Tips for retaining certain records
The regulatory environment has become so strict in several sectors that even a minor slip up can cost an organization dearly. Legal and industry mandates are tightening their grip on the types of information that companies need to keep and store information, as well as how records must be protected, which is highlighting the need for a compliance management program.
Still, keeping all of its records management requirements straight could be difficult for the average organization. To help companies and individuals in their efforts to practice proper records storage, the Better Business Bureau has released several recommendations for how long certain information should be kept, according to a recent report from local news provider Del Marva Now.
According to the bureau's tips, information that falls into this category includes utility bills, loan documentation and monthly financial information. It's important to have these types of records on hand for a specific amount of time, but they don't have to be kept indefinitely.
Take loan records, for example. According to the report, this information should be stored and retained for however long it takes the company or individual to pay off the debt. When the loan is paid off, the Better Business Bureau said, all such records can be destroyed, except of course for those that prove the debt has been settled.
As for bank statements, the time period during which charges and other activity can be challenged should be identified. The report stated that the average time period runs between 60 days and a calendar year. That means statements should be kept for however long an account holder can raise concerns with the bank.
This is when organizations and individuals find themselves getting into some of the more serious records they may have on hand. Individuals, for example, are advised to keep their pay stubs for a year, or at least until they receive a new W-2 form from their employer.
It's a bit different for companies, as it's recommended that all employee information be kept for at least as long as an individual is employed by the company. Even then, holding onto the information for awhile longer is typically the best course of action.
It may seem like a long time to have to story and hang onto a record, but four years is the time period that all shipping and receiving information should be stored, according to the Better Business Bureau.
"A document between the shipper and the carrier of a particular good that details the type, quantity and destination of the good [should be kept]," the Del Marva Now report stated. "This document governs all legal aspects of the transfer."
By keeping this information, an organization will be able to clear up any issues or confusion regarding its supply chain. The process is growing more complex all the time, so storing these records will ensure that any hiccups are avoided or at least dealt with promptly.
Some information should never be destroyed, the report warned. Records pertaining to real estate, bankruptcies and reports conducted by auditors all should be kept and stored forever. Both companies and individuals alike may need to refer back to this information at any time, meaning they need to not only be on hand but easily accessed as well.
Given the explosion of data experienced by many organizations during the past several years, storing all of the information they produce may be a difficult process. Instead, they could be better served by utilizing the offsite records storage services offered by professional organizations.
In doing so, companies can ensure they are retaining information in compliance with various mandates, while also freeing themselves of the burden of maintaining a storage program.