The Best Shredders for Tax Time and Beyond | Tech News

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Safe, Secure, and Shredded

For every tax document you need to file or save, you’ll probably be left with a half-dozen or so that should be junked, some of them containing sensitive financial information. Fortunately, shredders have come a long way since the days depicted in the movie Argo, in which the failure of government shredders to destroy sensitive photos played an important role. With most of today’s shredders, you can be reasonably sure that your documents will be sliced up finely enough to be in no danger of being pieced back together.

Shredding Basics

One way of classifying shredders is by the way they cut paper. Strip-cut shredders cut sheets of paper into long strips. They are fast, but they don’t provide much security, as the strips are usually large enough that they could be reassembled by a patient, determined person. Cross-cut shredders, somewhat more secure, chop the paper into short, thin strips. And micro-cut shredders dice paper into tiny diamonds or bits of confetti, and are suitable for shredding confidential—and in some cases secret—papers.

Shredder security, measured by the smallness of the paper shreds, is determined by the internationally accepted DIN 66399 standard. The range of security runs from P-1 (insecure) to P-7 (suitable for shredding top-secret documents). A P-4 security level is fine for most offices, while ones needing to dispose of particularly sensitive documents may want to up it to P5.

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Modern shredders can handle more than sheets of paper. Many of today’s models can chop through CDs, credit and ID cards, paper clips, and staples. Some can make quick work even of thick envelopes full of junk mail.

Speed, based on the number of sheets you can feed through the shredder, one after another, is important. So is the feeder capacity (how many sheets you can shred at once) and the size of the basket where the shredded paper ends up. Run time—the length of time you can continuously feed paper through the shredder before it needs to cool down—and the length of the cooling-down period are other factors.

What to Look For

The best shredder for you depends on your particular needs: Consider its speed, capacity, run time, and security (or the size of its shred). For example, a smaller office may want a fast shredder to run through a modest amount of paper quickly, while a larger office with more paper to dispose of may want a higher capacity or a longer run time. Offices that handle very sensitive documents will want a micro-cut shredder to dice the paper into fine confetti. Note also that the smaller the shred size, the more paper that will fit in the waste bin before you need to empty it.

Compact shredders can fit in small spaces, and these may be best for home-office use, or as personal shredders in either a home or an office. Some offer safety features such as automatic shutoff if one’s hand touches the feeder slot. Others offer jam protection. Shredders, as a group, are not known for their exterior elegance, but some compact shredders are stylish enough to blend in nicely with an office’s décor.

The Kindest Cut of All

Don’t put a price on security—a shredder can be a terrific investment. And though you may find it most useful in the spring, after you’ve prepared and submitted your taxes, it can help you protect your finances and your identity throughout the whole year, all with just a few minutes of work. The shredders featured here run the gamut from personal and home-office models to ones suitable for heavy-duty shredding in a large office.

And before you start shredding, check out our reviews of the top scanners we’ve tested for digitizing your documents.

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