Business Record Retention – How Long Should You Keep Your Records?

Businesses maintain records (both paper and digital) to provide an accounting of the business activities performed by their respective organizations.  Some examples of these files may be financial reports, human resource documents, tax filings, legal papers, or even just a single management report. With the rise and influx of these business records exponentially compiling every day companies are faced with an ever-increasing need to save on storage costs (both physical and digital), to be able to locate important files efficiently and to reduce compliance exposure. So where is a company to start?

One of the first questions asked when setting up an internal business records retention policy is “which records should we keep”? This inquiry is not always an easy one, but one that definitively needs an answer. Some business records should never be expunged and should always have a permanent file for future auditing purposes. Others will have a specified termination point in the future, and some don’t easily fit into any category. For those later ones, a little bit of research may be required to determine industry, local, state, or Federal compliance laws for those “weird” papers.

The next question often asked is “how long should I keep my records”? Three, five, ten years? And “what industry and compliance guidelines should apply.” Many industries (law, healthcare, insurance) set their guidelines, so you’ll want to check with your professional association in your state. There is a full gamut of information out there, but our hope here is to provide you with a general retention resource to get you started on your records retention journey.

Legal Requirements for Business Record Retention:

Federal, state and local compliance laws and regulations require you to retain documents for a specified number of years. And even certain document types may be subject to retention requirements by your state and local governments. Please note these suggested guidelines below are not the final authority, and they do not represent legal advice from DocuLynx, Inc. Additionally, there may be situations or industries that require longer periods of record retention than legally required. Contact your legal expert(s) or federal, state, or local government offices to ensure your document management procedures are in compliance with current legal requirements. The following information and links are general guidelines to get you started on your record retention policy.

Suggested Business Record Retention Guidelines:

