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Record Retention - How Long Should You Keep Important Documents?

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The Green Group
January 26th, 2015

Between paperless statement options and auto-pay features offered by many institutions, many people rarely focus on the year-end records they should be retaining to protect themselves.  What would you do if you were to be audited and you didn’t have access to your paperless records? 

If you want to continue with the paperless office you’re running, there are storage options on your desktop, or even through web-based programs such as Google Drive; but then the question becomes:  Well, how long do I keep these documents because I need more space?

Below is a comprehensive list of guidelines on how long to keep your records, however, depending on your industry, the amount of time may change.  (Please note all numbers indicate the general suggested number of years to keep records.)

Accounting Systems

Suggested Retention Period

Accounts Payable Ledger

7

Accounts Receivable Aging Reports

7

Accounts Receivable Ledger

7

Accounts Receivable Invoices

7

Accounts Written-off

7

Authorization – Accounting

5

Balance Sheets

Permanent

Bank Reconciliations

7

Bank Statements

7

Bank Deposit Slips

3

Budgets

3

Cancelled Checks

10

Cancelled Dividend Checks

Permanent

Cash Book

Permanent

Cash Disbursement & Receipt Record

Permanent

Cash Sales Slips

7

Charge Slips

7

Charts of Accounts

Permanent

Check Register

Permanent

Expense Reports

7

Financial Statements

Permanent

General Ledger

Permanent

Investment – Sales/Purchases

Permanent

Journal Entries

Permanent

Petty Cash Records

7

Profit/Loss Statements

Permanent

Purchase Order

7

Subsidiary Ledger

Permanent

Trial Balance

Permanent

Vendor Invoices

7

Voucher Check Copies

7

 

 

Corporate Records

Suggested Retention Period

Amendments

Permanent

Annual Reports

Permanent

Articles of Incorporation

Permanent

Audit Reports – Public

Permanent

Audit – Internal

6

Board of Directors – Committee

Permanent

Board of Directors – Minute Book

Permanent

Bylaws

Permanent

Capital Stock Certificates

Permanent

Capital Stock Ledger

Permanent

Capital Stock Transactions

Permanent

Charter

Permanent

Contracts – After Termination

Permanent

Contributions

7

Correspondence – Accounting

5

Correspondence – General

Permanent

Dividend Register & Cancelled Dividend Checks

Permanent

Election Records

Permanent

Financial Statements

Permanent

Organizational Charts

Permanent

Partnership Agreement

Permanent

Stock Transfer Records

Permanent

Stockholders – Minute Book

Permanent

 

 

Fixed Assets

Suggested Retention Period

Depreciation Schedule

Permanent

Inventory Records

Permanent

Plans & Blueprints

Permanent

Plant Cost Ledger

Permanent

Property Appraisals

Permanent

Property Register

Permanent

Records for Property Subject to Depletion

Permanent

 

 

Accounting Firms

Suggested Retention Period

Tax Return Preparers

4

Tax Returns Prepared

4

 

 

Human Resources

Suggested Retention Period

Accident Reports – Settled

7

Attendance Records

7

Dental Benefits

5

Disability Benefits – After Expiration/Settlement

7

Employee Medical History

7

Employment Application – Not Hired

3

Garnishments

5

Life Insurance Benefits

5

Medical Benefits

7

Pension Plan Agreement

Permanent

Performance Record – After Termination

7

Personnel File – After Termination

7

Personnel Files – Current Employees

Permanent

Profit Sharing Agreement

Permanent

Safety Reports

5

Vacation Files

4

Workers’ Compensation Benefits

10

Sick Pay

4

Family & Medical Leave

3

 

 

Insurance

Suggested Retention Period

Automobile Insurance Claims

10

Disability Insurance Claims – After Termination

7

Expired Insurance Policies

10

Fire Inspection Reports

6

Insurance Appraisals

6

Safety Records

6

Foreign Insurance Policies

3

 

 

Legal

Suggested Retention Period

Bill of Sale

Permanent

Business Permits

Permanent

Claims and Litigation Concerning Torts & Breach of Contract

Permanent

Contracts – Employees

Permanent

Contracts – Government

Permanent

Contracts – Labor Union

Permanent

Contracts – Special

Permanent

Copyrights

Permanent

Correspondence – Legal

Permanent

Deeds/Titles

Permanent

Leases/Cancelled

10

Licenses

Permanent

Mortgages

Permanent

Notes Receivable – Cancelled

10

Patents

Permanent

Stock and Bond Record

Permanent

Trademarks – Registered

Permanent

 

 

