Yes, we’re always telling you about the benefits of shredding your corporate documents, or at least storing them off-site. From meeting compliance requirements and protecting your privacy, to saving office space and time, there really is no reason a company should let itself get choked on paper.
So you’re convinced, right?! But now the question becomes: what documents do you destroy and when? There are legal requirements to keep certain documents for a certain amount of time, like tax returns, and there are generally accepted best-practices for others. And there are some documents you can set aside for destruction right away.
If your company doesn’t have one in place, you should set up a retention schedule for your documents and store them according to the schedule. It’s the best way to minimize the amount of paper your company retains and tracks. It also means you can set up a regular schedule of document destruction so you don’t keep any paper longer than you have to.
Document Retention Guidelines
To give you an idea of how long you need to store different documents. Check the list below. It’s by no means complete, but you can use it as a guideline.
1. Recycle/Shred Immediately
Photocopies – If a document is photocopied; it’s copied 19 times on average. As long as your original is secure, there’s no need to keep photocopies around for any longer than they are needed. Doing so increases your risk of exposing any sensitive information they contain.
2. Three Years
You should keep any corporate document at least three years. So if it’s not listed below, plan to keep it for at least 3 years and use that time to find out how long it should be kept. 3-year documents include application forms from applicants you didn’t hire, and sales invoices.
3. Four Years
4 years should be your minimum for financial statements and shipping and receiving documents.
4. Six Years
Most correspondence, including general, production and purchase correspondence, and many insurance and personnel files should be kept for 6 years.
5. Seven Years
7 is the magic number for many tax documents, employee records and financial documents.
6. Eight and Up
From statements of claim, to your general ledger, many documents should be kept for at least 8 years and some you should keep forever.
Talk to your document storage or shredding company. They are familiar with the retention period for every type of document your company has.