Business Records Retention Guidelines

As Records Storage Industry leaders, many of our clients ask us for help in the preparation of a Retention Schedule for their files. We have prepared this guideline, but offer it only as a starting point to be confirmed and tested by your accountants and lawyers. When it comes to compliance with legislation and the possibility of an audit and/or fines, one can never be too careful or up-to-date.

Business Record Series Examples Retention Guidelines
Finance, Taxes and Investments Income tax returns, Income tax payment checks, Investment trade confirmations, Legal records, Retirement and pension records, CPA audit reports, Annual financial statements and books of account, Corporate documents (incorporation, charter, by-laws, etc.), Stock records, Retirement and pension records, Licenses, patents, and trademarks and registration packets, Investment trade confirmations, Documents substantiating fixed asset additions Keep 3-10 years
Payroll, Checks, Sales documents, tax returns and tax-related receipts and records Bank reconciliation and cancelled checks, Cancelled payroll and dividend checks, Personnel and payroll records, Purchasing records, Sales records, Travel and entertainment records, Supporting documents for tax returns, Tax-related receipts and records, Accident reports and claims, Medical and Worker’s Comp related bills. Keep 5 years to life of the company
Statements, Applications, and Insurance Policies Monthly financial statements, Credit card statements, Employment applications, Expired insurance policies Keep 3-5 years
More Business Records Car Records Keep until the car is sold
Credit Card Receipts Keep until verified on your statement
Insurance Policies Keep for the life of the policy and an additional 3 years
Mortgages, Deeds, Leases Keep 7 years beyond the agreement
Pay Stubs Keep until reconciled with your W-2
Property records / Improvement receipts Keep until property sold
Sales receipts for assets Keep for life of the warranty
Stock and bond records Keep for 7 years beyond selling
Warranties and instructions Keep for the life of the product
Other bills Keep until payment is verified on the next bill

How to Build a Flexible Retention Schedule

Once you have determined the required length of time to store information, you now need to do it in a way that allows flexibility. Every great plan deals with contingencies in stride and adjusts to achieve the desired outcome. In the arena of Retention Scheduling, the fundamental goal is to get control of the information in a way that you can revise the plan for whatever comes your way, including a litigation hold.

Information is King!

Tracking the nature or type of information within a particular file (electronic or paper), box, or tape is the messy part of retention scheduling. Destruction without a firm grasp on these details is more than risky, and it may even be criminal. Even if it is just basic information like Box 1, AP 2011, North American Div – this gives you a great start at gaining and keeping control.

Databases, not Lists.

Managing multiple variables is best done with a database, not a log or spreadsheet if you can avoid it. You will want to query multiple features, flag items for Litigation Hold, etc… (Corodata offers this tool at no charge to its clients.)

Start with the End in Mind.

Once you are ready to implement a schedule, begin with the end in mind – when should the material be destroyed? Record it now, and plan to get it done on schedule. You should always double check prior to destruction, but you are now managing a plan, not just reacting.

Get Help.

Organizations like Corodata offer great database tools and know how, and can get you off and running quickly and be there at the end to help just as much. Reach out and ask for help.