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What is Retention Policy Management?

What is Retention Policy Management, and why do you need a system to keep up with it? Document or Records Retention Management deals with the policies which your organization must follow, keeping some records on file for a certain period of time, and making sure that others are deleted and not on file, after that retention policy period. 

Here are samples of common document retention policies. These rules can change drastically based upon your industry type, and changing regulations. Do not use these in place of any legal advice, they are merely to demonstrate the many policies in place for most industries today.

Businesses are required by law to retain confidential client, employee, and company information for a minimal amount of time. But many documents eventually outlive their purpose, and holding onto them for too long puts you at risk of a security breach and non-compliance with today’s privacy legislation. How long you store business records should be determined by a retention schedule that balances each record’s usefulness with the legal requirements. This schedule will depend on the type of business and the lifecycle of specific documents.

Below is a document retention schedule that outlines how long you should hold on to important documents. After their retention period is complete, you should ensure that they are securely destroyed by a third-party information security provider. Please note that these recommendations on document retention are general guidelines only. They are not intended to represent legal advice. Contact your legal expert(s) or federal, state or provincial government to ensure you are following current legal requirements for your area.

Alphabetized by Document Category

ACCOUNTING  Retention Period 
AR/AP Ledger  7 Years 
Bank Reconciliations  2 Years 
Cash Disbursements/ Receipts   Permanently 
Chart of Accounts  Permanently 
Depreciation Schedule  Permanently 
Expense Reports  7 years 
Financial Statements  Permanently 
General Ledger  Permanently 
Inventory Records  Permanently 
Journal Entries  Permanently 
Petty Cash Records  7 years 
Tax Returns  Permanently
Accident Reports  7 Years 
Attendance   7 Years
Benefits   5-7 Years
Employment Applications  3 Years
Payroll - After Termination   10 Years
Personnel - After Termination   7 Years
Personnel - Current Employee  Permanently 
Safety Reports   5 Years
Salary History  8 Years 
Time Reports  7 Years
Export Declarations   4 Years
Freight Bills 4 Years 
Manifests   4 Years
Waybills and Bills of Lading  4 Years
CORPORATE / LEGAL   Retention Period
Annual Report  Permanently 
Articles of Incorporation  Permanently 
Audit Reports - External   Permanently
Audit Reports - Internal   6 Years
Contracts   Permanently
Copyrights, Trademarks, Patents  Permanently 
Correspondence, General   2 Years
Correspondence, Legal/Tax  Permanently 
Correspondence, Routine   7 Years
Mortgages, Licences, Deeds  Permanently 
Organizational Charts  Permanently 
Partnership Agreements   Permanently
Purchase orders  3 Years
Requisitions   3 Years
Sales contracts  3 Years 
Sales invoices  3 Years

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