Canceled checks, especially those several years old, might seem like an unnecessary use of your filing space, but keeping them can save you a lot of headaches down the line. Whether you should shred canceled checks from a closed bank account depends on what you purchased. However, keeping canceled checks can't hurt you.
You do not need to shred canceled checks from a closed bank account, but doing so lowers the chance that someone might steal your identity because canceled checks contain your bank account information. The thief can use the data on your canceled checks to make counterfeit checks or try to pass a bad check using the canceled one.
The Internal Revenue Service can audit you return from the previous three years. In some cases, such as when you omit 25 percent of your income, the IRS can go back six years. If you do not file a return, the IRS has no statute of limitations on when it can audit a return. If the IRS selects you for an audit, it may need you to furnish canceled checks to verify that you incurred a certain expense.
Keeping canceled checks from a closed account is often untenable or unnecessary for most people. Instead, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection suggests you keep canceled personal checks for one year and shred them. Keep canceled checks related to tax deductions, warranties and insurance for seven years. Shred receipts related to the checks immediately unless you may need them to prove a transaction.
If you are worried about identity theft or losing important canceled checks, call your bank and ask if they will hold your canceled checks. Many banks, especially large ones like HSBC and Bank of America, scan canceled checks and post them in the transaction history to your online account for free. If you want the bank to hold the physical check, it will probably charge a monthly fee.
Russell Huebsch has written freelance articles covering a range of topics from basketball to politics in print and online publications. He graduated from Baylor University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science.