Payroll

Suggested Retention Period

Contractors

3 years from date of completion of contract

Checks – Payroll

7

Commission reports – Salesperson

6

Employee Withholding Exemption Certificates

10

Payroll Register

4

Payroll Records – After Termination

10

Salary History

8

Time Reports

7

W-2 Forms

Permanent

Vacations/Sick Pay

4

Large Food or Beverage Establishment Reporting Tips

3

Employee Tip Substantiation

3

 

 

Security

Suggestion Retention Period

Classified Material Violations

Permanent

Visitor Clearance

2

 

 

Taxation

Suggested Retention Period

Tax Free Reorganization

Permanent

338 Election

7

Cancelled Checks  - Tax Payments

Permanent

Correspondence – Tax

Permanent

Depreciation Schedules

Permanent

Income Tax Returns

Permanent

Inventory Reports

Permanent

FUTA/FICA/Income Tax Withholding

4

Payroll Tax Returns

Permanent

Revenue Agent Reports

Permanent

Sales Tax Returns

Permanent

Transfer Pricing

4

 

 

Miscellaneous

Suggested Retention Period

Receiving Documents

10

Title Papers

Permanent

Vehicle Operating and Maintenance

2

Telecommunication Copies

1

Prepaid Dues Income

4

Financial Institution Loan Loss Reserves

Permanent

Mutual Savings Bank Bad Debt Reserve

Permanent

 

 

Individual Records

Suggested Retention Period

Tax Return Copies

Permanent

Medical receipts

7

Forms 1099 Received

7

Forms W2 Received

Permanent

401K/Keogh Statements

7

IRA Statements (deductible)

7

IRA Statements (non-deductible)

Permanent

Loan Records / Forms 1098

7

Annuity Year End Statements

7

Life Insurance Policy

Permanent

Other Insurance Policies

7

Major Purchase Receipts

7

Year-End Brokerage Statements/Trade Confirmations

7

Certificates of Deposit Statements

7

Schedule K-1’s from Partnership/S Corporation

7

House Records: Cancelled Checks For Major Improvements and Maintenance

Permanent

Birth and Death Certificates

Permanent

Medical Records

Permanent

Wills

Permanent

Trust Agreements

Permanent

Detailed List of Financial Assets Held

Permanent

Alimony, Custody or Prenuptial Agreements

Permanent

Military Papers

Permanent

Photos or Videotape of Valuables

Permanent

 

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Between paperless statement options and auto-pay features offered by many institutions, many people rarely focus on the year-end records they should be retaining to protect themselves.  What would you do if you were to be audited and you didn’t have access to your paperless records? 

If you want to continue with the paperless office you’re running, there are storage options on your desktop, or even through web-based programs such as Google Drive; but then the question becomes:  Well, how long do I keep these documents because I need more space?

Below is a comprehensive list of guidelines on how long to keep your records, however, depending on your industry, the amount of time may change.  (Please note all numbers indicate the general suggested number of years to keep records.)

Accounting Systems

Suggested Retention Period

Accounts Payable Ledger

7

Accounts Receivable Aging Reports

7

Accounts Receivable Ledger

7

Accounts Receivable Invoices

7

Accounts Written-off

7

Authorization – Accounting

5

Balance Sheets

Permanent

Bank Reconciliations

7

Bank Statements

7

Bank Deposit Slips

3

Budgets

3

Cancelled Checks

10

Cancelled Dividend Checks

Permanent

Cash Book

Permanent

Cash Disbursement & Receipt Record

Permanent

Cash Sales Slips

7

Charge Slips

7

Charts of Accounts

Permanent

Check Register

Permanent

Expense Reports

7

Financial Statements

Permanent

General Ledger

Permanent

Investment – Sales/Purchases

Permanent

Journal Entries

Permanent

Petty Cash Records

7

Profit/Loss Statements

Permanent

Purchase Order

7

Subsidiary Ledger

Permanent

Trial Balance

Permanent

Vendor Invoices

7

Voucher Check Copies

7

 

 

Corporate Records

Suggested Retention Period

Amendments

Permanent

Annual Reports

Permanent

Articles of Incorporation

Permanent

Audit Reports – Public

Permanent

Audit – Internal

6

Board of Directors – Committee

Permanent

Board of Directors – Minute Book

Permanent

Bylaws

Permanent

Capital Stock Certificates

Permanent

Capital Stock Ledger

Permanent

Capital Stock Transactions

Permanent

Charter

Permanent

Contracts – After Termination

Permanent

Contributions

7

Correspondence – Accounting

5

Correspondence – General

Permanent

Dividend Register & Cancelled Dividend Checks

Permanent

Election Records

Permanent

Financial Statements

Permanent

Organizational Charts

Permanent

Partnership Agreement

Permanent

Stock Transfer Records

Permanent

Stockholders – Minute Book

Permanent

 

