Businesses must maintain book and records so that an accounting of the business activities may be performed. Whether it be for an audited financial report, a compilation, a review, a tax return, or a specific management report, businesses must gather, summarize and analyze facts and figures to support reports, tax returns and conclusions. After the report is issued and/or the tax return is filed, the next important question is just how long must these business records be retained.
The following pages offer some guidance by providing a suggested time-frame to maintain records. It has been assimilated from several sources, including the basic IRS Regulation - 26 CFR 1. 6001-1, The Guide of Record Retention Requirements in the Code of Federal Regulations, as well as by reviewing and analyzing numerous record retention schedules.
Before finalizing an entity's record retention procedures, it is recommended that the IRS regulations, state and local government retention requirements and the AICPA's Filing and Record Retention Procedures Guide be reviewed.
Please note: The suggested retention periods shown are not offered as final authority, but as guideposts against which to compare your needs. There may be several situations, for historical or reference purposes, for example, that necessitate longer periods than legally required.
In addition, many specific industries require retention periods that are different than rated here for specific terms. In most cases, the period of retention listed in this guide provides a more conservative retention period.
Additionally, in all circumstances, be aware that the Materiality Rule under Treas. Reg. 1.6001-1, governs that all books and records must be maintained so long as they remain material in the computation of any tax.
Finally, if you are subject to the new rules promulgated by The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, SEC17CFR, pay careful attention to section 210.2-06 which requires that work papers and other documents that form the basis of an audit or review, including memos, correspondence and e-mail which contains opinions, analysis or financial date, including those that are inconsistent with the auditor's final opinion, be retained for a period of 7 years.
The reader should consult with more authoritative guidance when specific questions need answering.
Note: Please keep in mind that documentation may include all electronic files and memos. This can include, but is not limited to such items as emails, tax software files, general ledger files, ".pdf" files or any other form of information retention that is created and/or store electronically.
Click here to download the PDF file of Record Retention Guide.