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I have a bunch of old checks from my job which I've already cashed into my checking account (online). Is there any tax reason (USA) or otherwise that I shouldn't just shred them?

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    One reason could be a fireplace in the living room. Commented Jun 18 at 8:44
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    Back in the day you had to give checks to the bank to deposit or cash them so you would never have checks you have cashed. The ones you wrote were returned to you and could be useful as receipts, but checks you have received and cashed don't matter. Commented Jun 18 at 23:00

6 Answers 6

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For payroll checks the key thing you should be reviewing is the pay stub with all the information regarding gross pay, taxes, FICA, retirement contributions, and other relevant information. The stub could also give PTO balances, and insurance information. In the case of the direct deposit the stub is the only proof I have regarding my net pay at the end of every pay period.

Regarding the paper check, the bank will let you know when you can destroy the check.

The bigger question is "why don't you have direct deposit, so that there is no need for a paper check which can get lost, or mangled?"

Direct deposit will make sure that the check gets deposited on a regular schedule.

If this isn't a payroll check, but you are a 1099 contractor, then the question is what do you need to keep for your business tax records. Your accountant can better answer that question.

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    This is the answer. The pay stub, which is attached to the check but not part of the check, should include a basic reconciliation of what exactly the check is for. I.e. hours x hourly rate, additional "equivalent to salary" credits such as spouse healthcare which is treated as income, withholding, FICA etc. deducted, 401k deducted, health savings or commuter check deducted, etc. etc. all down to the penny. That is a much better record than the check itself. Commented Jun 18 at 2:19
  • For tax reasons, is there really even a reason to keep pay stubs? Shouldn't the W-2 be sufficient? A lot of employers don't even issue paper pay stubs these days.
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 20 at 20:35
  • When the stub was paper I would keep them until I received the W-2. I would keep the last one, and then shred the rest. I kept the last one in case there was a number on the stub that wasn't required to be on the W-2. One year I did find a mistake on the W-2 and reported it. We have had questions on this site near tax time because somebody never looked at any of their stubs and are now dealing with a tax or payroll issue that would have been easier to handle during the year. Commented Jun 20 at 21:19
  • @reirab, there is a lot more information on my paystub than on my W-2.
    – prl
    Commented Jun 20 at 22:26
  • @reirab, while rare, mistakes can certainly happen on a w2, and your pay stubs can be used to prove to those who don't believe a mistake was made that a mistake was made, Commented Jun 20 at 22:58
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The checks themselves are not relevant at all for tax reasons. For taxes you would use the W-2 that the employer send you after the tax year is over. The W-2 should also suffice in the event of an audit.

The only reason to keep them is if you want to keep a record of what was actually scanned for some reason (e.g. the bank messes up, the employer disputes the check, etc.), or if you needed to dispute what your employer reports on your W-2, but in that case you'd need every check for the year.

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Usually banks will tell you during the online deposit process for how long they want you to keep them. Generally between 7 and 60 days is my experience, depending on the bank.

You don't need to keep them beyond that unless it's for your own needs.

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    Especially after you have verified that the number was scanned/entered/processed correctly. Commented Jun 18 at 8:44
  • What "your own needs" might there be?
    – aslum
    Commented Jun 26 at 20:53
  • Hoarding? Framing and putting on walls? Using as toilet paper later? Who knows
    – littleadv
    Commented Jun 26 at 20:57
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A pay stub/payroll advice (typically attached to a pay check in the U.S.) may be useful proof of employment at some time in the past. At one point in my career, I realized that none of my employers previous to the one that had just laid me off was in business any longer. All of them had been acquired and absorbed, and the only proof that I'd worked for them was the pay stubs and tax forms I'd been issued over the years. I never had to actually present them to anyone, but it was a comfort having that proof. Now I save them all as PDF's and shred any paper I receive -- easy to store, and easy for my family to dispose of when the time comes.

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You may be asked for the last 2-3 paystubs for some sort of verification. I was recently asked for this when I signed a lease.

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Federal regulations do not require you to keep these stubs personally. They do require your work organization to keep them for 3 years under the FLSA.

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/21-flsa-recordkeeping

The IRS requires you to keep tax records, but not pay stubs. They require you to keep them for 3 years unless specific circumstances apply.

https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/how-long-should-i-keep-records

For your pay stubs, the only reason to keep them is as proof of deposit for your bank. For that it depends on your banking institution. If your work asks for copies for their records, they are in violation of the FLSA. The IRS will never ask for them, and you are not responsible for them to the government.

Ask your bank how long to keep these stubs in case a deposit goes missing.

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