ARCHIVE STORAGE:The Complete Guide (2021)
This is your complete guide on Archive Storage.
- How to archive
- What documents you should be archiving
- How long they should be kept
- Best methods to store them
- How to destroy them
In short, if you need to ensure your company records are compliant, then this guide is for you.
CHAPTER ONEArchiving Basics
What is an Archive?
Everyone has records that they save…
Letters, photos, awards. Even your sports-day newspaper clipping from 1979!
We all take great pleasure on looking back at these memories. Even if they’re not useful anymore.
Well, for businesses, there are also records that need to be saved.
These records are inactive, but can be made active again, if and when they are needed.
Which records? Well they vary company to company.
Here are a few examples of the records that every business needs to keep.
Pension Contribution Records
So what is an archive?
An archive is a collection of these (and other) inactive records, stored for long periods of time.
Why is it important?
There are a few different reasons why you need to keep these business records. You can find them here.
But there's one that you NEED to know:
Accurate records are a legal requirement.
Under the rules of assessment, it is a HMRC requirement.
So there really is no getting around it.
But archiving shouldn’t be seen as a hassle. Despite its reputation, it is both important and a benefit for your business to have good record keeping.
1. Reduce costs – Good recordkeeping will ensure you only keep records you need, so you won’t spend money on an accountant and storage fees.
2. Make better decisions – If you have good records, you will have access to the correct information necessary to make the decisions you need for your business to grow.
3. Makes it easier to prepare management accounts – If you need to know whether you’re losing money, or making money, management accounts do it for you.
CHAPTER TWOHow to get started
Assess your situation
If you have historical records, your first priority should be assessing whether they are correctly catalogued, with accurate retention dates.
What are accurate retention dates?
They are the dates that every record you archive should have against them, letting you know when they are no longer relevant, and should be destroyed.
For instance, Sales Ledgers should be kept for 10 years before being destroyed. So you should perform an audit of all your current records and ensure that all records have an accurate date against when they should be destroyed.
How do you audit all of your current records? Create an information map.
1. Compile a list of all the different records in your business. Find out who created them, why they created them and who uses the records.
2. Next, identify duplicate records (both physical and digital). You’ll only need to keep one copy.
3. Find out which records are kept for legislative purposes
4. Attach a retention date to the documents (see retention schedule below)
If you don’t have historical records and you’re starting from scratch, then you’re in a fortunate position!
But why can’t we just hold on to them, just in case?
Two reasons – costs and compliance.
It will cost you money to keep records that are no longer needed, as you’ll have to store them somewhere. But most importantly, there are many statutory regulations that enforce companies to destroy these records.
Failing to destroy documents that contain sensitive information can result in some very severe fines.
Set benchmarks and targets
Yes, archiving is probably not at the top of your to-do list! But maybe it should be.
After all, there are so many other things you could be doing that it’s easy to forget about getting those records in order.
So, before you start, set yourself a realistic goal of when you can get your records in good shape. Otherwise it’ll never get done!
CHAPTER THREEWhich records should you be archiving?
