Document Retention Guide

How Long Should You Keep Your Records?

(click on each to expand)

Two Years
  • Budgets
  • Purchase orders (except purchasing department copy which should be retained for 7 years)
  • Stenographers’ notebooks
  • Stockroom withdrawals
Three Years
  • Accounting trial balances and internal audit reports
  • Bank deposit slips, reconciliations, statements
  • Daily sales records
  • Employment applications of applicants that were not hired
  • Entertainment records
  • Expired insurance policies (except for environmental or other insurance coverage which may provide coverage for claims discovered at some time in the future should be retained permanently)
  • General correspondence
  • Personnel files on former employees
  • Petty cash vouchers
Four Years
  • Credit memos
  • Financial statements
  • Freight bills
Six Years
  • Mortgages/note agreements (after termination, expiry, disposal)
  • Fire inspection reports
  • Group disability reports
  • Safety records
Seven Years
  • Accident report claims-settled cases
  • Accounts payable ledgers
  • Account receivable ledgers
  • Automobile expense logs
  • Bank debt deduction
  • Bills of lading
  • Business facility cost records
  • Canceled checks
  • Cash books
  • Commission records
  • Contracts and leases that expired seven years previous
  • Employee disability benefit records
  • Employee personnel records should be retained at least 7 years after terminating employment
  • Employee time cards/daily time reports
  • Employment tax reports/returns
  • Expense reports/employee expense reports
  • Inventory records
  • Invoices to customers and from vendors
  • Invoices-sales/cash receipts, merchandise purchase
  • Invoices-purchases (permanent assets)
  • Payroll records and summaries, including payments to pensioners, W-2, W-4, annual earnings records, journals
  • Personal property tax returns
  • Purchase/sales orders
  • Sales tax, state and local business tax returns
  • Settled insurance claims
  • Worthless securities
Permanent
  • Articles of Incorporation, minutes and bylaws
  • Audit reports or financial reports prepared by an outside accountant
  • Canceled checks for important payments including but not limited to taxes, property acquisition, capital purchases, etc.
  • Capital stock and bond registers/Corporate stock records
  • Contracts and leases still in force
  • Copyrights
  • Copy of W-2
  • Correspondence (legal and tax matters)
  • Depreciation records/schedule (life of assets, plus 3 years)
  • Expired insurance policies covering environmental or other insurance coverage which may provide coverage for claims discovered at some time in the future should be retained permanently
  • Financial statements (year-end minimum)
  • General ledgers and journals
  • IRA contribution and distribution records (3 years after final distribution)
  • Licenses and permits
  • LIFO inventory record
  • Patents
  • Property appraisals by an outside independent appraiser
  • Property records-costs, blueprints, and plants, inspection reports, etc.
  • Real estate records
  • Tax returns and worksheets, revenue agents’ reports and other documents relating to the determination of tax liability
  • Trademark Registrations

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Disclaimer Notice:The preceding information is only a recommendation and is taken from various sources that recommend the length of time to keep various records. This is not an all-inclusive list as there are many other types of records that you are required to retain for specific purposes. In many cases, there are no laws requiring how long to keep specific records. The reader is advised to use his/her best judgement as to how long to keep various records as the reader may become liable for taxes or other costs if necessary records are not available. The reader must only use the following as a point of information in making his/her decision. The reader is advised to consult with his/her accountant and/or attorney for further information or advice regarding document retention.

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