Deciding Which Paper Files to Keep, Which to Scan, Which to Shred

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If you’re in the business of sorting through piles of paper files, you may wonder how to distinguish between files you should keep, files you should scan, and files you should shred. Archival and records data are subject to rules that govern how you access and store this data, but these rules aren’t always clear to those who are not trained archivists.  However, once you know how to dispose or store certain files, sorting through paper records will become much easier.

Know Your State’s Laws

Each state has different regulations that govern record retention. These regulations are typically divided into sections based on the type of documents your company or organization handles and stores. For example, in Texas, there are different regulations for state agencies, libraries and archives, and employer records. Before beginning to deaccession or shred materials, make sure to read up on the laws that govern your specific region and category.

You should also become familiar with different federal laws that govern document retention, including IRS tax audit regulations and regulations set forth by organizations such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Know the Time Limits

Each type of document is subject to different retention timeframes. After the timeframe ends, you should shred these documents for data security purposes. Armstrong Archives can help you accomplish these tasks.

The general guidelines are:

  • Shred after one year: deposit slips, requisitions, purchase orders, receiving sheets, correspondence with customers and vendors, and stenographer’s notebooks.
  • Shred after three years: personnel records, employment applications, petty cash vouchers, time cards, physical inventory tags, and internal audit reports.
  • Shred after seven years: accident reports and claims, bank statements, cancelled checks, sales records, inventories, employment tax records, and payment vouchers.

Keep These Documents Indefinitely

You should keep the following documents forever:

  • Audit reports from CPAs
  • Retirement records
  • Cancelled checks
  • Current contracts
  • Deeds
  • Year-end financial statements
  • Cash books
  • Investment trade confirmations
  • Depreciation schedules
  • Legal correspondence
  • Legal records
  • Minutes books
  • Trademark and patent registrations
  • Property appraisals and records
  • Corporate documents
  • Bills of sale

One option for storing these documents is to scan the originals, keeping the electronic versions and destroying the hard copies.  Another option is to store the paper records in a secure storage facility that offers a scan on demand service.  This method saves the cost of scanning documents that may never be needed again.  A good records management company will index your files which then allows them to quickly locate any document needed.  The requested documents can be scanned on demand and emailed to you.  Both methods have their advantages.

If you need help with document scanning, storage and shredding, Armstrong Archives can help.  We also offer document storage consulting services to help you determine what solutions best fit your needs.  We simplify service and security without sacrificing protection of your sensitive records. Learn more about our services and what Armstrong Archives can do for you by visiting our website.

Sherri Taylor

Posted By: Sherri Taylor – President/Managing Partner>

Sherri Taylor is the Managing Partner and President of Armstrong Archives, one of the largest independent records and information management companies in the Dallas/Ft Worth area.

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