or 2 years after tax was paid
6File a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction7 years


Keep records relating to property until the period of limitations expires for the year in which you dispose of the property in a taxable disposition. You must keep these records to figure your basis for computing gain or loss when you sell or otherwise dispose of the property.
Generally, if you received property in a nontaxable exchange, your basis in that property is the same as the basis of the property you gave up. You must keep the records on the old property, as well as the new property, until the period of limitations expires for the year in which you dispose of the new property in a taxable disposition.

Refund Information(p17)

You can go online to check the status of your 2017 refund 24 hours after the IRS receives your e-filed return, or 4 weeks after you mail a paper return. If you filed Form 8379 with your return, allow 14 weeks (11 weeks if you filed electronically) before checking your refund status. Be sure to have a copy of your 2017 tax return handy because you will need to know the filing status, the first SSN shown on the return, and the exact whole-dollar amount of the refund. To check on your refund, do one of the following.

Interest on Refunds(p17)

If you are due a refund, you may get interest on it. The interest rates are adjusted quarterly.
If the refund is made within 45 days after the due date of your return, no interest will be paid. If you file your return after the due date (including extensions), no interest will be paid if the refund is made within 45 days after the date you filed. If the refund isn't made within this 45-day period, interest will be paid from the due date of the return or from the date you filed, whichever is later.
Accepting a refund check doesn't change your right to claim an additional refund and interest. File your claim within the period of time that applies. See Amended Returns and Claims for Refund, later. If you don't accept a refund check, no more interest will be paid on the overpayment included in the check.

Interest on erroneous refund.(p17)

All or part of any interest you were charged on an erroneous refund generally will be forgiven. Any interest charged for the period before demand for repayment was made will be forgiven unless:
  1. You, or a person related to you, caused the erroneous refund in any way; or
  2. The refund is more than $50,000.
For example, if you claimed a refund of $100 on your return, but the IRS made an error and sent you $1,000, you wouldn't be charged interest for the time you held the $900 difference. You must, however, repay the $900 when the IRS asks.

Change of Address(p17)

If you have moved, file your return using your new address.
If you move after you filed your return, you should give the IRS clear and concise notification of your change of address. The notification may be written, electronic, or oral. Send written notification to the Internal Revenue Service Center serving your old address. You can use Form 8822, Change of Address. If you are expecting a refund, also notify the post office serving your old address. This will help in forwarding your check to your new address (unless you chose direct deposit of your refund). For more information, see Revenue Procedure 2010-16, 2010-19 I.R.B. 664, available at
Be sure to include your SSN (and the name and SSN of your spouse if you filed a joint return) in any correspondence with the IRS.