You should keep all of your receipts

Retention periods: which documents do I have to keep?

Every German has an average of seven folders with countless bills, receipts, certificates and contracts at home. That is the result of a survey by the high-tech association BITKOM. As a rule, private individuals do not have to archive much of this at all. But there are also documents that you should keep for life.

Tax return: how long do I have to keep receipts?

Donation receipts, receipts from the pharmacy or invoices for office supplies - these are all documents that you need for your tax return. You should keep these in a safe place after submitting them - at least until you receive the tax assessment. Because the tax office can request the receipts at any time. Many then dispose of the tax documents as soon as the notification arrives. But be careful: If the tax assessment notice has been provisional or has been sent with reservation, you must continue to archive your receipts. The same applies if you want to appeal against the decision.

We, the VLH, recommend that you keep your tax documents for at least four years after submitting your tax return. Then you have everything to hand when you need to prove costs.

By the way:

For high earners with incomes of more than 500,000 euros, a period of six years applies. Companies should keep their books of accounts, inventories, balance sheets and other books to be kept for as long as ten years.

Which documents do I have to keep for the pension?

File everything that concerns your own pension - these are often documents that at first glance have nothing to do with the pension: This includes proof of professional training, the receipt of social benefits and the insurance periods completed. That means: You should be able to show your training and career path as completely as possible. If the pension insurance has not saved all of your data, you are on the safe side.

What about insurance policies?

Insurance policies are not allowed to end up in the waste paper for the time being. Regardless of whether it is about household or life insurance, it is advisable to keep these documents for the duration of the contract. The rule of thumb: As long as the insurance cover exists, the documents must not be in the shredder. Pension insurances have a special position: You should file the insurance policy after the savings phase.

What are the rules for bank statements?

There are only a few exceptional cases where there is a statutory obligation to retain account statements for private individuals. But: Bank statements can serve as evidence for many other payments such as rent or tradesman bills. You should keep your bank statements for four years.

One of the mentioned exceptions are high earners who have an income of more than 500,000 euros a year. A retention period for bank statements of six years applies to them.

What about tradesman bills?

As a tenant or homeowner, you must keep bills from craftsmen or other service providers for two years. As with bank statements, experts recommend a retention period of four years. The period begins at the end of the calendar year in which the payment was made.


If you have misplaced or accidentally disposed of documents, contact the responsible office - for example your bank or your insurer - and ask for a replacement. The re-ordering itself is usually unproblematic, you only have to expect fees for the replacement in many cases.

This is an editorial text from the VLH editorial team. There is no advice on topics that are outside the tax advisory powers of an income tax aid association. Consulting services in specific individual cases can only be provided within the framework of the establishment of a membership and exclusively within the advisory authority according to ยง 4 No. 11 StBerG.