Which Documents to Keep and for How Long

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Important documents arranged in a file placed in a filing cabinet. Complex regulatory requirements, mandatory retention periods, and increased penalties make records management a legal obligation for your business. But how do you know which documents to retain and for how long?

Although we are not the final authority on retention periods for your specific records, we hope this blog serves as a helpful guide.

Accounting and Financial Records

Accounting and financial records include more than just tax returns, and the “seven year” rule doesn’t apply to everything. Bank statements and check registers should be kept for the life of your business. Profit and loss statements, stock ledgers, and audit reports should be kept permanently. The IRS recommends retaining supportive records that corroborate any business income or deductions claimed until the “period of limitations” expires for that tax return.

Human Resource Records

Employers must keep payroll tax records, time sheets, and pension statements four years after the tax statement. Job application records must be kept for three years. Retirement plan agreements should be kept permanently.

Because the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA) states, “any employer whose action or inaction results in the loss of employee information can be fined by federal and state government and sued in civil court,” these documents should be shredded when they reach the end of their retention period.

Legal Records

The following legal documents must be kept permanently:

  • Bills of sale
  • Licenses
  • Contracts
  • Deeds and titles
  • Mortgages
  • Permits

You must keep canceled leases and notes receivable for 10 years after their cancellation.

Medical Records

Healthcare practitioners must align their record retention practices with patient confidentiality provisions outlined in the Health Information and Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA). Each state has different requirements for how long healthcare organizations should keep medical records. For example, Oregon and Washington require healthcare organizations to keep patient records for 10 years after the patient’s last discharge.

Miscellaneous Business Records

Insurance companies, creditors, and financial institutions may require you to keep business records longer than the IRS does. Consider any local, state, and federal regulations related to your industry and check with your accountant or tax attorney before discarding miscellaneous business records.

We are not the final authority on retention periods for your specific records. This blog is meant as a guide to help you determine your needs.

For more information on record retention and information management, please call us at 509-586-6090 or complete the form on this page.

CI Information Management provides full-service records and information management in the Tri-Cities, the Yakima Valley, Walla Walla, Hermiston, OR, Moses Lake, Wenatchee, and nearly everywhere in between.