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One of the hallmarks of New Hampshire government is its insistence on maintaining low personal and business tax burdens. To that end, there’s no broad-based standard income, sales or estate tax. Inventory, capital gains, and professional services are also tax-free.Unlike other New England states, however, New Hampshire maintains two major business taxes. The first to be instituted was the Business Profits Tax (BPT). But since the bulk of the state’s businesses range from the small-to-very-small, larger firms complained they were shouldering the bulk of the tax burden. So 1993, the Legislature instituted the Business Enterprise Tax (BET). As Jennifer Weiner writes in “How Does New Hampshire Do It?,” a report released by the Boston Federal Reserve, the BET taxes “wages and salaries, interests and dividends paid by businesses.” In other words, it is, technically, an income tax, but the burden’s placed on businesses, rather than individuals. At 0.75 percent, the BET is also a lower rate than a standard state income tax.The other major piece of New Hampshire’s revenue pie is property tax. Residents pay both a state and town property tax. In 2010, Kiplinger’s reports the State Education Income Tax was “$2.35…per $1,000 of total equalized valuation.” Town rates, meanwhile, can vary widely across the state. If you don’t combine New Hampshire’s two business taxes, property tax makes up the largest slice of revenue, at 16 percent.Another notable aspect of New Hampshire’s tax system, as Weiner notes in the Boston Fed report, is that it’s highly diversified. No one tax makes up 20 percent of money coming in. Other major state taxes include Meals and Rooms, Tobacco, Liquor Sales and Distribution, Real Estate Transfer, Interest and Dividends, Insurance Premium, Communications, and Utility Property Taxes.Summary provided by StateImpact NH

You Should Keep Tax Records — But How, And For How Long?

A pile of IRS Form 1040 tax documents is seen in this file photo. Personal finance experts recommend keeping most records for three years after they're used in a tax return.
Tim Boyle
Getty Images
A pile of IRS Form 1040 tax documents is seen in this file photo. Personal finance experts recommend keeping most records for three years after they're used in a tax return.

Tax Day 2012 is looming — and after we file our returns, many of us will try to figure out what to do with the seemingly innocuous but possibly crucial documents we use to prepare our returns. Filing electronically can make those records easier to manage. But what should we really keep, and for how long?

Most experts recommend holding on to financial records for three years after they're used in a tax return — that's the amount of time the IRS has to audit taxpayers.

Personal finance writer Kimberly Lankford, who recently wrote about keeping tax documents in an article for Kiplinger's, says you should keep one type of record as long as you possibly can: your tax return itself — a Form 1040, and the supporting forms that go with it.

Those documents can be a big help in coming years, she says — for instance, when you sell an investment, or need to apply for a mortgage or disability insurance.

But that doesn't mean you have to buy a new filing cabinet to store all those papers, as she tells NPR's David Greene, in an interview for Monday's Morning Edition.

"These days, you can just digitize — scan it, take a picture of it with your cellphone," Lankford says, "put it on the computer, and then you don't have to worry about it."

The main reason to keep those documents is for your own benefit, Lankford says. They don't all have to be official copies — just something to help you find the information again later. For reference, the IRS has a page of frequently asked questions from people who keep their books digitally. And if a cellphone photo sounds too informal, there are other options out there.

"There are some very official ways that you can keep them on PDFs," Lankford says. "There's some apps that you can get. And if you do TurboTax or TaxCut, you can keep it on a PDF that way. And that's a really good idea — at least for those first three years."

Lankford didn't name any apps — but some of the most popular ones are from Mint, Pageonce and Adaptu. More comprehensive — and expensive — options include PC programs such as those from Quicken (which, like TurboTax, is an Intuit product) and You Need a Budget. Those services also offer mobile versions of their software.

Personal finance software such as Pageonce, seen here in a demonstration, can help reduce the amount of paper tax records we keep.
Personal finance software such as Pageonce, seen here in a demonstration, can help reduce the amount of paper tax records we keep.

The main thing, Lankford says, is to be sure that the computer you're using is secure — so the personal information you're saving will be, as well.

"This time of year, there's also a lot of ID thieves out there," she says, "who are preying upon people who either are using insecure computers to include all of their tax information — because think about it: It has your Social Security number; it has every single piece of personal information that can help them steal your identity."

In addition to tax returns, Lankford recommends that you hang on to two other types of records:

  • Stock purchase receipts — with the date and price paid.
  • Home improvement records — to offset taxes you might owe when you sell your home.
  • If you're storing your financial records electronically, you should back up your data, so you don't lose your information if a computer's hard drive fails, for instance. Cloud storage is one option, but not everyone is comfortable beaming their financial life into a distant server. So, you might want to save copies on a DVD or CD, or even on an external hard drive.

    Whatever method you use, you can also use tax time as a "purge date" for some documents that are more than three years old, Lankford says. Among them are canceled checks, receipts and bills.

    Other items, such as monthly statements from your bank or stock brokerage, ATM receipts, bank-deposit slips and pay stubs, can be disposed of monthly, unless they contain tax-related details.

    "But also, be very careful about the hard copies of things," Lankford says. "Shred them before you throw them away. Because otherwise, you're going to have one big bucket of trash that has all your information in there. So just be really careful about all that stuff."

    Lankford admits something that will make a lot of people feel better: She hasn't done her own taxes yet.

    If you're a procrastinator, you have a bit of extra time before tax returns are due this year — because April 15 falls on a Sunday, and the Washington, D.C., holiday of Emancipation Day is on Monday, April 16. So, the big deadline is Tuesday, April 17.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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