Records retention is an important requirement for any organization. Very few documents need to be kept in paper format for legal purposes. According to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and IRS guidelines, electronic documents are just as acceptable as paper. Most government entities have mandated that all paperless records should be maintained in a readable format such as PDF.
In most file guidelines, companies should have two different types of document retention. The first type of retention is mandated by the government. These are federal or state guidelines on document retention. There are general document retention requirements for all businesses. Then, depending on the type of industry and/or if the company is public, there are a host of other legal retention requirements. Industry-specific document retention guidelines can be obtained from the government agency that regulates the industry and/or the industry association.
The second type of retention would be company guidelines. Of course, this should at least be the minimum legal requirement, but often companies want to keep certain types of data longer than the specified legal requirement for historical purposes. As in the case with financial data, the legal requirement for corporations is seven years. However, most companies opt to keep some financial data longer than seven years, if not permanently, for historical purposes.
Once record retention has been researched and determined by the file team, it is recommended that the document retention be reviewed and approved by the company’s legal counsel. If a lawsuit ensues, legal counsel will need to know what type of data and information is available.