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Do you know how long you are supposed to keep documents? Do you know when it’s safe to shred? Having this knowledge is the first step to good recordkeeping. By following these guidelines, you can keep your documents and files organized and updated. Avoid keeping things you don’t need – or discarding something you should have kept permanently!

First—categorize your documents. Examples include past tax returns and supporting documentation, medical information, purchase contracts for large assets, legal matters, employment information, insurance records, property deeds, etc.

Second—determine how you will store your records. Do you want to archive everything digitally? Do you prefer to keep paper copies? When considering how to store your records, think about worst-case scenarios such as fire, burglary, natural disaster, or even something as simple as snooping family members. Regardless of how you store your records, they should always be easily accessible.

Third—label documents with a “keep until” date. Refer to the guide below for suggested lengths of time to keep your important documents. Labeling files with a “destroy” date will help ensure that your records will remain organized and current.

Fourth—destroy records that are no longer needed. To minimize the risk of identity theft, it is very important that you permanently destroy documents. If the items are paper, shred or incinerate them. If you have a large amount of shredding, consider taking it to a shredding facility. Occasionally, community organizations will offer complimentary document shredding on specific dates. If your documents are stored on a computer, use specialized software to remove files or delete an entire hard drive’s data. Another option is physically destroying the hard drive if you plan to stop using the computer entirely.

Having a system in place for your record retention will not only make it easier to locate important documents quickly and keep unnecessary documents to a minimum, but it will also give you something priceless—peace of mind.



I. Accounting Records

Bank Statements & Deposit – 3 years

Individual Payroll Records – 8 years

Payroll Timecard/Sheets – 3 years

Expense Reports – 6 years

Accounts Payable/Receivable Reports – 6 years

Trial Balance Reports – 6 years

Payment Vouchers (all) – 8 years

All Canceled Checks – 8 years

Audit Reports – 7 years

General Ledgers and Journals – 7 years

II. Sales, Purchase, Shipping Records

Sales Contracts & Invoices – 3 years

Requisition/Purchase Orders – 3 years

Export Declaration & Manifests – 4 years

Freights, Shipping, & Receiving Reports – 4 years

Bills of Lading Records – 4 years

III. Personnel Records

Daily Time Reports – 6 years

Withholding Tax Statements – 6 years

Disability & Sick Benefits Records – 6 years

Expired Contracts – 6 years

Files of Terminated Personnel – 6 years

IV. Corporate Records

Expired Notes, Leases & Mortgages – 6 years

All Cash Books – 7 years

Contracts & Agreements – Indefinitely

Property Deed & Easements – Indefinitely

Registration of Copyrights & Trademarks – Indefinitely

Patents – Indefinitely

Corporate By-Laws & Minutes Books – Indefinitely

Capital Stock & Bond Records – Indefinitely

Stock Certificate & Transfer Lists – Indefinitely

Canceled Checks on Asset – Indefinitely

Canceled Checks for Taxes & Contracts – 7 years

Proxies – Indefinitely

Labor Contracts – 7 years

Retirement & Pension Records – 7 years

Tax Returns & All Work Papers – 7 years

V. Insurance Records

All Expired Policies – 4 years

Accident Reports – 6 years

Safety Reports – 8 years

Settlement Claims – 10 years

Group Disability Records – 8 years

Fire Inspection Reports – 6 years

VI. Correspondence

General – All – 3 years

Tax & Legal Communications – 7 years

License & Traffic – 6 years

Sale & Purchase – 6 years


Tax Returns and Related – 7 years

IRA Contribution Records – Permanently

Retirement/Savings Plan Statements – From 1 year to permanently

Bank Records – From 1 year to permanently

Brokerage Statements – Until you sell the securities

Bills – From 1 year to permanently

Credit Card Receipts & Statements – From 45 days to 7 years (7 years for tax-related expenses)

Paycheck Stubs – 1 year

House/Condominium Records – From 6 years to permanently

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