 

Fixed Assets

Suggested Retention Period

Depreciation Schedule

Permanent

Inventory Records

Permanent

Plans & Blueprints

Permanent

Plant Cost Ledger

Permanent

Property Appraisals

Permanent

Property Register

Permanent

Records for Property Subject to Depletion

Permanent

 

 

Accounting Firms

Suggested Retention Period

Tax Return Preparers

4

Tax Returns Prepared

4

 

 

Human Resources

Suggested Retention Period

Accident Reports – Settled

7

Attendance Records

7

Dental Benefits

5

Disability Benefits – After Expiration/Settlement

7

Employee Medical History

7

Employment Application – Not Hired

3

Garnishments

5

Life Insurance Benefits

5

Medical Benefits

7

Pension Plan Agreement

Permanent

Performance Record – After Termination

7

Personnel File – After Termination

7

Personnel Files – Current Employees

Permanent

Profit Sharing Agreement

Permanent

Safety Reports

5

Vacation Files

4

Workers’ Compensation Benefits

10

Sick Pay

4

Family & Medical Leave

3

 

 

Insurance

Suggested Retention Period

Automobile Insurance Claims

10

Disability Insurance Claims – After Termination

7

Expired Insurance Policies

10

Fire Inspection Reports

6

Insurance Appraisals

6

Safety Records

6

Foreign Insurance Policies

3

 

 

Legal

Suggested Retention Period

Bill of Sale

Permanent

Business Permits

Permanent

Claims and Litigation Concerning Torts & Breach of Contract

Permanent

Contracts – Employees

Permanent

Contracts – Government

Permanent

Contracts – Labor Union

Permanent

Contracts – Special

Permanent

Copyrights

Permanent

Correspondence – Legal

Permanent

Deeds/Titles

Permanent

Leases/Cancelled

10

Licenses

Permanent

Mortgages

Permanent

Notes Receivable – Cancelled

10

Patents

Permanent

Stock and Bond Record

Permanent

Trademarks – Registered

Permanent

 

 

Payroll

Suggested Retention Period

Contractors

3 years from date of completion of contract

Checks – Payroll

7

Commission reports – Salesperson

6

Employee Withholding Exemption Certificates

10

Payroll Register

4

Payroll Records – After Termination

10

Salary History

8

Time Reports

7

W-2 Forms

Permanent

Vacations/Sick Pay

4

Large Food or Beverage Establishment Reporting Tips

3

Employee Tip Substantiation

3

 

 

Security

Suggestion Retention Period

Classified Material Violations

Permanent

Visitor Clearance

2

 

 

Taxation

Suggested Retention Period

Tax Free Reorganization

Permanent

338 Election

7

Cancelled Checks  - Tax Payments

Permanent

Correspondence – Tax

Permanent

Depreciation Schedules

Permanent

Income Tax Returns

Permanent

Inventory Reports

Permanent

FUTA/FICA/Income Tax Withholding

4

Payroll Tax Returns

Permanent

Revenue Agent Reports

Permanent

Sales Tax Returns

Permanent

Transfer Pricing

4

 

 

Miscellaneous

Suggested Retention Period

Receiving Documents

10

Title Papers

Permanent

Vehicle Operating and Maintenance

2

Telecommunication Copies

1

Prepaid Dues Income

4

Financial Institution Loan Loss Reserves

Permanent

Mutual Savings Bank Bad Debt Reserve

Permanent

 

 

Individual Records

Suggested Retention Period

Tax Return Copies

Permanent

Medical receipts

7

Forms 1099 Received

7

Forms W2 Received

Permanent

401K/Keogh Statements

7

IRA Statements (deductible)

7

IRA Statements (non-deductible)

Permanent

Loan Records / Forms 1098

7

Annuity Year End Statements

7

Life Insurance Policy

Permanent

Other Insurance Policies

7

Major Purchase Receipts

7

Year-End Brokerage Statements/Trade Confirmations

7

Certificates of Deposit Statements

7

Schedule K-1’s from Partnership/S Corporation

7

House Records: Cancelled Checks For Major Improvements and Maintenance

Permanent

Birth and Death Certificates

Permanent

Medical Records

Permanent

Wills

Permanent

Trust Agreements

Permanent

Detailed List of Financial Assets Held

Permanent

Alimony, Custody or Prenuptial Agreements

Permanent

Military Papers

Permanent

Photos or Videotape of Valuables

Permanent