Business Records Retention Times

offsite document storage and record retention timesDocument retention times are one of the most important parts of your records retention plan.  Understanding how long you need to hold on to your documents and critical records can save you litigation headaches.

Certain types of records have to be retained-sometimes for years past their useful life.  That’s where a professional management company and offsite storage programs can help you.  When you have records that you won’t need to access regularly, you’ll be able to store them offsite in a secure facility.

This article helps define what a Records Retention program is, and details all the different retention times for dozens of records for your company.

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What Is a Records Retention Program?

A records retention program provides for the systematic review, retention and destruction of documents received or created in the course of business.

A records retention program will identify documents and business records that need to be maintained and contain guidelines for how long certain documents should be kept and how they should be destroyed.

Why Create a Records Retention Program?

Document scanning and storageA record retention program is important for many reasons. A records retention program can protect you in litigation and help ensure compliance with federal and state laws and regulations.

Evidence of a clear and consistently enforced records retention program, enacted for valid purposes, will go a long way to convince the court that the destruction of a document or business records was reasonable.

While it is important to clear out clutter, tossing the wrong paper or deleting an important e-mail can also have bad consequences. Not having a document can mean the difference between winning and losing in a lawsuit.

If a litigant requests a document that you cannot provide because it has been destroyed, then a judge or jury may be permitted to conclude that the document contained information detrimental to your position.

What Concerns Should Be Weighed?

Costs and benefits of creating a records retention planHow long to keep a document, when and how to store the document, and how to dispose of the document, will depend on the type of document. The four principles to balance when creating a records retention program are:

1) Is there a legal requirement for keeping the document? These include federal, state and local reporting, regulations, and laws. You also need to consider industry guidelines.

2) After the document is past its useful life, what other purpose could it serve? Could it be used to support or oppose a position in an investigation or litigation?

3) What is the consequence of not being able to locate the document? If the item was mentioned in a lawsuit, then suddenly destroyed, the presumption will be that the destruction was accomplished deliberately.

4) Can the item be reliably reproduced elsewhere if needed? Is the information available from the public library, an online source, a database, or company central files?

How Do I Implement a Records Retention Program?

Once you have created your records retention program you need to communicate these records storage solutions with everyone in your company.

The consequences of even one employee not following your records storage solutions program can be the difference between winning a losing a lawsuit or being in violation of privacy laws. Place the guidelines in your employee handbook and cover it every year with any changes.

How Do I Store the Records?

offsite-records-storage-critical-documentsThe records should be stored in a secure location that is climate controlled and also has a fire suppression system. Many companies find the cost of creating a storage area to be cost prohibitive.

Companies today outsource their records storage to a secure records storage company that offers record backup services. They can provide the secure storage and record backup services and even help you index your files for easy retrieval.

Record Retention Times

To get you started, here are some basic guidelines for the length to maintain your records. Laws vary by state so you should have your attorney review your program once it is completed.

outsourcing offsite record storage service benefit business and business record retention times
Business Records Retention Times

Type of Record
Retention Period (Years)
Articles of incorporation Permanent
Bylaws Permanent
Capital stock and bond records Permanent
Contracts & agreements (government construction, partnership, employment, labor) Permanent
Legal correspondence Permanent
Minutes Permanent

financial records retention times

Financial Records Retention Times

Type of Record
Retention Period (Years)
Auditors’ reports Permanent
Bank debt deduction 7
Bank deposit slips, reconciliations, statements 4
Bills of lading 4
Budgets 2
Checks – cancelled 4
Contracts – purchase and sales 4*
Credit memos 4
Depreciation records 4*
Employee expense reports 4
Employee payroll records (W-2, W-4, annual earnings records, etc.) 6*
Financial statements — annual Permanent
Financial statements — interim 4
Freight bills 4
Internal reports (Work orders, sales reports, production reports) 4
Inventory lists 4
Invoices – Sales and cash register receipts, merchandise purchases 4
Invoices — purchases (permanent assets) 4*
General ledger Permanent
General, cash receipts, cash disbursement, and purchase journals. Permanent
Payroll journal 4
Petty cash vouchers 4
Subsidiary ledgers (accounts receivable, accounts payable, etc.) 6
Time cards and daily time reports 4
Worthless securities 7

personnel files retention times

Personnel Records Retention Times

Type of Record
Retention Period (Years)
Personnel Accident Report/Injury Claim 11
Attendance Records 4
COBRA Records 3
Employee Benefit Plans 2*
I-9 Forms 1*
Medical and Exposure Records – related to toxic substances 40
OSHA Training Documentation 3
OSHA Logs 6
Patents Permanent
Personnel files 6*
* Retention periods begin after termination,


Inventions and Copyrights Retention Times

Type of Record
Retention Period (Years)
Patents Permanent
Copyrights Permanent
Trademarks Permanent
Servicemarks Permanent


Insurance Records Retention Times

Type of Record
Retention Period (Years)
Accident reports 6
Fire inspection reports 6
Group disability records 6
Insurance policies 6 *
Safety records 6
Settled insurance claims 4 *
* Retention periods begin after termination, expiration, disposal, etc. of item.


Real Estate Records Retention Times

Type of Record
Retention Period (Years)
Mortgages 6 years
Contracts 6 years
Deeds Permanent

pension records retention times

Pension/Profit Sharing Records Retention Times

Type of Record
Retention Period (Years)
Actuarial reports Permanent
Associated ledgers and journals Permanent
Financial statements Permanent
IRS approval letter Permanent
Plan and trust agreement Permanent

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