How Long Should A Business Keep Important Documents?

It’s hard enough for one person to manage important documents, but if you own or operate a business, paperwork seems to stack up in just about every corner of your life. So here’s an overview of the timelines associated with important documents. Please refer to it whenever you’re cleaning house.

Accounting Records
  • Auditors’ report & annual financial statements: Permanently
  • Bank statements and deposit slips: 7 years
  • Canceled checks:
    • Fixed assets: Permanently
    • General: 7 years
    • Payroll: 7 years
    • Taxes (payroll related): 7 years
    • Taxes (income): Permanently
  • Cash disbursements journal: Permanently
  • Cash receipts journal: Permanently
  • Chart of accounts: Permanently
  • Correspondence (general): 2 years
  • Correspondence (routine) with customers and/or vendors: 2 years
  • Deeds, mortgages, bills of sale: Permanently
  • Electronic payment records: 7 years
  • Employee expense records: 7 years
  • Fixed asset records (invoices, canceled checks, depreciation schedules): Permanently
  • Freight bills and bills of lading: 7 years
  • General journal: Permanently
  • General ledger: Permanently Internal reports (miscellaneous): 3 years
  • Inventory listings and tags: 7 years
  • Invoices: Sales to customers/ credit memos: 7 years
  • Notes receivable ledgers and schedules: 8 years
  • Notes payable ledgers and schedules: Permanently
  • Patent/Trademark and related papers: Permanently
  • Payroll journal: 7 years
  • Petty cash vouchers: 7 years
  • Plant cost vouchers: 7 years
  • Production and sales reports: 7 years
  • Purchases: 7 years
  • Purchase journal: Permanently
  • Purchase orders: 7 years
  • Receiving sheets: 1 year
  • Requisitions: 1 year
  • Sales commission reports: 3 years
  • Sales or work orders: 7 years
  • Scrap and salvage records (inventories, sales, etc.): 7 years
  • Stockroom withdrawal forms: 1 year
  • Subsidiary ledgers (accounts receivable, accounts payable, equipment): 7 years
  • Time cards and daily time reports: 7 years
  • Training manuals: Permanently Trial balance – year end: Permanently
  • Vouchers for payments to vendors, employees, etc. (includes allowances and reimbursement of employees, officers, etc., for travel and entertainment expenses): 7 years
Insurance Records

Accident reports and settled claims: 7 years after settlement
Fire inspection and safety reports: 6 years
Insurance policies (still in effect): Permanently
Insurance policies (expired): 7 years

Legal Documents
  • Articles of incorporation and bylaws: Permanently
  • Buy-sell agreements: Permanently
  • Capitol stock and bond records: ledgers, transfer registers, stubs showing options, etc.: Permanently
  • Contracts and leases (still in effect): Permanently
  • Contracts and leases (expired): 7 years
  • Employment agreements: 7 years
  • Legal correspondence: Permanently
  • Minutes: Permanently
  • Option records (expired): 7 years
  • Partnership agreements: Permanently
  • Property appraisals by outside appraisers: Permanently
  • Stock certificates and ledgers: Permanently
 Tax Records
  • IRS or state adjustments: Permanently
  • Payroll tax returns: 7 years
  • Property records, including costs, depreciation reserves, year-end trial balances, depreciation schedules, blueprints and plans: Permanently
  • Sales and use tax returns: Permanently
  • Tax returns and work sheets, revenue agents’ reports, and other documents relating to determination of income tax liability, canceled checks for tax payments: Permanently
  • Tax Records Insurance Records Accident reports and settled claims: 7 years after settlement
  • Fire inspection and safety reports: 6 years
  • Insurance policies (still in effect): Permanently
  • Insurance policies (expired): 7 years
 Personnel Records
  • Child labor certificates and notices: 3 years
  • Employment application (from date of termination): 3 years
  • Employment eligibility verification (I-9 form) (from date of termination): 3 years
  • Garnishments: 7 years Help wanted ads and job opening notices: 2 years
  • Personnel files (from date of termination): 7 years
  • Records of job injuries causing loss of work: 5 years
  • Safety: chemical and toxic exposure records: 30 years
  • Union agreements and individual employee contracts (from date of termination): 3 years
  • Withholding statements: 7 years
Employee Benefit Plan Records
  • Actuarial reports: Permanently
  • Allocation and compliance testing: 7 years
  • Brokerage/ Trustee statements supporting investments: 7 years
  • Financial statements: Permanently
  • General ledger and journals: Permanently
  • Information returns (form5500): Permanently
  • Internal Revenue Service/ Department of Labor correspondence: Permanently
  • Participant communications related to distributions, terminations, and beneficiaries: 7 years
  • Plan and trust agreements: Permanently

Please refer to this when you’re cleaning out business documents and feel free to call with any questions.