How long should you keep stuff?

Date: Monday, March 08, 2010 by GTD Times Staff

“When in doubt, throw it out. When in doubt, keep it.” – David Allen

OK, so what you should really be keeping? This is a standard records retention list that we got a few years ago from our accounting firm in California. There may be better ones out there, or more specific to your location. It should in no way constitute final judgment for your own accounting and record-keeping. We’ve heard that it is quite a grey area, and can differ from state to state. It might help with some general guidelines, however.

Type and Retention Period (years)
Accident reports and claims (settled cases)— 7
Accounts payable ledgers and schedules— 7
Accounts receivable ledgers and schedules— 7
Audit reports of accountants— permanently
Bank reconciliation— 1
Capital stock and bond records; ledgers, transfer registers, stubs showing issues, record of interest coupons, options, etc..— permanently
Cash books— permanently
Chart of Accounts— permanently
Checks (canceled but see exception below)— 7
Checks; canceled for important payments, i.e. taxes, purchases of property, special contracts, etc..— permanently
Contracts and leases (expired)— 7
Contracts and leases still in effect— permanently
Correspondence (routine) with customers and vendors— 1
Correspondence (general)— 3
Correspondence (legal and important matters only)— permanently
Deeds, mortgages, and bills of sale— permanently
Depreciation schedule— permanently
Duplicate deposit slips— 1
Employee personnel records (after termination)— 3
Employment applications— 3
Expense analyses and expense distribution schedules— 7
Financial statements (end of yr. other months optional)— permanently
General and private ledgers (and end of yr. trial balances)— permanently
Insurance policies (expired)— 3
Insurance records, current accident reports, claims, policies— permanently
Internal audit reports— 3
Internal reports (misc.)— 3
Inventories of products, materials, and supplies— 7
Invoices to customers— 7
Invoices from vendors— 7
Journals— permanently
Minute books of directors and stockholders— permanently
Notes receivable ledgers and schedules— 7
Option records (expired)— 7
Payroll records and summaries, including payments to pensioners— 7
Petty cash vouchers— 3
Physical inventory tags— 3
Plant cost ledgers— 7
Property appraisals by outside appraisers— permanently
Property records including costs, depreciation reserves, end of year trial balances, depreciation schedules, blueprints and plans— permanently
Purchase orders (except purchasing dept copy)— 1
Purchasing orders (purchasing dept copy)— 7
Receiving sheets— 1
Requisitions— 1
Sales Records— 7
Savings bond registration records of employees— 3
Scrap and salvage records (inventories, sales etc)— 7
Stenographers notebooks— 1
Stock and bond certificates (canceled)— 7
Subsidiary ledgers— 7
Tax returns and worksheets, revenue agents reports and other documents relating to determination of income tax liability— permanently
Time books— 7
Trade mark registrations— permanently
Voucher register and schedules— 7
Vouchers for payments to vendors, employees, etc.. (includes allowances and reimbursement of employees, officers, etc.. for travel and entertainment expenses)— permanently

2 Responses to “How long should you keep stuff?”

  1. Anthony says:

    Thanks for sharing this list! My wife just received a letter in the mail from a collection agency for Oklahoma Tax Commission, saying she owed money from 1998. During that time she was a single mom making less 10K a year. But having a good filing system she was able to prove we did not owe the bill. We have not lived in Oklahoma since 1999 and this was their first attempt to contact us!

  2. Kate says:

    This is very helpful. I just shredded a huge pile of unnecessary records and just looking at the empty space where the pile used to sit is so uplifting!

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