Document Retention Best Practices & State Guidelines

How Long Are Businesses And Organizations Required To Maintain Records?

Having a clearly defined document retention policy (DRP) can yield three primary benefits for businesses and organizations: efficiency, safety, and peace of mind. First, because a DRP establishes and describes how physical and electronic records are managed, locating key documents when they are needed is easier and more efficient. In the event of an investigation or lawsuit, having a well-drafted DRP may also demonstrate that there was a legitimate and neutral purpose for destroying documents. Finally, a well-executed DRP ensures that your organization abides by state and federal compliance standards with regards to document retention and destruction.

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There are numerous laws and regulations regarding document retention, including tax audit procedures by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), employment laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act (ERISA), and mandates by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In addition to these federal laws, there may be numerous state and local document retention provisions that apply specifically to your business or organization.

The first and most important consideration for any DRP is knowing how long to keep certain documents. These basic document retention best practices for some of the most common documents will help you get started on a DRP for your business or organization. These are not all-encompassing document retention timelines, so be sure to do your own research to find out what guidelines your business or organization needs to follow.

Another key DRP consideration is deciding how documents should be kept. This will largely depend on the amount and sensitivity of data you need to retain, as well as the format of the documents themselves. One of the easiest, fastest, and safest ways to archive important physical documents is digital scanning and conversion. These 21st century document management solutions allow you to convert notebooks, case files, bound books, microfilm, microfiche and other physical archives into a digital format.

Contact BMI Imaging Systems if you have questions about document conversion and content management.

Record Retention Guidelines By State

We’ve also compiled record retention schedules by state for municipalities, special districts and state agencies, boards and commissions, as well as general employer recordkeeping laws. If you have any questions about specific recordkeeping requirements or state-specific record retention schedules, contact the department that oversees records management in your state (link included).