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How Long Should You Keep Your Business Records?

Everyone asks how long to keep business records. Several factors can influence this: your type of business, requirements by your particular state, or special regulatory agency requirements. In general, though, the following guidelines apply to most businesses:

KEEP FOR ONE YEAR:

  • Duplicate bank deposit slips
  • Purchase orders

KEEP FOR FOUR YEARS:

  • Bank statements
  • Bank reconciliations
  • General and routine correspondence
  • Insurance policies (expired)
  • Petty cash vouchers
  • Physical inventory tags
  • Internal reports
  • Employment applications

KEEP FOR FIVE YEARS:

  • Internal audit reports
  • Excise tax computations
  • Equipment records (5 years after disposition)

KEEP FOR SEVEN YEARS:

  • Accident reports (settled cases)
  • Cancelled checks (see exceptions to keep permanently)
  • Cancelled stock and bond certificates
  • Accounts payable ledgers
  • Accounts receivable ledgers
  • Notes receivable ledgers and schedules
  • Customer invoices
  • Vendor invoices
  • Subsidiary ledgers
  • Time books and time cards
  • Vouchers for payments to vendors
  • Inventory records
  • Expense reports and analysis schedules
  • Expired contracts, mortgages and leases
  • Purchasing department copy of purchase orders
  • Scrap and salvage records
  • Sales records

KEEP PERMANENTLY:

  • Audit reports
  • Deeds, mortgages, bills of sale
  • Credit history
  • Cash ledgers
  • Depreciation schedules
  • Property records, appraisals, costs, plans and blue prints
  • Contracts and leases in effect
  • Cancelled checks for large purchases and important payments
  • Insurance records, current accident reports, current claims and policies
  • Journals
  • Patents and related papers
  • Trademark registrations
  • Training or personnel manuals
  • Retirement and pension records
  • Financial statements (year end only, interim optional)
  • Minute books of directors, stockholders, bylaws, articles of incorporation and charter
  • Correspondence - major matters and legal
  • Payroll tax returns and W-2's
  • Tax returns and worksheets (including revenue agent's reports)
  • Chart of accounts
  • Records dealing with the company's capital structure and stock
  • General ledgers and year end trial balances