This oft-asked question is a tricky one for many reasons. First, retention requirements are unique to the type of document in question. Internal audit reports? Three years. Canceled checks? Seven years. Year-end financial statements? Well, find a good place to store them because you will need to retain such statements until the cows come home (i.e. forever). Second, just knowing how long to keep a document on hand is not enough. Applying a record retention policy at a company site poses some logistical and human resource issues which must be addressed. Lastly, when it comes to record management, the IRS likes to see adherence to lawful, organized, consistent retention policies. Therefore, our advice is to develop a record retention policy your company can actually manage and then stick to it.

Below you will find a listing of retention guidelines for accounting, tax, insurance and corporate records. If you have a question about any item on the list or one not found on the list, please feel free to contact our offices.

Accounts payable ledgers, schedules & invoices 7
Accounts receivable ledgers, schedules & invoices 7
Audit reports, external Permanent
Audit reports, internal 3
Bank reconciliations 3
Bank statements & deposit slips 7
Bills of lading 3
Budgets and productions 2
Canceled checks, except as described below 7
Canceled checks for important matters such as purchases of property, payment of taxes, special contracts, etc Permanent
Cash receipts & disbursements journals Permanent
Chart of accounts Permanent
Depreciation schedules Permanent
Expense analysis & distribution schedules 7
Expense reports 7
Financial statements (year-end) Permanent
General ledger & journals Permanent
Inventories 7
Invoices for nonproperty purchases 7
Invoices for property Permanent
IRS determination & approval letters Permanent
Notes receivable ledgers & schedules 7
Payroll records 8
Petty cash vouchers 3
Purchase orders, except purchasing department copy 1
Purchase orders, purchasing department copy 7
Receiving reports 3
Sales commission reports 3
Sales invoices & other sales records 7
Shipping reports 3
Subsidiary ledgers 7
Systems records Permanent
Tax returns, worksheets & other documents used to determine tax liability Permanent
Trial balances 7
Vouchers for payments to vendors, employees, etc 7
Retirement & pension records Permanent
Stenographer’s notebooks 1
Training manuals Permanent
Union agreements Permanent
Correspondence Records Retention
General 2
Legal, tax & other important matters Permanent
Corporate Records Retention
Articles of incorporation, bylaws, charter, minute books, etc. Permanent
Capital stock & bond records Permanent
Contracts & agreements (expired) 7
Copyrights patents & trademark registrations Permanent
Mortgages, notes & leases (expired) 8
Option records 7
Property records, including costs, appraisals, depreciation schedules, blueprints & plans, deeds & easements, etc. Permanent
Insurance Records Retention
Accident reports (settled) 6
Claims (settled) 10
Fire inspection reports (settled) 6
Group disability records 8
Policies (expired) 3
Safety reports 8
Personnel Records Retention
Contracts (expired) 7
Disability & sick benefits 7
Garnishments 7
Personnel files (terminated) 7
Withholding tax statements 7

Working for Web Record Retention Guidelines Disclosure

The retention periods contained in this schedule are our best estimates of the minimum time a business should keep certain documents. The actual amount of time to keep a specific document may be longer depending on the circumstances of your business or the contents of the documents. We invite your questions about retaining records and ask that you contact us for more information about your particular situation.
This information is believed to be reliable. Its accuracy and completeness are not guaranteed; please consult us if you have any questions.

Please keep in mind that documentation may include all electronic files and memos. This can include, but is not limited to such items as emails, tax software files, general ledger files, “.pdf” files or any other form of information retention that is created and/or stored electronically.
The retention periods here are intended as general guidelines only. Before destroying any business records, you should seek the advice of legal counsel.