As 2013 begins to wind down, many business owners will take time to clean out and organize files and records as they look to start fresh in 2014. But, with how quickly business files grow each day and because it’s hard to sometimes know what to keep or toss, the task may fall to the wayside. The problem with avoiding this task is that it can lead to trouble with certain record laws and it can also put your business at risk during an audit or lawsuit. So, where do you start? Here are a few tips:
- What to keep: This depends in part upon your individual situation. However, consider keeping the following: tax return copies, 401K, IRA and certificates of deposit statements, insurance policies, medical records and receipts, loan records, 1099 and W2 forms. Consult your legal and accounting staff to determine exactly what should be kept for your situation.
- Where to keep your records: Off-site, confidential storage and records management is something every business needs to investigate.
- How long to keep your files: Many think seven years is the rule of thumb when it comes to tossing out records; however, this is not true for all documents, so be sure to consult a financial advisor or professional records management center.
- What to do with the files you’re tossing: From a legal perspective, businesses need to ensure confidential destruction of records. When documents have reached their full retention period, it’s critical to securely destroy the records. Shred files whenever possible, including hard copy files, electronic media, hard drives, microfilm and x-rays.
If you tend to procrastinate with managing your files, make this your pre-2014 goal, so in future years, getting organized won’t take quite as long. If you have questions about getting organized, be sure to contact us during your end-of-year purge.