It’s amazing how much paper is still used by businesses. From printing quotes and invoices to creating statements and presentations, many things are still done using paper. Naturally, most businesses now try to use sustainable paper, minimizing the damage to the environment.
But, that’s not the only concern. Many of the pieces of paper generated by a business contain personal information. This can include name, address, date of birth, and even bank details. In short, if these details fall into the wrong hands they can be used to steal the identity of people and cause financial misery.
That’s why there are two sides to keeping records permanently.
Not all records need to be kept permanently. Some can be destroyed straight away, others need to be kept for a specific period, and some need to be kept forever.
You need to be able to identify each group and decide whether the hard copy needs to be kept or whether a digital copy is good enough. In most cases, it’s worth having a digital copy of the original.
Once you have identified which records need to be kept, you know that you can eliminate the other ones. It’s essential that these are properly destroyed to ensure personal details don’t end up in the wrong hands.
The most effective way to do this is to invest in one of these high-quality industrial shredders. These shredders are designed to curt any document vertically and horizontally. The blades are closely positioned together, effectively ensuring the document is cut into very small pieces. This makes it virtually impossible to put it back together.
Identifying Records To Keep
Businesses deal with personal details and company information. In most cases, personal information can be destroyed once the contract has finished.
For example, a customer warranty lasts 12 months. That means after twelve months the customer details can be eliminated.
In contrast, official, company documents, such as when the company was formed, will need to be kept for as long as the company is trading. That means permanently.
Other personal information, such as the minutes of a meeting, should be kept for 5 years and then destroyed.
Financial records also need to be kept for seven years, these then need to be properly destroyed, preferably with an industrial shredder. Employment records, including interviews and job listings, are also important documents for the business and need to be kept.
While applications can be discarded after a few years, employee records must be kept for the duration of employment and for another 5 years after that.
Insurance records and safety procedures/minutes/assessments, also need to be kept for five years as they back up the financial position and fiscal responsibility of the business.
On a personal level tax returns need to be kept for at least five years.
The Bottom Line
If in doubt it can pay to at least keep a digital copy of any document. But, the best way to know for certain whether to keep a document or not is to contact your local state and ask them to confirm what you need to keep. Get what they say in writing and keep it!