Document Retention Guidelines 2016-10-28T07:38:38+00:00

Documentation Retention Guidelines

Sterck Kulik O’Neill’s recommendations on document retention are listed in the tables below.

Different types of records need to be retained for different time periods.  The time documents should be kept depends on appropriate laws, IRS and governmental regulations, and third-party requirements.

These recommendations on Document Retention are general guidelines. They are NOT advice for any specific circumstance! Please contact us for professional advice.

We also link to additional resources. We are not responsible for the recommendations or information provided by these third parties.

File Room Decisions in a Cartoon

General Financial Records

Type of Record Retention
Auditors’ reports Permanent
Bank debt deduction 7
Bank deposit slips, reconciliations, statements 4
Bills of lading 4
Budgets 2
Checks – cancelled 4
Contracts – purchase and sales 4*
Credit memos 4
Depreciation records 4*
Employee expense reports 4
Employee payroll records (W-2, W-4, annual earnings records, etc.) 6*
Financial statements — annual Permanent
Financial statements — interim 4
Freight bills 4
Internal reports (Work orders, sales reports, production reports) 4
Inventory lists 4
Invoices – Sales and cash register receipts, merchandise purchases 4
Invoices — purchases (permanent assets) 4*
General ledger Permanent

General, cash receipts, cash disbursement, and purchase journals.


Payroll journal

Petty cash vouchers 4
Subsidiary ledgers (accounts receivable, accounts payable, etc.) 6
Time cards and daily time reports 4
Worthless securities 7

* Retention periods begin after termination, expiration, disposal, etc. of item.

Business Records

Type of Record Retention Period (Years)
Articles of incorporation Permanent
Bylaws Permanent
Capital stock and bond records Permanent
Contracts and agreements (government construction, partnership, employment, labor, etc.) Permanent
Copyrights and trademark registration Permanent
Legal correspondence Permanent
Minutes Permanent
Mortgages and note agreements 6*
Patents Permanent
Personnel files 4*

* Retention periods begin after termination, expiration, disposal, etc. of item.

Insurance Records

Type of Record Retention Period (Years)
Accident reports 6
Fire inspection reports 6
Group disability records 6
Insurance policies 6 *
Safety records 6
Settled insurance claims 4 *
* Retention periods begin after termination, expiration, disposal, etc. of item.

Pension/Profit Sharing Records

Type of Record Retention Period (Years)
Actuarial reports Permanent
Associated ledgers and journals Permanent
Financial statements Permanent
IRS approval letter Permanent
Plan and trust agreement Permanent

 Tax Records

There is no limit for returns that are filed fraudulently or that substantially underreport income.

Type of Record Retention Period (Years)
Tax returns and cancelled checks
(federal, state and local)
Sales and use tax returns Permanent
Payroll tax returns 4
Pension/profit-sharing informational returns Permanent

All retention periods begin with the date the return was filed. If the statute of limitations concerning a tax year is extended, the retention period should be extended accordingly.

IRS Information

Additional information on records you should keep and the Federal  government’s requirements for retention are on line at the Internal Revenue Service‘s site.

The links below are to IRS publications which are in Acrobat (pdf) format.

Record Keeping for Individuals Record Keeping for Businesses
Most computers already have the Acrobat Reader installed. If yours does not yet, please download the free reader now. If the publications do not appear when you click on the link, you can download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader here.