What IRA Records Should I Keep?

Managing an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) requires not only strategic planning but also diligent record-keeping. Proper documentation is crucial for verifying transactions, preparing tax returns, and addressing any inquiries from the IRS. This article outlines the essential records you should keep for your IRA, including IRS forms and investment documents, and the recommended duration for retaining these records.

Key IRA Documents to Keep

  1. IRS Form 1040:
    • Keep copies of your tax returns, including Form 1040, which reports your total income, deductions, and credits. For IRA contributions, it’s essential to have a record of the deductions claimed for traditional IRA contributions or distributions taken from any IRA.
  2. IRS Form 8606:
    • This form is crucial if you make non-deductible contributions to your traditional IRA or if you are involved with Roth conversions. Form 8606 helps track the basis in your IRAs, which is necessary to determine the taxable portion of your distributions. Retaining all copies of Form 8606 is important to ensure you do not overpay taxes on distributions.
  3. IRS Form 5498:
    • Form 5498 is sent by the custodian of your IRA and details the annual contributions to your account (including any rollover contributions) and the fair market value of the IRA at the end of the year. This form is vital for verifying the contributions and rollovers reported on your tax returns.
  4. Account Statements:
    • Regular account statements, typically sent quarterly or annually by your IRA custodian, should be retained to track the growth and withdrawals from your account. These documents are useful for reconciling your records with Form 5498 and for historical reference.
  5. Records of Rollovers and Transfers:
    • Documentation of all rollovers and transfers between retirement accounts is necessary. This includes records of rollovers from a 401(k) or another retirement plan into an IRA, which could be crucial if questioned by the IRS.
  6. Investment Records:
    • Keep records of investments purchased and sold within your IRA, including purchase receipts, sales slips, and statements. These documents can be helpful for understanding the performance and tax implications of your investments.

Legal Requirements for Record Retention

The IRS requires taxpayers to keep records supporting items on their tax returns until the period of limitations runs out—generally three years from the date you file your tax return or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. However, for IRA contributions, it is advisable to keep records longer:

  • Keep records related to IRA contributions indefinitely: Since you may need to prove the taxation of distributions in retirement, keeping records of your contributions indefinitely can safeguard against paying unnecessary taxes.
  • Keep records of nondeductible contributions permanently: To prove that you’ve already paid taxes on these contributions, thus avoiding being taxed again upon withdrawal.


Effective record-keeping for an IRA is crucial for tax purposes and for ensuring that you are maximizing the benefits of your retirement savings. Keeping detailed and organized records will help you track the growth of your investments, prepare accurate tax returns, and handle any disputes with the IRS efficiently. Always err on the side of caution by keeping comprehensive financial records for a longer period than required by law, especially when it comes to retirement and investment accounts. Additionally, consulting with a Fee-Only financial adviser can help manage your records and plan for a secure retirement effectively.

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