Heiser and Company Certified Public Accountants serving NE Ohio small businesses

Records Retention Guidelines

Business Record Retention | Individuals Record Retention

Recordkeeping goes beyond tax issues—it's vital as a good business practice. The following guide shows how long you should retain common business records.

Record Retention Guide for Businesses

Accounting Records Retention Period
Accounts payable 7 years
Accounts receivable 7 years
Audit reports Permanent
Chart of accounts Permanent
Depreciation schedules Permanent
Expense records 7 years
Financial statements (annual) Permanent
Fixed asset purchases Permanent
General ledger Permanent
Inventory records 7 years (Permanent for LIFO system)
Loan payment schedules 7 years
Purchase orders (1 copy) 7 years
Sales records 7 years
Tax returns Permanent
   
Bank Records Retention Period
Bank reconciliations 2 years
Bank statements 7 years
Cancelled checks 7 years (Permanent for real estate purchases)
Electronic payment records 7 years
   
Corporate Records Retention Period
Board minutes Permanent
Bylaws Permanent
Business licenses Permanent
Contracts -major Permanent
Contracts -minor Life + 4 years
Insurance policies Life + 3 years (Check with your agent. Liability for prior years can vary.)
Leases/mortgages Permanent
Patents/trademarks Permanent
Shareholder records Permanent
Stock registers Permanent
Stock transactions Permanent
   
Employee Records Retention Period
Benefit plans Permanent
Employee files (ex-employees) 7 years (Or statute of limitations for employee lawsuits)
Employment applications 3 years
Employment taxes 7 years
Payroll records 7 years
Pension/profit sharing plans Permanent
   
Real Property Records Retention Period
Construction records Permanent
Leasehold improvements Permanent
Lease payment records Life + 4 years
Real estate pu rchases Permanent

While record keeping for individuals differs from business, complete and organized records make your finances easier to manage, and help you avoid paying too much in taxes. How long to retain these records can vary depending on state and federal regulations, but the following guidelines are generally appropriate:

Record Retention Guide for Individuals

Record Retention Period
Tax returns (uncomplicated) 7 years
Tax returns (all others) Permanent
W-2s 7 years
1099s 7 years
Cancelled checks supporting tax deductions 7 years
Bank deposit slips 7 years
Bank statements 7 years
Charitable contribution documentation 7 years
Credit card statements 7 years
Receipts, diaries, logs pertaining to tax return 7 years
Investment purchase and sales slips Ownership period + 7 years
Dividend reinvestment records Ownership period + 7 years
Year-end brokerage statements Ownership period + 7 years
Mutual fund annual statements Ownership period + 7 years
Investment property purchase documents Ownership period + 7 years
Home purchase documents Ownership period + 7 years
Home improvement receipts and cancelled checks Ownership period + 7 years
Home repair receipts and cancelled checks Warranty period for item
Retirement plan annual reports Permanent
IRA annual reports Permanent
IRA nondeductible contributions (Form 8606) Permanent

Heiser and Company will be happy to assist you with any questions about these guidelines or help in record retention for your business or household.

Quick Tip: The retention period for electronic and paper records is the same.