Accounting Suggested Retention
Accounts Payable Ledger 7 Years
Accounts Receivable Aging Reports 7 Years
Accounts Receivable Ledger 7 Years
Accounts Receivable Invoices 7 Years
Accounts Written-off 7 Years
Authorization - Accounting 5 Years
Balance Sheets Permanent Retention
Bank Reconciliations 7 Years
Bank Statements 7 Years
Bank Deposit Slips 3 Years
Budgets 3 Years
Canceled Checks 10 Years
Cancelled Dividend Checks Permanent Retention
Cash Book Permanent Retention
Cash Disbursement & Receipt Record Permanent Retention
Cash Sales Slips 7 Years
Charge Slips 7 Years
Charts of Accounts Permanent Retention
Check Register Permanent Retention
Expense Reports 7 Years
Financial Statements Permanent Retention
General Ledger Permanent Retention
Investment - Sales/Purchases Permanent Retention
Journal Entries Permanent Retention
Petty Cash Records 7 Years
Profit/Loss Statements Permanent Retention
Purchase Order 7 Years
Subsidiary Ledger Permanent Retention
Trial Balance Permanent Retention
Vendor Invoices 7 Years
Voucher Check Copies 7 Years
Corporate Records Suggested Retention
Amendments Permanent Retention
Annual Reports Permanent Retention
Articles of Incorporation Permanent Retention
Audit Reports - Public Permanent Retention
Audit - Internal 6 Years
Board of Directors - Committee Permanent Retention
Board of Directors - Minute Book Permanent Retention
Bylaws Permanent Retention
Capital Stock Certificates Permanent Retention
Fixed Assets Suggested Retention
Depreciation Schedule Permanent Retention
Inventory Records Permanent Retention
Plans and Blueprints Permanent Retention
Plant Cost Ledger Permanent Retention
Property Appraisals Permanent Retention
Property Register Permanent Retention
Records for Property Subject to Depletion Permanent Retention
Accounting Firms Suggested Retention
Tax Return Preparers 4 Years
Tax Returns Prepared 4 Years
Human Resources Suggested Retention
Accident Reports - Settled 7 Years
Attendance Records 7 Years
Dental Benefits 5 Years
Disability Benefits - After Expiration/Settlement 7 Years
Employee Medical History 7 Years
Employment Application - Not Hired 3 Years
Garnishments 5 Years
Life Insurance Benefits 5 Years
Medical Benefits 7 Years
Pension Plan Agreement Permanent Retention
Performance Record - After Termination 7 Years
Personnel File - After Termination 7 Years
Personnel Files - Current Employees Permanent Retention
Profit Sharing Agreement Permanent Retention
Safety Reports 5 Years
Vacation Files 4 Years
WorkersŐ Compensation Benefits 10 Years
Sick Pay 4 Years
Family & Medical Leave 3 Years
Insurance Suggested Retention
Automobile Insurance Claims 10 Years
Disability Insurance Claims - After Termination 7 Years
Expired Insurance Policies 10 Years
Fire Inspection Reports 6 Years
Insurance Appraisals 6 Years
Safety Records 6 Years
Foreign Insurance Policies 3 Years
Legal Suggested Retention
Bill of Sale Permanent Retention
Business Permits Permanent Retention
Claims & Litigation Concerning Torts & Breach of Contract Permanent Retention
Contract Permanent Retention
Contracts - Employees Permanent Retention
Contracts - Governments Permanent Retention
Contracts - Labor Union Permanent Retention
Contracts - Special Permanent Retention
Copyrights Permanent Retention
Correspondence - Legal Permanent Retention
Deeds & Titles Permanent Retention
Leases/Canceled 10 Years
Licenses Permanent Retention
Mortgages Permanent Retention
Notes Receivable - Canceled 10 Years
Patents Permanent Retention
Stock & Bond Record Permanent Retention
Trademarks - Registered Permanent Retention
Payroll Suggested Retention
Contractors 3 years from date of completion of contract
Checks - Payroll 7 Years
Commission Reports - Salesperson 6 Years
Employee Withholding Exemption Certificates 10 Years
Payroll Register 4 Years
Payroll Records - After Termination 10 Years
Salary History 8 Years
Time Reports 7 Years
W-2 Forms Permanent Retention
Vacation/Sick Pay 4 Years
Large Food or Beverage Establishment Reporting Tips 3 Years
Security Suggested Retention
Classified Material Violations Permanent Retention
Visitor Clearance 2 Years
Taxation Suggested Retention
Tax Free Reorganization Permanent Retention
338 Election 7 Years
Canceled Checks - Tax Payments Permanent Retention
Correspondence - Tax Permanent Retention
Depreciation Schedules Permanent Retention
Income Tax Returns Permanent Retention
Inventory Reports Permanent Retention
FUTA/FICA/Income Tax Withholding 4 Years
Payroll Tax Returns Permanent Retention
Revenue Agent Reports Permanent Retention
Sales Tax Returns Permanent Retention
Transfer Pricing 4 Years
Miscellaneous Suggested Retention
Receiving Documents 10 Years
Title Papers Permanent Retention
Vehicle Operating and Maintenance 2 Years
Telecommunication Copies 1 Years

Note: Documentation may include all electronic memos and files (including general ledger files, emails, digital tax files, PDF files, or any form of business record retention created and or stored electronically. All material presented is for general information use only and should not be acted upon without professional advice and assistance.

 Within the organized chaos of establishing an effective business record retention policy, there is opportunity to organize, analyze and conquer your data.

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”― Sun Tzu

For more information on business record retention and how DocuLynx can customize the perfect solution for your document management needs, please contact us at 1-800-991-3704 at your convenience or fill out a short form to have one of our agents connect with you.

**Special Consideration** Sarbanes-Oxley Act

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarbanes–Oxley_Act

http://www.soxlaw.com

https://www.sec.gov/about/laws.shtml

 

For additional information on your state's business record retention guidelines please visit the following resources:

 

Alabama

http://tmpcpa.com/taxretention.php

http://www.archives.alabama.gov/officials/staterda.html

 

Alaska

http://archives.alaska.gov/records_management/records_management.html

https://www.bbb.org/globalassets/local-bbbs/dupont-wa-114/media/content_page_images/syid/records_retention_schedule.pdf

 

Arizona

https://www.azlibrary.gov/arm/retention-schedules

https://des.az.gov/services/employment/unemployment-employer/employer-requirements-record-keeping

 

Arkansas

http://www.dfa.arkansas.gov/offices/intergovernmentalServices/Pages/recordRetentionSchedule.aspx

