RECORDS RETENTION GUIDELINES
I. STATUTORILY REQUIRED RETENTION PERIODS (by category of documents):
(1) ERISA Records:
6 years after documents were filed or would have been filed but for an exemption
Documents to be retained are records on matters required to be disclosed that provide in sufficient detail the necessary basic information and data from which any information filed under the Act can be verified; for example, employee communications, administrative reports and official filings.
(2) Cal-OSHA Records:
5 years following end of calendar year to which they relate
Documents to be retained are the (1) Log and Summary of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses or equivalent, and Supplementary Record and (2) Annual Summary of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.
(3) Employment Applications:
(4) Employment Records:
Indefinitely for current employees – varying periods for former employees
Documents relating to employment contracts of former employees should be retained for a period of 4 years after termination. See comments relating to payroll records and employee benefit plans as they may relate to individual personnel records.
(5) Payroll/Wage Records:
4 years after tax is due or has been paid
Documents containing information sufficient to support the tax filings must be retained for this period. Time cards and other documentation submitted by individual employees need to be retained for only 2 years provided there are other records to verify the amount of taxes paid.
(6) Employee Benefit Plans:
1 year after the plan has been terminated
II. RETENTION PERIODS NOT REQUIRED BY STATUTE (By category of document)
The following time periods are not required by specific statutes, but are recommended for the reasons stated:
4 years after the end of the term.
(2) Tax Returns and Supporting Records:
7 years for federal, state and local taxes
Your Finance Department may have its own guidelines for retention of records relating to income, sales and property taxes, which may be more or less than 7 years.
(3) Documents relating to Product Claims (e.g., complaint letters):
1 year for personal injury complaints, and 3 years for breach of warranty complaints
If you maintain a summary report on a yearly or other periodic basis which records number of products sold, number of complaints, types of complaints, etc., you may want to retain the summary reports for a period of 3 years, or more if this type of information is important to retain for historical purposes. Such information can be helpful if a complaint results in litigation, particularly if the summary reports show that the number of complaints or injuries in relation to the number of products sold are very low.
(4) Formulae and Formulation Information:
This type of information should be retained indefinitely and duplicate copies of the formulae should be held for safe-keeping in a fire-proof file cabinet or off-site location.
(5) Product Development and Advertising Information:
The retention time should be decided by management
Management should decide what type of information is valuable to retain to assist with further product development and advertising.
(6) Trademark/Patent Information:
Information relating to registrations should be retained not only during the periods of registration, but for a longer period of time to provide a history of the marks. Management should decide what type of documents, in addition to the actual applications and registrations, should be retained.
(7) SEC Material:
The SEC filings for the company should be retained indefinitely. SEC filings for individual employees are to be retained in accordance with guidelines for employment records.
(8) Corporate Records (Charter Documents):
Management should decide what type of back-up documentation should be retained that relates to contracts and official corporate records, such as articles of incorporation, LLC or partnership documents, by-laws and minutes.
(9) Documents regarding Litigation/Disputes:
Until final disposition of the case and no less than 4 years thereafter
Some settlement agreements should be kept indefinitely.
(10) Email and voice mail
For email, depending on subject matter, review and clear or use alternative storage twice each year
For voice mail, review and clear weekly
(11) Computer Hard Drives:
Unless there is litigation pending and there is relevant information stored on your company’s hard drives, we recommend that you set up a procedure for review and possible clearing of data storage at least twice a year. Material which should be retained can be printed for storage, or stored electronically, following the above guidelines.
Generally speaking, our office retains all client records for 7 years after litigation or cessation of business by the business entity.