If you have to complete an annual self-assessment form for the taxman, then you probably find the process quite traumatic. Finding your financial statements in time for the tax return deadline may make you wish that you'd kept your financial records in better order.
But even if you're an organised person, do you know how long you should be keeping records and how do you get hold of copies if you've lost them?
Bank and credit card statements
You must keep your bank statements for three years, or for six, if you need to prove for your tax return that you have any savings interest earned. If you have mislaid any of your statements, you can ask your bank to provide them, but it may charge anything from £2.50 to £10 for each statement.
If you liaise with an online bank, it may only archive statements that are more than a year old, so it's advisable to print out your online statements; otherwise, you may be paying the bank for it to access its archive.
Keeping records and tax
HM Revenue & Customs can approach you at any time and ask to investigate your affairs from the last six years. If you haven't been keeping records correctly, you can be fined up to £3,000.
The other disadvantage of not keeping records in order is that if you've lost any records, you may not be able to prove your expenses and income to HM Revenue & Customs, which could result in you paying more tax than necessary.
To complete your tax return properly, you need to file the following documents, which are sent to you at intervals throughout the year:
If you make any financial gifts, make sure to record them and if you're giving money or assets to your children or other relatives, you must keep the necessary records for a minimum of seven years.
When filling in your tax return, you may have to provide evidence that you have made pension contributions. Your pension company should provide you with an annual pension statement, outlining the value of the fund currently, as well as your expected level of income at retirement. If you've lost track of your previous pension records, the Pension Service will be able to trace them for you.
Property and mortgage
Mortgage statements most be kept for at least three years (preferably six). Do check them to make sure that you're not paying too much interest.
Ensure that you know where you've filed your deeds to your house. If you've already paid off your mortgage, the building society may offer you the deeds back. The Land Registry keeps copies of deeds dating back to October 2003, so you will be able to get electronic records if this applies to your house. If your house pre-dates 2003, you can obtain the deeds from your solicitor or building society for a small fee.
Shares and share certificates
Always keep your share certificates as it can be expensive trying to prove that you own them. Most people hold shares in a 'nominee account' in electric form to make sure that they're not damaged or stolen.
If the share certificates have been lost or stolen, you can obtain replacement share certificates by completing a Form of Indemnity from the registrar, which holds the share certificate records. The company who holds the shares will be able to tell you their name.
Published on: June 5, 2008