How Long Should You Keep Business Records

The Employer Identification Number or Tax ID Number is similar to a social security number in that it cannot be transferred from one firm to another. You should keep it permanently even if you do not operate your company, since it may be required at any time.

Except for a few guidelines from government agencies, you won’t find many hard-and-fast rules about how long to keep your business records. But you can make a plan for record retention by thinking about the purpose of a document and future situations that might arise. Ownership Records, such as business formation documents, annual meeting minutes, by-laws, stock ledgers and property deeds, should be retained permanently. Many businesses aren’t sure how long records must be saved in the paperless era. Record-keeping is a boring, but important business activity, and if you make the wrong choices, you risk litigation, succession planning problems and the wrath of the tax man. Understanding how long should you keep business records will help you avoid these problems. Ideally, you should keep all your expense receipts for as long as the IRS can audit you.


We explain how to setup a payment plan and the options open to you. These include active lease agreements, operation permits, and stock certificates. If you’re deducting meals and entertainment, it’s even more complicated. You might have to submit a list all of the people who were there with you when the expense occurred, and what you talked about (really—the IRS wants to know if you talked shop). You’re reporting lodging or meal expenses under an accountable plan with a per diem allowance. Go paperless, store everything electronically, and always make backups. Keep in mind that what follows is just general guidance, and not necessarily the final word.

How Long Should You Keep Business Records

As a result, many businesses manage their records almost entirely electronically. If you ever need to make an insurance claim for any reason, you will need to provide proof that you are covered. For example, you may need to access insurance documents to prove you are covered if your business gets broken into. One of the benefits of keeping electronic records is that you don’t have to store piles of receipts in a filing cabinet.

Talk to a Business Law attorney.

Shredders are an inexpensive means of destroying small amounts of information. However, a personal shredding service should be considered with a large volume of shredding. Keeping good records is very important when you own a small business.

How Long Should You Keep Business Records

While you’re keeping things for the IRS, don’t forget about keeping other records that are required for your business. As tempting as it may be to toss everything once the IRS says you don’t need to keep it, you might want to think twice. Your insurance company or creditors may require that you hold onto things for a little longer. Other documents, including permits, licenses, and insurance documents need to be kept on file until they expire. You must store expired documents somewhere until you receive replacements with the new dates on them. Typically, the IRS will only audit taxes from the past three years.

How Long to Keep Business Tax Records

Business owners need to hold on to these documents for a specific period of time. As a small business owner, you know that there are certain business records you are required to keep.

Can you run a business without accounting?

If your business is a sole proprietorship and your personal tax situation is simple, you might be able to wing it without an accountant, especially if you understand the accounting formulas and tools at your disposal. If you decide to go this route, though, make sure to use the best self-employed accounting software.

You must keep a record of all your tax returns as part of the tax records. Not only can you file for an amended tax return via these records, but these can also help you prepare your future tax returns. Remember, as a 1099 contractor running a business; you will have to bear the burden of proof. Meaning you will be obligated to produce all tax return documentation. Therefore, the most effective way to do this is to establish a mechanism to maintain records and know how long to keep tax records for the business.

How Long Should You Keep Business Asset Records?

Your accountant or tax advisor may have different recommendations for your situation. Depending on your business and the state where you are located, you might have many types of HR records that fall under the jurisdiction of different government agencies. If you become involved in a dispute or lawsuit, How Long Should You Keep Business Records you might need meeting minutes and written agreements to support your position. If you decide to sell your business, potential buyers will want to review historical records as part of their due diligence. Lenders whom you approach for financing might require income, sales history, and other documents.

Unless otherwise stated, the years refer to the period after the return was filed. Returns filed before the due date are treated as filed on the due date. Reliable record keeping allows businesses to prepare financial statements that help business owners keep tabs on their expenses. However, many companies aren’t sure how long tax records and receipts need to be saved in the era of paperless transactions and cloud-based systems. Record keeping is a dull subject matter, but it’s an essential task as if you make the wrong choices, you face litigation and problems with the IRS. Understanding how long you should keep these records will help you avoid these problems.

If you have employees, keep 1099 or W-2 forms for four years. Be aware that you now house sensitive information like Social Security numbers, and should take measures to protect that data. People can’t know what health issues await them, but it’s pretty certain that if they live long enough, they’ll need some form of long-term care. This article suggests considering the option of long-term care insurance to avoid being caught without the needed resources in the event of a catastrophic, long-term health event. What do you do if you owe the IRS taxes but don‚Äôt have the money to pay?

While most follow the federal three- and six-year timeline, some have longer timelines. It’s best to check your state’s rules and maintain records for the longest required amount of time. Also, hang on to payroll and employee income records for tax purposes. You may need to prove that an employee worked for you the number of hours they claimed. Keep employee records for seven years after the employee leaves the company. The employee I-9 form should be kept three years after hire or one year after termination.

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