To Keep or Toss? Understanding the Retention Period for Business Financial Records

To Keep or Toss? Understanding the Retention Period for Business Financial Records

Keeping business financial records is important for any organization. However, it can be challenging to determine how long to retain these records. Some businesses may hold onto documents longer than necessary, while others may dispose of them too soon. The retention period for financial records varies depending on the type of document and applicable laws and regulations. Understanding the retention period for business financial records is not only important for legal compliance, but it can also aid in making informed business decisions. In this article, we will explore the retention period for various financial documents and best practices for record-keeping.

As a business owner, it’s important to understand the retention period for financial records. Knowing how long to keep these documents can help you avoid legal and financial problems down the line. In this article, we’ll go over the basics of record retention and provide guidelines for keeping or tossing various financial records.

What is Record Retention?

Record retention refers to the length of time a company must keep financial and business records. These documents are crucial for tax purposes, audits, and legal disputes. In general, the retention period is determined by federal and state laws, industry regulations, and company policies.

Why is Record Retention Important?

Proper record retention is crucial for several reasons:

1. Tax Compliance: The IRS requires businesses to keep tax records for a specific number of years, depending on the document.

2. Legal Protection: In the event of a lawsuit or audit, having accurate and complete financial records can protect your business.

3. Business Planning: Historical financial data can help you make informed decisions about future business plans and goals.

4. Operational Efficiency: Keeping track of financial records can help you identify areas for improvement, reduce errors, and streamline processes.

What Records Should You Keep?

Records that should be kept for the long-term include:

1. Tax Returns: Keep copies of all tax returns and supporting documents for at least seven years.

2. Payroll Records: Keep payroll records for at least four years after the employee’s termination date.

3. Financial Statements: Keep financial statements for at least seven years.

4. Contracts and Agreements: Keep copies of all contracts and agreements for at least seven years after the expiration date.

5. Corporate Records: Keep all corporate records, such as articles of incorporation, bylaws, and meeting minutes, for the life of the company.

What Records Can You Toss?

Records that can be safely disposed of after a certain period include:

1. Bank Statements: Bank statements can be tossed after one year, unless they contain tax-related information.

2. Receipts: Receipts can be tossed after three years, unless they are for tax-deductible expenses.

3. Employment Applications: Employment applications can be tossed after one year.

4. Insurance Policies: Insurance policies can be tossed after the policy’s expiration date.

5. Marketing Materials: Marketing materials can be tossed after they have been used or become outdated.


Understanding the retention period for financial records is essential for business owners. By keeping accurate and complete records, you can ensure compliance with tax regulations, protect your business from legal disputes, and make informed decisions about future business plans. Remember to review your company’s record retention policy regularly to ensure compliance with changing laws and regulations.