Retaining Your Documents: The Ins And Outs Of Record Keeping

Retaining Your Documents

Table of Contents

Accounting records are essential to any business. It is important to know how long to keep these records to comply with various laws and regulations.

How Long to Keep Accounting Records

This article will provide an overview of the length of time you should retain your accounting records and answer questions such as what type of documents must be kept and why it is important to store them. It will also examine the different accounting record retention requirements for businesses in different countries.

Overview Of Accounting Records

Accounting is the process of recording, classifying, and summarising financial transactions to help businesses make informed decisions. The records generated during this process are known as accounting records. These records provide an overview of a company’s financial health and past and present financial transactions.

Accounting records include all business finances-related documents, such as sales receipts, invoices, bank statements, purchase orders, expense reports, tax returns, and more. They are essential for monitoring cash flow, tracking expenses against revenue, identifying cost-cutting or revenue-generation opportunities, and preparing accurate financial statements

Accounting records are also used for auditing purposes by internal or external auditors to ensure that a company’s finances comply with legal regulations.

In summary, accounting records are the backbone of any successful business operation.

Important Accounting Records You Must Keep

As a business owner, keeping accurate accounting records is vital for the success of your enterprise. These records provide insight into the health of your business and can help you make informed decisions about its future. However, knowing which accounting records to keep and how long to keep them can be overwhelming.

Accounting Records

First and foremost, it’s crucial to maintain a general ledger that tracks all financial transactions related to your business. This includes sales and expenses, as well as any assets or liabilities. 

You should also keep copies of bank statements, receipts, invoices, and other documents supporting these transactions.

In addition to your general ledger and supporting documentation, it’s important to maintain payroll records if you have employees. This includes employee information such as social security numbers, pay rates, payroll tax filings, and other related documents.

Lastly, you must accurately record all your transactions, including sales and expenses.  These transactions should be recorded daily in a ledger or accounting software program

Keeping track of these transactions is crucial when calculating your profits and losses and preparing financial statements at the end of each quarter or year.

Stock Records

First and foremost, the company/shareholders should maintain records of their stock purchases and sales. This includes the date of purchase or sale, the price paid or received, and any fees or commissions associated with the transaction. It’s also important to keep track of any dividends received from the company.

In addition to these basic records, companies may want to keep track of other information related to investments. For example, they may want to monitor the performance of their shares over time by recording the market value at regular intervals.

They may also want to keep copies of any communications they receive from the company, such as annual reports or proxy statements.

Another vital document that you need to keep is your brokerage statements. These detailed records provided by your broker contain information about all trades made on your behalf within a given period.

Additional Financial Records

One essential record to keep in mind is the balance sheet. This document provides an overview of your company’s assets, liabilities, and equity at any time. By regularly updating this record, you’ll better understand how much money your business has available and any outstanding debts or obligations.

Another important financial record to consider is the cash flow statement. As its name suggests, this document tracks the amount of cash flowing into and out of your company over a specific period. This information can help you identify trends in your cash flow and make more informed decisions about managing your finances going forward.

Minimum Time Frame To Keep Your Records

Keeping accurate accounting records is essential for any business, regardless of size or industry. But how long do you need to keep these records in the UK? According to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), businesses must keep their financial and accounting records for at least six years from the end of the last company financial year they relate to.

If your business’s current financial year ends on 31st December 2021, you must keep all relevant accounting and tax records until at least 31st December 2027. This applies to all business transactions, including sales receipts, purchases invoices and bank statements.

If Your Records Are Lost, Stolen Or Destroyed

If your accounting records are lost, stolen or destroyed, it can be a nightmare for any business owner. In the UK, there are certain legal obligations that businesses must adhere to when it comes to keeping records. The consequences of not keeping proper records can range from fines to even imprisonment. Therefore, you must take steps to prevent the loss or damage of your accounting records.

If your records have been lost, stolen or destroyed due to a natural disaster such as a fire or flood, you should contact your insurance company immediately. Most business insurance policies cover the loss of documents and data. If you don’t have insurance that covers this type of loss, consider implementing backup procedures for your electronic records to prevent future losses.

If your documents were lost or stolen through theft or cybercrime activity like hacking or ransomware attacks, then the first step is contacting law enforcement authorities right away.

Penalties For Keeping Inadequate Business Records

Keeping Inadequate Business Records

Keeping accurate and up-to-date business records is essential for any business, regardless of size or type. It is a legal requirement in the UK to maintain proper accounting records for at least six years, and failure to do so can result in severe penalties. The penalties for keeping inadequate business records vary depending on the nature of the offence.

The first penalty is a fine that can range from £3,000 to £10,000, depending on the severity of the breach. In more serious cases, directors may also be disqualified from acting as directors for up to 15 years. This can have significant implications for their current business and any future businesses they may wish to establish.

In addition to financial penalties and director disqualification, there are other potential consequences of not keeping adequate business records. These include difficulties obtaining loans or funding, as lenders often require accurate financial information before lending money.


In conclusion, all businesses need to keep accurate and up-to-date accounting records. The time that those records should be kept depends on the individual business’s needs, industry, and applicable laws or regulations.

Ultimately, businesses should consult their legal advisors to determine which laws and regulations they must comply with and how long to maintain their records.


Do I need to keep records on paper, or can I use electronic databases?

For smaller businesses or those just starting, paper records may be sufficient to track expenses and income. However, an electronic database will become increasingly necessary for organising complex financial data as your company grows. This will enable you to generate reports easily and analyse trends over time. Additionally, electronic databases are generally more secure than paper records, reducing the risk of data loss or theft. 

What are the benefits of using an accounting system?

First, accounting systems help businesses track their financial transactions in an organised manner. This allows them to review records and easily make informed decisions about the future.

Second, accounting systems provide real-time insights into the financial health of a business. This helps businesses make timely decisions and proactively address potential issues before they become serious problems.

Finally, accounting systems help businesses comply with tax laws and other regulations by providing accurate records of all financial transactions. This ensures that businesses pay the right amount of taxes at the right time without any penalties or fines from government authorities.

What is the golden rule of bookkeeping?

The golden rule of bookkeeping in the UK is to keep accurate and up-to-date records. This means that all financial transactions must be accurately recorded and tracked, including income, expenses, assets, liabilities, and other financial data. Additionally, all records should be kept orderly with clear labels and categories so they can be easily accessed when needed.

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