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February 20, 2019

Document Retention: How Long to Keep Records

The short answer to the question “How long should I keep my business and personal financial records?” is this: as long as they serve an important purpose, but not before or beyond accepted document retention times.

Likewise, there are overriding legal requirements that may force you to keep many records permanently. In the latter case, electronic storage may be a good alternative to keeping all that paper around. For example, the IRS permits electronic storage in lieu of maintaining paper files for certain types of tax documents.

The Pyramid Approach to Document Destruction

Say that your business has been around for 7 years or more. If your office file cabinets are starting to fill up or your rented storage area won’t accommodate next year’s paper data dump, you should get serious about cleaning out the papers you don’t need.

Think of document retention as a pyramid arrangement. At the top are the records you need to keep permanently. The middle tier are those records with a 7-year retention requirement, which covers the majority of records. At the base of our pyramid are those paper records that you can gather up and destroy between 2 and 4 years.

Starting at the base of the pyramid and working up, here are some general categories of records you can begin cleaning out after the time period specified:

Tier 1 (2-4 years)

Tier 2 (7 years)

Tier 3 (Permanent)

Additional Guidance on How Long to Keep Records

The foregoing is only a sampling of document retention standards. Before you embark on an ambitious paper shredding expedition, do some careful research. Below are three reliable sources:

  1. Check with the IRS for tax records retention standards. To recap, you must keep employee withholding records for 7 years. Company tax returns, tax bills and statements along with 1099 forms for contractor or non-employee compensation must be kept permanently.
  2. A good general source for small businesses is in the Small Business Administration’s publication Record Keeping for a Small Business.
  3. Texas state regulations pertaining to public records see Records Retention Schedules for State agencies.

When it is time to get serious about document destruction, paper shredding is the most secure way to destroy business records. If you are a “covered entity” under HIPAA or are covered by federal and state privacy laws, you could face heavy fines and other sanctions if you do not properly destroy confidential information.

Dallas Fort Worth Paper Shredding: Your Full-Service Document Management Company!

We are the city’s #1 choice for paper shredding and related services, as we are Dallas Fort Worth’s only full-service document management company. In addition to your shredding service, you can schedule a scanning service. This allows you to keep your information stored on your computer while all physical papers are destroyed.

For a secure and compliant business records shredding service In the Dallas Fort Worth area, contact us today to get started!

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