How Long Should You Keep Business Records

The three-year rule is in place so that the IRS has up to three years to audit you and assess additional taxes. However, here is a quick list of individual documents and their record retention limits. Thankfully, you don’t have to keep paper records of your finances and other important data.

  • Keep property records until the period of limitations expires for the year when you sold or disposed of the property.
  • This way you will utilize the vertical space in your office.
  • In addition, there are more specific guidelines that cover the documentation of procedures, the contents of files and system checks.
  • Items such as by-laws, articles of incorporation, board minutes and stock records must be considered permanent records and thus kept indefinitely.
  • Your bank statements detail all of your accounts with the bank.

The IRS recommends you back up your paper documents electronically in case of flood, fire, or other disaster. Choose a method of electronic storage–whether on your computer, in the cloud, or on a thumb drive or external hard drive—that offers the most safety and security against identity theft. Make sure your computer is password protected, and consider using an encryption program like Microsoft BitLocker, Apple FileVault, or a third-party program. Choose a well-protected cloud storage program, and use a unique and complex password with two-factor authentication. You’ll want to keep some records and documents longer than others.

Practical and real-world advice on how to run your business — from managing employees to keeping the books. RunPractical and real-world advice on how to run your business — from managing employees to keeping the books. Keeping good records is very important when you own a small business.

If you’re filing for additional credit or a refund, the time limit is the later of three years from the date you filed the original return or two years from the date you paid the tax. Your insurance company may require you to keep records for longer periods in case of a claim, and some creditors may require you to keep loan documents indefinitely. Your business records can also come in handy in many other instances. Insurance claims can be filed years after an incident, so maintaining those records can offer protection. Likewise, these records can help support your business in case of any legal issues.

Ownership Records And Other Key Business Documents

Often, your organization’s records management program will have processes in place to determine how long to keep business records. If you have more documents to hold onto than you thought, don’t worry.

How Long Should You Keep Business Records

Check the permit requirements to make sure you comply with applicable laws. Permits and licenses should be kept up-to-date to show you follow regulations. Insurance policy documents offer important information about the details of your insurance coverage and deductibles that can protect your business or provide you with reimbursement for certain damages. You may have insurance for different aspects of your company, such as general business liability insurance that protects your business from losses, renter’s insurance or even auto insurance. If you ever need to make an insurance claim for any reason, you will need to provide proof that you are covered. For example, you may need to access insurance documents to prove you are covered if your business gets broken into. Some states, including Texas, Illinois and North Dakota, have adopted this standard.

Whats The Rule On Keeping Tax Records?

The goods and services need to be described on the receipt by the seller. A record of all properties bought and sold needs to be kept. This information is used to calculate capital cost allowance. We know every form you need and every deduction you can take to pay less this year.

As a business owner, it’s in your best interest to keep your business records organized and easy to find. It may require some work initially, either filing them based on the year or type of document, or scanning them to save space and then shredding the paper. But your effort will pay off in the long run if one day the IRS or a bank asks for these documents. The IRS might have a question about business expenses on your income tax return, so you’ll want to be able to prove the purchase was business-related. This will also come in handy if you claim a deduction or depreciation for equipment. Different business structures may have different types of legal documents.

How Long Should You Keep Business Records

They can keep your own and your business purchases isolated. Moreover, they can likewise assist you with overseeing the source of your costs. Finally, keep in mind your certified public accountant or tax preparer may give you different recommendations. It’s a good idea to check with these professionals before throwing records away. We’ll go over which records you need to keep and how long you need to keep them. Then you can use our 5 tips to protect your business documents in the long term.

How Long To Keep Tax Records For Business In General

Should an employee leave your firm, there are additional guidelines regarding how long records should be kept after the termination date. See the chart to review specific guidelines for this situation.

How Long Should You Keep Business Records

In cases where your only record is a duplicate check, you may need the monthly checking account statement to verify that the check went through. The Internal Revenue Service has a three year statute of limitations on auditing a return. Keep all records of income or deduction expense for three years. Filing a fraudulent return or failing to file a return eliminates any statute of limitations for an audit by the IRS. If you hire a tax specialist, check to see how many years you should keep your records. Despite that, all financial statements, accounting records, and tax returns must be preserved over the course of at least six years.

How Long Should Company Records Be Maintained?

In light of this, it is wise to keep tax records for a period of seven years. Accounting records will include information about your equity, income and expenses. You will need to keep these business records for several reasons. First, the U.S. government requires you to track your business income and expenses for tax filing purposes.

Some small businesses will face specific legal requirements relating to hiring records. If you have 15 or more employees, your business is subject to Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act . If you have 20 or more employees, your business is also subject to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act .

Other Key Business Records To Keep

You need to hold onto these supporting documents until the period of limitations expires. This is the time period during which you can still amend your tax return or the IRS can assess additional owed tax. Is your file cabinet bulging with another year’s worth of tax documents?

Your insurance company or creditors may require that you hold onto things for a little longer. You’ll be hanging onto those records indefinitely, as there is no statute of limitations. The IRS can come looking for your records anytime in the future. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re wondering if a document is important, it’s a good idea to keep it and/or make a digital copy for your records.

  • IRS also recommends that you must retain any supportive documents pertaining to your business gross income claim until your tax return’s period of limitation expires.
  • These records can then be disposed of beginning seven years after the date of termination.
  • You must hold each of your employee records for at least four years from the day tax became due or when you paid it in full .
  • A good time to make transfers is the first of the year when you work on your income tax forms.
  • Moreover, it is smart to keep them separate from your other archives .

Returns filed before the due date are treated as filed on the due date. The IRS will provide free copies of tax returns from the last three years and tax preparation software stores previous tax returns as well for easy access. Keep annual tax returns forever to prove that they were filed because if the IRS loses its copy of a return, they can assume it has not been filed. Proper historical records are as important proactively as they are reactively. Maintaining both paper and digital copies safeguards businesses in the case of an audit or error and aids in subsequent filings. Managing a small business is not a profession for the faint-of-heart.

In some cases, electronic is preferred, since paper receipts can fade and become illegible over time. But, if you’d prefer to store all your files digitally, feel free to do so. You should retain lease and business loan documents that pertain to tax deductions for the seven-year period described earlier. Many businesses aren’t sure how long records must be saved in the paperless era. Record-keeping is a boring, but important business activity, and if you make the wrong choices, you risk litigation, succession planning problems and the wrath of the tax man. Understanding how long should you keep business records will help you avoid these problems.


You must keep these records to figure any depreciation, amortization, or depletion deduction and to figure the gain or loss when you sell or otherwise dispose of the property. Current employee files should be retained for at least seven years after an employee leaves, is terminated or retires. However, if an employee suffers a work-related accident or files a claim against the business, it’s advisable to retain your records for up to 10 years after the claim is resolved. But to use your insurance, you need to provide proof of insurance. That way, you can have your insurance policy number and other identifying information handy if you need to file a claim. Keep all documents for the loan somewhere you can easily access them.

By digitizing your business records, you can cut down on clutter and stay organized. Regardless of the record-keeping system you choose, stay consistent with your method. How Long Should You Keep Business Records That way, you can quickly and easily locate any record you need. When it comes to how long to keep business records, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Legal Documents

The inactive files are used to store the items from the current files that are three years old. Discard Unneeded items and transfer others to inactive storage. A good time to make transfers is the first of the year when you work on your income tax forms.

It is quite common for individuals and business purchases to get tangled up. This is almost certain in the event that you do not keep great records.