ARCHIVE STORAGE:The Complete Guide (2021)

This is your complete guide on Archive Storage.

You’ll learn:

  • 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.

Cartoon of Employees Looking For Archived Files


Archiving Basics

How To Get Started

Which Records Should You Be Archiving?

Archive Storage Methods


How To Stay Compliant

CHAPTER ONEArchiving Basics

Cartoon of Employees Looking For Archived Files

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.



Bank Statements

Income Tax

VAT Records

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

Physical & Digital Storage Methods

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.

Here’s how:

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?

Search Your Records

Financial (Sales)

Money received/incoming

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

Outgoing Money

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

Financial (HR)

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

Actuarial ReportsPermanent

Contribution RecordsPermanent

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

Medical Records

NHS Guideline

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

Organisation ChartsPermanently

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

Legal records

Company Records

Minutes & Resolutions of MeetingsPermanently

Signed Reports & AccountsPermanently

Trust DeedsPermanently

Circulars To ShareholdersPermanently

Notice of General & Class MeetingsPermanently

Seal BookPermanently

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

Tachygraphy3 years

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

Investment LedgerPermanently

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

Lock & Cloud Storage

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.

Cloud Storage

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?

Girl Carrying Archived Records

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.

Example of Records & Retention Spreadsheet

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

Team working out how to make sure their records are 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.

Burning Money

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.

You can find the correct retention dates we listed above here.

How should the records be destroyed?

Records should be destroyed in a secure, irreversible manner.

Physical records

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.

Digital records

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.

Physical destruction

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.

Now its your turn...

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