When Should a Business Destroy Old Records?

It is important to know when to keep records and files and when to destroy them. This recommended Records Retention Schedule is intended as a general guideline for determining when documents are no longer necessary so that confidential information stays secure and out of the hands of unauthorized individuals. This schedule details the number of years to keep particular types of documentation and those documents that should be kept permanently. This schedule is intended only as a guide. Before destroying any records, it is advisable to confer with your attorney, CPA, or another legal advisor.

Accident reports/claims (settled cases) 7 years
Accounts payable: invoices, ledgers, and schedules 4 years
Actuarial reports Permanently
Articles of incorporation Permanently
Audit reports Permanently
Bank reconciliations 4 years
Bank statements 4 years
Bills of lading 3 years
Budgets - projections 2 years
Bylaws Permanently
Capital stock and bond records: ledgers, transfer registers, stubs coupons, options.. Permanently
Cash books Permanently
Chart of accounts Permanently
Checks (canceled - see exception below)
4 years
Checks (canceled for important payments, i.e. taxes, purchases of property, special contracts, etc. Checks should be filed with the papers pertaining to the underlying transaction) Permanently
Contracts, mortgages, notes and leases (expired)
4 years
Copyrights/trademarks Permanently
Correspondence (general) 2 years
Correspondence (legal and important matters only)
Correspondence (routine) with customers and/or vendors 2 years
Deeds, mortgages, and bills of sale Permanently
Depreciation schedules Permanently
Directives - exclusive Permanently
Duplicate deposit slips 2 years
Employee expense records
3 years
Employment applications 2 years
Expense analysis/expense distribution schedules 4 years
Expense reports 4 years
Financial statements (year end) Permanently
Freight bills 3 years
Garnishments 7 years
General/private ledgers, year-end trial balance Permanently
IRS determination/ approval letters Permanently
Insurance policies (expired) 3 years
Insurance records, current accident reports, claims, policies, etc. Permanently
Internal audit reports (longer retention periods may be desirable) 3 years
Internal reports (miscellaneous) 3 years
Inventories of products, materials and supplies 4 years
Invoices for property Permanently
Journals - all types
Minute books of directors, stockholders, bylaws, and charter Permanently
Notes receivable ledgers and schedules 4 years
Note register Permanently
Option records (expired) 7 years
Patents and related papers Permanently
Payroll records and summaries 7 years
Pension/profit sharing plan/ trust documents Permanently
Personnel files (terminated) 7 years
Petty cash vouchers 3 years
Plant cost ledgers 4 years
Procedure records Permanently
Property appraisals by outside appraisers Permanently
Property records, including costs, depreciation reserves, year-end trial balances, depreciation schedules, blueprints, and plans Permanently
Purchase invoices 4 years
Purchase orders (except purchasing department copy) 1 year
Purchase orders (purchasing department copy) 4 years
Receiving sheets
1 year
Retirement and pension records Permanently
Requisitions 1 year
Sales Commission reports 3 years
Sales invoices 4 years
Sales records 4 years
Scrap and salvage records (inventories, sales, etc.) 4 years
Stenographer's notebooks 1 year
Stockroom withdrawal forms 1 year
Subsidiary ledgers 4 years
System records 4 years
Tax returns and worksheets, revenue agents’ reports, and other documents relating to determination of income tax liability
Time books/cards 7 years
Trademark registrations and copyrights Permanently
Training manuals Permanently
Union agreements Permanently
Voucher register and schedules 4 years
Vouchers for payments to vendors, employees, etc. (includes allowances and reimbursements) 4 years
Withholding tax statements 7 years

If you have these or any other documents beyond their retention periods and are ready to clear out your space, call Shred One today at 1 (800) 910-4405 for a free shredding quote.

Remember: Before destroying any records, it is advisable to confer with your attorney, CPA, or another legal advisor. This retention schedule is intended as a general guideline only and should not be acted upon without professional assistance.

View our What to Shred Guide