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Do I need to keep all of my receipts or only receipts of a certain type or amount for itemized deductions?

I've also only taken the standard deduction, but this year I plan to itemize. I keep almost every receipt in a file for each year, including fast food and gas receipts, but I'd like to get rid of most of that and stop saving them if they're unnecessary.

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I would say to only bother keeping the ones you know you'll use for itemized deductions. This includes any unreimbursed business expenses and vehicle licensing fees. There are a lot of other itemized tax deductions possible, but those are two common ones.

Also, keep track of your business mileage (mileage before and after the trip, and commuting doesn't count as "business mileage"). You may also want to keep receipts of all out-of-state purchases if your state is one of those that tries to collect state tax on out-of-state purchases. Ensure your supported charities are 501(c)(3), and they'll give you a receipt at the end of the year.

Don't bother keeping fast food or gas receipts (unless they're business expenses).

  • 1
    501(c)(3) organizations aren't required to give you a yearly receipt unless the total amount is over $250. Below that it's up to you to substantiate your donations. – mbhunter Aug 8 '10 at 20:27
  • +1, good explanation. Also, as I understand it (and I could be wrong), gas expense isn't separately expensable -- that would be covered as part of the mileage. – bstpierre Aug 9 '10 at 0:36
  • @bstpierre - Business-related travel can be mileage-based or actual expenses. Naturally, you can't do both. :) I've only done (unreimbursed) business-related travel the last couple of years, and mileage has been the greater deduction for me. – Stephen Cleary Aug 10 '10 at 12:56
  • @mbhunter: Good point! Also, it sometimes happens that some charities can't give you a receipt because they don't have your contact information. It's best to get a receipt, but keep good records just in case. – Stephen Cleary Aug 10 '10 at 12:58
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I err on the side of saving all of mine for a while. Just toss them in a box at least. A years' worth is about the size of a shoebox.

I started doing this because one year, about a week after I tossed my receipts for the year, I realized that I had a fair bit of allotment left on my flexible savings account to use up. I could have used those to substantiate over-the-counter medicines I purchased.

Even if you don't use them for tax purposes, you can use them for budget-tracking purposes.

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Businesses are only required to keep receipts over $751.

However for individuals, I would throw them all in a shoebox and not worry about organizing them. There's a small chance you'll need to go through them during an audit, and you can worry about reconciling all of them and putting them in order at that point. Just write 2010 on the box and keep it somewhere easy, and at the end of the year throw it in your basement (or get a scanner, and scan and trash the original).

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