Remittance Advice6 years
Bank Paying in Counterfoils6 years
Bank Statements6 years
Bank Reconciliations6 years
Daily Cash Book6 years
Petty Cash Records6 years
Invoice - Revenue6 years
Receipt Cash Book10 years
Sales Ledgers10 years
Invoice - Capital Item10 years
Redundancy Payments6 years
Share Certificates RegisterPermanent
Company Purchase/Sales RegisterPermanent
Pension Fund DetailsPermanent
Ledger Sheet10 years
Purchase Orders3 years
Successful QuotationsUntil payment of invoice and audit
Unsuccessful Quotations1 year
VAT Records6 years
Shipping Documents6 years
Expense Claims6 years
Debtor Accounts Control Report6 years
Loan Account Statement6 years
Bank Instruction6 years after ceasing to be effective
Debtor Accounts3 years following payment
Wages & Payroll
Income Tax Records Re. Employees Leaving6 years
Notice to Employer of Tax Code (P6)6 years
Annual Return of Employees & Directors Expenses & Benefits (P11D)6 years
Certificate of Pay & Tax Deducted (P60)6 years
Notice of Tax Code Change6 years
Annual Return of Taxable Pay & Tax Deducted6 years
Records of Pension Deductions (Including Superannuation)6 years
P45, P58, P486 years
Returned Tax6 years
Payroll & Payroll Control Account6 years
Annual Earnings Summary12 years
Lock Codes2 years
Details Regarding Current Pensioners10 years after benefit ceases
Pensions Scheme Next of Kin/Expression of Wish Forms6 years after death
All Trust Deeds, Rules & Minute HandbookPermanent
Annual Records & Inland RevenuePermanent
Pension Scheme Investment Policies12 years after paid benefits stop
Payment Records6 years after payment
Ex-Pensioner Records6 years after benefit ceases
Individual Life Policies Under 'Top Hat' Scheme12 years after claim ceases
Group Health Policies12 years after claim ceases
Group Personal Accident Policies12 years after benefit ceases
GP Records10 years after death or permanently left country unless in EU
Vaccination Records - Children & YoungUntil 25 years old
Other Vaccinations10 years after treatment ends
Dental, Ophthalmic, Auditory Screening RecordsCommunity: Adult 11 years; Children 11 years until 25 years old
Dental, Ophthalmic, Auditory Screening RecordsHospital: Adult 8 years; Children until 25 years old/ 8 years after death
If a child's illness/death is relevant to an adult condition or have genetic implications for their family, records may be kept for longer
Maternity Records25 years after birth of last child
Records relating to people with mental health20 years after last healthcare contact/8 years after death
Employee Medical Records
Health & Accident Policies7 years after termination of employment
Sickness Records3 years after year ends
Employee Treatment Records6 years
X-Ray Registers7 years
Group Health/Personal Accidents Policies12 years
Details of Medical SchemesPermanently
Life Assurance Expression of Wish Forms6 years after employment ends/after death
Statutory Maternity Pay Records, Calculations, Certificates or Other Medical Evidence3 years after year ends
Statutory Sick Pay Records, Calculations, Certificates, Self-Certificates3 years after year ends
Minutes & Resolutions of MeetingsPermanently
Signed Reports & AccountsPermanently
Circulars To ShareholdersPermanently
Notice of General & Class MeetingsPermanently
Register of MembersPermanently
Forms of Application for Shares, Debentures etcPermanently
Forms of Acceptance & TransferPermanently
Renounced Letters of Acceptance & Renounced Letters of AllotmentPermanently
Renounced Share CertificatesPermanently
Share & Stock Transfer FormsPermanently
Requests for Designating or Redesigning AccountsPermanently
Letters of RequestPermanently
Allotment Sheets (if used)Permanently
Signed Forms of NominationPermanently
Letters of Indemnity for Lost CertificatesPermanently
Stop Notices & Other Court OrdersPermanently
Powers of AttorneyPermanently
Balance Sheet, Profit & Loss AccountPermanently
Articles of Incorporation & Constitutional DocumentsPermanently
Register of Debenture or Loan Stockholders7 years after redemption of stock
Redemption discharge forms or endorsed certificates7 years after date of redemption
Forms of Conversion7 years after date of conversion
Paid Dividend & Interest Warrants12 years after date of payment
Proxies, Polling and Voting Records1 year
Letters where Logged in Exchange for a Certificate1 year
Cancelled Share/Stock Certificate1 year
Notification of Change of Address2 years
Trade & Service Marks Documents10 years after the end of the registration
Share Dealing & Administration12 years after the date of the transaction
Copyright ProtectionVaries according to the type; default period of 25 years
Deeds12 years after expiry
Trademarks & Expired Patents12 years after expiry
Leases12 years after expiry
Planning Consents/ Leasehold Consents12 years after expiry
Construction Agreements12 or 6 years after expiry
Other Agreements & Contracts6 years after expiry
Property DeedsRetain copy until sold/retain copy indefinitely
Correspondence & Contracts
Major and Everlasting AgreementsPermanently
Customer, Supplier & Agent Contracts6 years after expiry
