How long do documents have to be kept?
Prudence or… laziness—often we let documents pile up in case we’re asked for them sometime in the future. Some must be kept in our personal files indefinitely, while others have a much shorter "shelf life."
To help you sort them out, we suggest the following list. The Archives nationales du Québec website has a more exhaustive list (in French) that also explains why you should keep the various documents.
1 year or less
- Telecommunication invoices
- Household appliance and car repair invoices
- Bank and credit card statements
- Property and school tax receipts
- Electricity, gas and fuel bills
- Healthcare invoices and professional honoraria
- Deeds of sale (house or land)
- Provincial (Québec) and federal (Canada) income tax returns and the supporting documents
- Instalment payment statements (Québec and Canada), and GST and QST statements
- Discharges of mortgage
- Pay stubs
- Attestations of Employment Insurance benefits
While a good is owned or is being disposed of
- Invoices and warranty contracts for electrical or household appliances
- Invoices and warranties for big-ticket items
- Invoices and statements for goods paid for with a credit card
- Service invoices or recreational invoices
- Tuition invoices
- Lease contracts and insurance contracts
- Mortgage agreements
- Certificates of deposit or of investment
- Birth certificates
- Protection mandates
- Marriage or civil union contracts
- Cohabitation agreements
- Judgments of divorce or of dissolution of a civil union
- Degrees and transcripts
- Health booklets and vaccination booklets
- Death certificates for family members
Here’s some advice: to destroy personal documents, better to shred them than simply throw them away. This protects any confidential information.
Note that the Québec Ombudsman can handle complaints concerning Government of Québec departments and agencies. For complaints about the health and social services network, we act as the second level of recourse. We also handle the disclosure of wrongdoings relating to public bodies. Don’t hesitate to contact us. Our services are confidential and free.