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How long do we need to keep client papers etc?

Debate with 7 years or 12?

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We need to slim down our client files for space.  We now use a paperless solution so no more correspondance files but what about previous years?

Apart from important documents I always thought it was 6 plus current.  A friend said that ACCA expect 12 years!

I've never heard that before so just looking for some other opinions before I start shredding!


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28th Nov 2018 15:51

I operate on a sort of malleable policy where documents are retained somewhere between 3 weeks and 45 years.

I generally try to shred and burn as much as I can get away with, which is any of the clients' own records older than 6 years. For our documents, so long as the client is current we get rid of more or less nothing, once they've gone it's six years then shred.

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28th Nov 2018 15:58

There really can be no specified time period across the board under GDPR. ACCA specify 7 years for tax compliance work, but then mention longer periods for other reasons.

I think under GDPR it's more a matter of "weeding"/"thinning" as time passes. There'll be some documents/information on your files that can be deleted/shredded sooner than 7 years and others where you'll have justification to keep for longer than 7 years.

Under GDPR, you have to "audit" what kinds of information/records you hold, the reasons why you hold them and the reasonable length of time you need to hold each piece of information/document for. That forms the basis of your document retention policy.

In my practice, what I'm doing is changing our filing system (both paper and online directories) to distinguish different categories of documents/information so that it will be easier to delete/destroy certain items at different time periods - or put another way, deciding now what's going to be deleted/destroyed in x, y, z years and organising it now to make it easy to do so when those times occur. Basically making much more use of a "permanent" file system which holds long term information/documents, in numerous different sections with different retention/destruction policies.

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to Ken Howard
28th Nov 2018 16:05

Permanent files are I suspect less common these days. My first firm used legal document wallets, this would hold perm file, current correspondence file and subject to space one or two years accounts/audit files, when next year started older accounts/audit file archived. Obviousaly for the really big audits (we did some local authorities) they might have entire drawers- even a few of the larger plc audits stretched to 2-3 audit files each year

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04th Dec 2018 11:15

I wondered about this this a while ago and looked at the ICAEW advice. I summarise the 16 page document as follows:

'It's complicated - take legal advice'

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04th Dec 2018 11:46

If your letter of engagement does not state how long I suggest you change it to 7 years after dis-engagement. Then follow this course.

For papers you currently hold a recorded letter to the last known address of the contact along the lines "We have papers/digital files which are now 7 years old. Unless we receive instructions from you by XX we will destroy these. Please note that if any are our working papers we can not release them to you, but the remainder we will

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