 

California

https://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/osp/calrim/RecordsRetentionHandbook.pdf

 

Colorado

https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/archives/municipal-records-retention-manual

https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/archives/rm-faqs

 

Connecticut

https://www.cbia.com/resources/hr-safety/issues-laws/state-federal-recordkeeping-requirements/

 

Delaware

http://archives.delaware.gov/govsvcs/general_records_retention_schedules/index.shtml

http://regulations.delaware.gov/AdminCode/title5/100/101.shtml

http://www.cpacornerstone.com/taxretention.php

 

Florida

http://dos.myflorida.com/library-archives/records-management/general-records-schedules/

http://dos.myflorida.com/library-archives/records-management/

http://dos.myflorida.com/library-archives/records-management/dispose-of-public-records/

 

Georgia

http://www.georgiaarchives.org/records/retention_schedules

 

Hawaii

http://ags.hawaii.gov/archives/about-us/records-management/records-retention-and-disposition-schedules/

 

Idaho

https://history.idaho.gov/idaho-records-center-retention-schedules

 

Illinois

https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/publications/pdf_publications/ard_pub5.pdf

https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/records_management/faqlocal.html

 

Indiana

http://www.in.gov/iara/2739.htm

 

Iowa

 http://www.klatt-assoc.com/taxretention.php

 

Kansas

https://www.kshs.org/recmgmt/retention_schedule_entries/browse

 

Kentucky

http://kdla.ky.gov/records/recretentionschedules/pages/default.aspx

 

Louisiana

http://www.sos.la.gov/HistoricalResources/ManagingRecords/DevelopRetentionSchedules/Pages/default.aspx

 

Maine

http://www.maine.gov/revenue/rules/html/rule103.htm

http://www.countinghouseone.com/taxretention.php

 

Maryland

http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/intromsa/html/record_mgmt/homepage.html

http://www.ilmcorp.com/tools-and-resources/records-retention-guidelines

 

Massachusetts

https://www.cpa.net/resources/retengde.pdf

 

Michigan

http://www.mimanufacturers.org/Portals/0/Documents/Services/retentionguidelines.pdf

 

Minnesota

http://www.dsb-cpa.com/guidance/business-records-retention-schedule/

https://www.mn.gov/mmb/accounting/sema4/records-retention/

http://mn.gov/mnddc/council/business-req.html

 

Mississippi

http://www.dor.ms.gov/Laws-Rules/Pages/Record-Keeping.aspx

http://ffjcpa.com/taxretention.php

http://records.mdah.state.ms.us/sgrapfaq.php

 

Missouri

https://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/localrecs/schedules/

https://www.sos.mo.gov/CMSImages/LocalRecords/General.pdf

https://www.sos.mo.gov/records/recmgmt/retention/general

 

Montana

http://sos.mt.gov/records/Local/index.asp

http://www.bkgcpapc.com/taxretention.php

 

Nebraska

http://www.sos.ne.gov/records-management/retention_schedules.html

http://www.sos.ne.gov/records-management/

http://www.duttoncpa.com/taxretention.php

 

Nevada

http://nsla.nv.gov/Records/Local/Retention_Schedules/

http://nsla.nv.gov/uploadedFiles/nslanvgov/content/Records/State/1_General_Schedule/General%20Schedule.PDF

http://www.nevadafinancialsolutions.com/taxretention.php

 

New Hampshire

http://sos.nh.gov/Arch_Rec_Mgmt.aspx

https://www.nhmunicipal.org/TownAndCity/Article/138

 

New Jersey

http://www.nj.gov/treasury/revenue/rms/retention.shtml

 

New Mexico

http://www.nmcpr.state.nm.us/records-management/responsibilities-and-mission

http://www.nmcpr.state.nm.us/NMAC/

 

 New York

https://www.tax.ny.gov/bus/doingbus/recordkeeping.htm

http://www.schallandashenfarb.com/taxretention.php

http://www.rrstcpa.com/custom2.php

https://www.iucpa.com/record-retention.html

 

North Carolina

http://www.smithandsmithcpa.com/taxretention.php

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/policies/pages/cms_017186.aspx

