Thursday, February 23, 2006

How long do I keep this stuff?

I developed this over the course of some other work I'm doing. I found that I needed to distill the very (overly?) comprehensive documents out there. Of course this is not comprehensive, however, if you use a boilerplate policy, you’ll find yourself bogged in in how long to keep your supply chain FIFO documents. Most small organizations don’t get into this level of complexity.

Financial records, 7 years. Pretty much everything related to routine money maintenance is kept for this period. This extends to any kind of contract or lease. If space is scarce, look into scanning your old papers. This will help focus you on what’s important and what’s not. And computer memory is cheaper than real estate! If you have developed charts of accounts or depreciation schedules, you should keep those forever. Ditto for depreciation schedules, bills of sale and end-of-year financial statements.

Keep any insurance information or legal information for 7 years.

Keep employment applications and post-termination employee records for a period of three years.

Keep your routine correspondence for 1 year. That means you get to have a purge fest once a year. Try lighting a fire and burning an effigy.

Keep anything foundational forever. By this I mean Articles of Incorporation, Charters, Bylaws (each version should be kept), IRS determination letters that prove nonprofit status, etc. If you don’t have these you should do a little research and recreate them. For example, the Articles of Incorporation can be found on file with your state’s Secretary of State.