Document Migration: Paper Files to Keep & What to Shred

Scanning documents and making the conversion to a paperless office offers many advantages. Namely, the ability to get rid of space-consuming hard-copy records. The process to get there, however, can create some friction. You need to make decisions about document migration. Which files are important enough to make the switch? Which can you toss into the shred bin?

When you add documents to electronic document management systems, you typically don’t need to keep the original paper copies.  For the sake of security, you should shred these leftovers. Keeping an extra copy only doubles its chances of falling into a data breach. However, in some cases due to legal requirements, you need to keep some documents as original hard copies. So when it comes to your company, which categories do your various documents fall into?

Physical Copies You Should Keep After Document Migration

Making the shift to electronic document management systems and a digital workflow comes with many benefits. Primarily, it improves work efficiency. However, there are also cost-efficiency advantages that come with not needing office space or an off-site service to store paper documents. This leaves extra room and resources for a revenue-driving employee instead.

Despite this, however, not all documents are created equal. While some files are ideal for paperless document management, one question many businesses and individuals often ask is whether there are some documents you do need to keep as a hard copy. It’s a question that usually brings a range of answers. Oftentimes, it is based on what documents people tend to think need holding on to. However, there is usually a difference between what we think is required, and what the law states as required.

To clarify the matter, while some financial advisors for instance still advise clients that documents like tax returns will only be accepted in paper format, agencies like the IRS allow for recordkeeping via electronic storage (IRS Rev. Proc. 97–22). Even if you file the documents as paper documents, the IRS itself scans and electronically stores individual taxpayer’s files.

So which hard-copy documents do you need to keep, and which documents are safe to live only digitally after their migration? Below is a list of common documents businesses might use, and whether or not they should stay safely filed away as paper files:

Documents to Keep

  • Wills – Many states require you to file and retain original paper copies of wills to provide proof of the individual’s intention to distribute assets.
  • Promissory Notes – Canceling a financial agreement like a mortgage typically requires the use of the original promissory note, much like a will.
  • Titles or Deeds – While not legally required, these documents contain sensitive information that’s infrequently referenced and doesn’t benefit from the accessibility of electronic document management.

Documents to Shred

  • Tax Returns – The IRS stores paper tax returns as digital documents, as many people now file returns electronically. If audited, necessary documents can be retrieved more quickly via an electronic system.
  • Documents for Court Proceedings – There are rarely objections to using a copy of original documents, because if altered in any way it’s easily-discoverable fraud and leads to sanctions such as disbarring the lawyer.
  • All Other Client Documents – Unless they fall into a category from above, you can scan documents like medical records into an electronic document management system. You can discard the old paper copies.

When You Don’t Need It, Shred It

While there’s a need to hold onto documents like wills or promissory notes, electronic document management is nevertheless still a growing business trend. It makes daily work both easier and more efficient. Many agencies and industries not only allow the use of electronic documents. They now actually encourage their use. It’s important to recognize that many modern businesses use electronic document management systems.  Businesses scanning these documents also need a plan for what to do with the leftover hard copies after the document migration.

Businesses still have a responsibility to preserve sensitive client and customer information—regardless of its format and how it’s stored. With a digital copy safely stored in an electronic system, you should securely shred the old paper copy. One of the best ways to do this is implementing a shred-all policy for any documents scanned into the system. Shred-all policies are easy to follow for all employees. Once a document is in a digital format, immediately shred it. In turn, it minimizes the chances of a data breach.

There’s little chance for this to lead to trouble. Sensitive documents like wills won’t be entering the scanning and destruction process from the get-go. This helps employees to easily identify what documents need shredding and what needs keeping. Similarly, a company’s day-forward scanning processes create a constant stream of old paper copies. It makes a shred-all policy a perfect fit to go hand-in-hand with the ongoing process as well.

Plan Your Document Migration with Record Nations

Electronic document management systems are a great way to boost your work efficiency while still maintaining a secure storage system for company documents. However, you need to be sure you’re sticking to the best practices for properly keeping or shredding your hard copies as well.

At Record Nations, we partner with a nationwide network of scanning, shredding, and electronic document management providers. We’ll connect your business with the necessary services to ensure you have all your security and legal bases covered.

To start, just give us a call at (866) 385-3706, fill out the form, or contact us directly using our live chat. We’ll get you free quotes on records shredding, scanning, and storage from providers in your area.

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