 

North Dakota

https://www.nd.gov/itd/services/records-management

 

Ohio

http://www.desalvocpa.com/taxretention.php

http://apps.das.ohio.gov/rims/General/General.asp

http://wincleveland.org/Resources/Documents/7%20Record%20retention%20for%20small%20businesses.pdf

http://associationdatabase.com/aws/OADA/asset_manager/get_file/27112

 

Oklahoma

http://www.chancellorcpa.com/taxretention.php

http://www.coregroupus.com/local/RecordRetentionGuidelines.pdf

https://www.okc.gov/government/archives-records

 

Oregon

http://sos.oregon.gov/archives/Pages/records_retention_schedule.aspx

http://sos.oregon.gov/archives/Pages/records_retention_schedule_faq.aspx

http://www.pailthorpcpa.com/taxretention.php

 

Pennsylvania

http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol39/39-31/1396.html

http://www.lancasterlawblog.com/2009/09/articles/business-law/business-record-retention-schedule/

http://www.pacourts.us/assets/files/setting-850/file-173.pdf?cb=36cae5

 

Rhode Island

http://sos.ri.gov/divisions/frequent-filers/records-management

http://www.lgcpa.com/retention-guide

 

South Carolina

http://rm.sc.gov/generalschedules/Documents/genskedmun.pdf

http://www.turnerpadget.com/south-carolina-business-litigation-blog/records-retention-do-you-have-a-plan/

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/policies/pages/cms_017186.aspx

http://rm.sc.gov/generalschedules/Documents/financial.pdf

 

South Dakota

http://www.nelsoncpas.com/taxretention.php

 

Tennessee

http://sos.tn.gov/rmd

http://www.cdpcpa.com/taxretention.php

 

Texas

http://www.salley-clements.com/taxretention.php

https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/recordspubs/rrs4.html

 

Utah

http://www.hintonburdick.com/taxretention.php

http://www.archives.state.ut.us/recordsmanagement/grs/stategrs.pdf

 

Vermont

https://www.sec.state.vt.us/archives-records/records-management/records-retention.aspx

https://www.sec.state.vt.us/archives-records/records-management/records-retention/general-record-schedules.aspx

http://www.ampeisch.com/taxretention.php

 

Virginia

http://www.ilmcorp.com/tools-and-resources/records-retention-guidelines

https://www.vscpa.com/Content/59284.aspx

http://www.tax.virginia.gov/content/recordkeeping-requirements

http://www.mcgrudercpas.com/tax-center/record-retention-guide/

 

Washington

http://www.ygacpa.com/taxretention.php

 

West Virginia

http://www.wvcommerce.org/(S(xd1n2iqvtf0bys55r0yup1mi))/business/businessassistance/smallbusiness/gettingstarted/keeping_books/default.aspx

 

Wisconsin

http://sbasgroup.com/taxretention.php

http://www.co.washington.wi.us/uploads/docs/1_CCO_ordchap04exhibit.pdf

http://accountants.sva.com/docs/librariesprovider6/resources/records-retention-guide.pdf

 

Wyoming

http://wyoarchives.state.wy.us/RM/Retention.aspx

http://torringtoncpas.com/taxretention.php

 

 Information for these business record retention guidelines were sourced from the following links

 1.     http://www.berrydunn.com/uploads/1088/doc/Record_Retention_Guide.pdf

2.     http://www.businessarchives.com/document-retention-requirements.asp

3.     http://www.cpa.net/resources/retengde.pdf

4.     http://www.fdic.gov/regulations/laws/rules/6500-2400.html

5.     http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=98575,00.html

6.     http://www.nfib.com/Portals/0/PDF/AllUsers/legal/guides/document-retention-policy-guide-nfib.pdf

7.     http://www.smead.com/hot-topics/records-retention-guidelines-1394.asp

8.     https://www.bbb.org/globalassets/local-bbbs/minneapolis-mn-147/media/documents/bbb-records-retention-schedule.pdf

9.     https://www.aicpa.org/Career/Marketing/DownloadableDocs/SmallBusiness/SBToolkit_RecordkeepingGuide_Spreads.pdf