Records Retention Guide

  • Operations
  • 1/5/2022
Business people discussing in front of building

A reasonable record retention policy can not only help keep documentation orderly and organized, it can improve your defensible position in case of a dispute.

Exercising these guidelines on a regular basis can help you effectively manage the large amount of paperwork required by various agencies.

Item Retention Period
Audit records Permanently
Accounts receivable or payable ledger 7 years
Bank statements and reconciliations 7 years
Canceled checks — payroll and general 7 years
Canceled checks — for purchase of assets (file these with asset records) 5 years after disposition of asset
Canceled checks — important papers (taxes, special contracts, etc.) Permanently
Capital stock book Permanently
Cash disbursement journal 7 years
Cash received journal 7 years
Expense reports 7 years
Expense ledger 7 years
Financial statements (retain permanently if no audit reports) 7 years
General ledger and journal Permanently
Interdepartmental sales journal 4 years
Inventory records — annual only 7 years
Notes receivable ledger (after repayment) 7 years
Parts, accessories, and service sales journals 7 years
Payroll earnings records 4 years
Payroll journal 4 years
Payroll timecards 4 years
Petty cash vouchers 3 years
Petty cash summary envelope 3 years
NEW: PPP and ERC documentation 7 years
Prepaid and accrued expenses journal 3 years
Subsidiary ledger 7 years
Trial balances 7 years
Vouchers — vendors, employees 7 years
Dealership industry
New car sales journal 7 years
Articles, by-laws, minutes, other corporate Permanently
General 3 years
Legal and tax Permanently
Accident reports 7 years
Bills of lading 7 years
Credit applications — denied* 2 years
Credit applications — approved* No requirement
Customer files* 7 years
Employment applications — terminated and not hired 3 years
Employment applications — hired 3 years after termination
Insurance policies — expired 4 years
Internal repair orders* 3 years
OSHA records 6 years
Personnel files — closed 6 years after termination
Purchase orders 6 years
Repair estimates 9 months
Repair order 2 years
Retail installment contract — assigned* 10 years
Retail installment contract — not assigned* 7 years past expiration
Sales invoices 6 years
Service contracts/extended warranties* 7 years past expiration
Shipping and receiving reports 4 years
Underground storage tanks — testing results and DNR correspondence Permanently
Uniform hazardous waste manifests 3 years
Operations: dealership industry
Buyer’s guide — used car label** No requirement**
Car invoices* 6 years
Car purchase orders* 7 years
Odometer statements* 5 years
Form 8300 — $10,000 cash reporting form 5 years
Income tax returns — U.S. and state Permanently
Income tax returns — related work papers 5 years
IRS audit results Permanently
Unemployment tax returns — U.S. and state and related work papers 4 years
Withholding tax returns — U.S. and state and related work papers 4 years
Withholding tax statements 4 years

*These items are ordinarily in the car deal jacket. Each item has its own retention requirement. However, unless you want to stripe the field, keep the car deal for 10 years. Contracts performed over time (e.g., non-assigned retail installment contracts, service contracts) should be kept for 10 years past their expiration.

**The Used Car Buyers’ Guide is not required to be retained, but keeping a signed copy can help prove your customer received it.

CLA provides this list for general information purposes. This is not legal advice, which CLA cannot provide. It does not create any client, advisory, fiduciary, or other professional relationship between you and CLA. It should not be considered a substitute for your independent investigation, sound business judgment, and appropriate legal advice. Consult with a legal advisor familiar with your particular factual situation and state law for advice or service concerning any specific matters.

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