In a digital world, the importance of keeping paper copies of important documents may be diminishing slightly, with much of our information being transferred into online storage instead, but for some things keeping a hard copy will always be necessary.
According to the Gov website, all businesses are required by law to keep a thorough and complete archive of certain records and accounts, with documents detailing traded goods being kept for at least four years. Keeping these records safe and secure will allow you to quickly meet any requests from HMRC to view them for tax purposes.
If it is your legal responsibility to maintain a hard copy archive of records for your business, make sure you know which documents to store, how long to retain them for and how to store them safely with our helpful guide to storing important documents.
Business document retention periods
When it comes to business documents, there’s a long list of records, ranging from billing documents and outgoing invoices to employee insurance and overtime records that must be archived in order to comply with HMRC regulations. It can be confusing knowing exactly what you need to keep safe and for how long, but the importance of ensuring everything is kept within these regulations cannot be overstated.
At its most basic level, the retention period for business documents is set at a standard of 5 years for sole traders and partners and 6 years for companies, but there are some notable exceptions to this rule. When it comes to documents relating to employees, such as employee pension information and employee insurance, dunning notices and general correspondence, the 5 and 6 year retention periods are lowered to only 3 years.
Due to the importance of keeping such records for the correct amount of time, it is recommended that businesses seek the consultancy of a legal professional – this will assure security from fines, legal proceedings and even prison time if it’s found that records were purposefully hidden, altered or destroyed.
Tips for business document storage
Make sure you can properly fulfil your business’s legal obligations for safe document archival with these tips:
- Create an efficient system for the long term storing of documents.
Whether this is the collection and storage of documents within your own office space or, if you’re looking to save on expensive office floor space by hiring a self storage unit, organise a time for your archive to be moved to this secure location on a monthly basis. This could be done more often if these documents have a tendency to build up more frequently in your business. Doing this will allow you to limit your trips to your storage facility and save time on travel.
- Organise an effective labelling system.
Part of your efficient document management should include a labelling system that will allow you to easily access and retrieve any documents that you need, either for your own purposes or for fetching on behalf of HMRC. It’s also worthwhile keeping a detailed record of all your archived documents with which to refer to, allowing you to know which documents you have stored and where.
- Store your important documents in a completely safe environment.
It is your responsibility to protect them from everything from theft to fire damage, so investing in anything from a lockable unit within your offices or a self storage facility is definitely worth the additional costs and effort.
- Why store your business documents in a self storage unit?
Not only do most reputable self storage facilities provide security measures such as state-of-the-art locks and 24 hour surveillance cameras, but your local storage facility may also be able to supply you with sturdy archive boxes. These can be built for the express purpose of storing business documents, allowing you to easily store, transport and access your records whenever you need them.
Storing your important documents in a self-storage unit
When storing with us, businesses have access to fully secure units in which to keep everything from business records to additional clutter such as unused office equipment and seasonal decorations completely safe. We also offer additional services including sturdy archival boxes, an arrangeable scan and shred service and easy access across all three of our Manchester facilities to meet all of your document storage needs.
If you’re looking to keep your important documents safe for any period of time, call us or contact us through our enquiry page and our friendly and experienced staff will be happy to help work out the best solution for you.