The Internal Revenue Service says checks and receipts can be discarded after about four years, but it's a good idea to keep them longer.

"Prudent managers almost always keep their records longer than four years," says Erlin Weness, farm management educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. "There are many times you'll need to go back more than four years to find a specific check or receipt," he says. "If storage isn't an issue, keep all records as long as possible before discarding them."

Keep your account books and income tax returns at least until you retire. When storage becomes a big burden, discard all but the tax account books and tax returns, Weness advises. It's a good idea to keep all receipts, checks and information pertaining to any items you still own. Being able to put your hands on a document can save you a lot of time, trouble and sometimes money.

More detailed information is available in a new article by Weness and co-worker Jim Christensen titled "Establishing a Farm Filing System." You can find it at http://swroc.coafes.umn.edu.