Licensing Agreements6 years after expiry
Rental & Hire Purchase Agreements6 years after expiry
Indemnities & Guarantees6 years after expiry
Other Agreements/Contracts6 years after expiry
Building & Vehicles
Drivers Record Books5 years after completion
MOT, Mileage & Vehicle Maintenance Records2 years after disposal of vehicle
Registration Records2 years after disposal of vehicle
Deeds of TitlePermanently/until sale of property
Leases15 years after expiry
Architecture/Builder Agreements6 years after the contract ends
Asbestos Register & Asbestos Disposal CertificatePermanently - location must be recorded & a risk assessment provided
Disposal of Heavy Metals & Radioactive SourcesPermanently
Plant & Machinery1 year after they are removed from the building
Record of Final Health & Safety Files, Design Documents, Planning Consents, Warranties, Major Refurbishments13 years
Patent & Trademark RecordsPermanently
Reports & Opinions10 years
Accounts Records relating to Companies Acts 1948,1967 & 19766 years (3 for private companies)
Tax Returns & recordsPermanently
Subscriptions & Donations
Index of Donations5 years after completion
Deeds of Covenant12 years after final payment
Correspondence regarding Donations1 year
Correspondence regarding Refused Donations3 Months
Subscription Records3 years after membership ends
Government GrantsPermanently or until the grant stops
Outwards & Inwards6 years after shipment is complete
Customs & Excise Returns5 years
Records & Reports12-15 years after requirements have ended
Drawing & Other Data12-15 years after requirements have ended
Health & Safety RecordsGeneral records: 3 years. records relating to hazardous substances: permanently
Fixed Assets RegisterPermanently
Licensing Agreements, Rental Hire Purchase Agreements, Indemnities & Guarantees, Contracts with Customers, Suppliers, Agents etcSix years after expiry or termination of the contract. If the contract is executed as a deed, the limitation period is 12 years.
CHAPTER FOURArchive Storage Methods
Now you have identified what you need to store in your archive, we need to work out where we will store it.
There are several ways, each with their own pros and cons.
In Your Office
If you have excess office space, then storing your records in your office is a very convenient storage method. It is also the cheapest.
When setting up a small business, an onsite storage solution is probably the most suitable for your initial needs.
But it won’t be for long.
As your business grows so do your records. They’ll take up more space, and it soon won’t be cost-effective to store them in your office.
Office rental is at such a premium that the space needed for just one filing cabinet could cost as much as £91 per month. And that’s before you consider how cluttered your office will become.
Self-storage is an enticing option on first thoughts. On the one hand, you can ensure your records are kept all together, in a secure, padlocked location and it will give you the space to have an area to manage them.
However, there are certainly some concerns with a self-storage locker.
Firstly, they’re expensive. This is because you pay for an area, rather than the actual amount of space the box takes up. So you are essentially paying for thin air unless you use it all up!
Secondly, you will have to visit the storage locker, which will take up a lot of time travelling back and forth.
You will also have to transport the records to and from your office yourself. If you’re based in London, it could get expensive ordering Uber’s all the time to the storage locker and back.
You can store your archived records in a digital format as opposed to physically.
Cloud Storage is the method to do this, and it’s incredibly convenient. Permissions can also be reduced to a breadcrumb level, so you can pick who has access to what information.
The problem is in getting cloud storage up and running for your business.
In order to digitise your records, you’ll need to have them scanned. Scanning, despite the technological increases, is still very labour intensive.
What does this mean? Scanning can become expensive, especially if you try to digitise all of your existing archive in one go. Try our Scanning Calculator to see how much it would cost your business.
Archive Storage Facilities
Storage companies exist to specifically store and help manage company records.
The storage facilities are gated bombproof compounds, with 24/7 security, and store by the box, and not by square footage. This means you are only paying for what you store.
When you store with an archive storage company, boxes are collected and delivered to your office with an internal team of vehicles.
Additionally, they will also help you catalogue your records correctly, using online software which keeps track of your records. You can book deliveries and collections on this too.
Costs to store start at £15 per month. Cheaper than self-storage.
CHAPTER FIVEHow should the records be arranged?
Cataloguing the documents correctly is incredibly important. If not vital.
A failure to do so, means that the time it takes to retrieve a record will be greatly increased. You might also miss records that have gone past their retention date.
We want this to be efficient, so we need to catalogue everything correctly. Here’s how:
What you’ll need:
- Lever Arch Files
- Page Dividers
- Archive Boxes
1. Take the lever arch files and page dividers. Place several dividers inside each lever arch file. We do this to keep the records separated, making them more accessible and organised.
2. Group your records into categories. For instance, Accounts, HR, Legal etc
3. Now, group your records from the category’s into sub-categories. For example, keep Building & Vehicle records together (this would be the category), and then separate them further into sub-categories like MOT’s, leases etc.
4. Place each subcategory of records in a lever arch file with page dividers between. Mark the page divider with what’s inside. Use a clear title (such as 33 Street Name Office Lease).
5. Place more sub categories into the lever arch file, and keep them relevant and related to the other sub category. When you have 5-6 lever arch files, write on the side of them what they contain. You can place them all into one archive box.
6. Write a clear title on the side of the box, detailing its contents, and add a unique number (e.g. #0001)
7. List the unique number, titles of the box and files on a spreadsheet. Make a note of the retention dates, whether by box, by file or by individual record. Then repeat.
So what have we done here?
We’ve catalogued the records in a box. The box has a unique box number ensuring a key identifier which can always identify the box.
Next, we’ve placed files inside the box. On the side of the lever arch files is the file name. This file name lists what the file contains.
Inside are the sub category’s, separated by page dividers.
And finally, we’ve listed this all on a spreadsheet, with the retention dates listed. Whether that’s by box, by file or by individual record.
With a spreadsheet, we can search and sort by retention dates, so we don’t miss anything.
Why have we used an archive box?
A box can be easily transported and is the standard way to store and catalogue archived documents.
CHAPTER SIXHow to stay compliant
To stay compliant, you’ll need to make sure you keep the documents for as long as permitted and destroy them once they are no longer required.
Much of the most recent Data Protection Act (2018) is subject to GDPR.
I’m sure you’ve heard of GDPR by now.
GDPR is the result of four years of hard work by the EU to bring into line Data Protection rules with the newer ways that data is now used.
In terms of record-keeping, not much has changed.
You should still be keeping records for the amount time as prescribed by HMRC. Once this has come to an end, you’ll need to destroy the records if you have no legitimate reason for keeping them.
Holding onto personal data that should have been destroyed can and will result in huge fines. So make sure to create a retention policy you can stick to.
For more information on how GDPR will effect businesses, see here.
How to create a retention schedule
If you created an information map earlier, then you're ready to go.
By now you should have:
1. Compiled a list of all the different records in your business
2. Found duplicate records (both physically and digitally)
3. Found out which records need to be kept for legislative purposes
Next, you’ll need to attribute destruction dates to each record. You can do so using a spreadsheet.
Create a column called ‘Destruction Date’.
Against the records, files or boxes, attribute the appropriate destruction date against it.
How should the records be destroyed?
Records should be destroyed in a secure, irreversible manner.
Confidential, physical records can be destroyed in these three ways.
You should shred your documents to a level that means they cannot be recreated. At Secure Data, we shred to 16mm cross-cut as standard, but can go as low as 4mm.
Office shredders are only suitable for records with a short retention schedule.
The paper is reduced to small fibres, caused by mixing water and chemicals.
Records can be placed into an industrial incinerator and burnt.
Recycling is suitable for non-confidential records and should be the chosen method where possible.
Just by pressing delete on your computer doesn’t mean that the data isn’t there, it just means that the link allowing you easy access has been deleted. The data can most likely still be salvaged.
We need to ensure the data is no longer salvageable if there is sensitive information that should be deleted.
Confidential, digital records can be destroyed in three ways.
The storage device (likely hard drive) is destroyed, by crushing shredding or incineration.
Where magnetic media can be exposed to a large, strong magnetic field that essentially scrambles the data irreversibly.
Data is written over with nonsensical, random data. The original cannot be retrieved. Open source software is available for this method.
Press the delete button, or move to trash.