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What paperwork to keep?

What should we be keeping?

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Firstly, apologies if this has been covered in the past, I have searched Anyanswers, but didn't find anything that seemed to match what I am asking.

We are a small practice with 4 staff and the two Senior Staff / Partners.  For years, we have kept everything in our client files or in archive when then files got too big.  We now keep 3 years worth of Accounts and Tax Returns on the actual file and then the rest in archive storage at the office.

We are not registered Auditors and merely deal with Accounts, Tax Returns, Payroll, VAT etc.

What do other small practices keep and for how long?

We have looked at scanning things in, but that means me going through each piece of paperwork to be able to tell staff that it can be kept.  We have copies of the Accounts and Tax Returns on the computer, but these are not signed as clients sign them manually and we keep the signed version.  We have been looking at e-signing and have had some clients utilise this over the past 12 to 18 months, but we still have many more who prefer a face to face meeting to sign things off each year.

Any thoughts are most gratefully received and I thank everyone in advance for their help.

Replies (10)

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By Truthsayer
10th Jun 2020 13:55

I keep everything for live clients. I keep ex-clients' records for about a decade, then destroy them except for things of possible lasting significance, such as a CGT related elections.

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Hallerud at Easter
10th Jun 2020 14:13

CGT is the killer, whilst not for me a client issue.

My employer has numerous properties which one day we may sell, accordingly we keep all financial records forever as all costs re these post 1982 are on point and I want to carry the evidence re these. I have a room with racking and all the old files are there by subject/type and in date order, shelves and shelves of them

I have thought about going through all the old records, fish out all the invoices/SC60 vouchers etc re improvements and binning the rest , but time does not permit.

I did at least, years ago, prepare schedules of all carrying costs re improvements going back to 1982 (I joined in 1999) and do keep these updated as required, but that is as far as I have got.

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By gainsborough
10th Jun 2020 14:31

I keep a permanent section on each client's file with elections, CGT base costs etc, which is retained/carried forward to latest current file. Letter of Engagement says records will be kept for 7 years, although client has option to let us know if they want specific records to be retained for longer.

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By bettybobbymeggie
10th Jun 2020 14:33

Personally I'd go through the pain of sorting through what you have, scanning and discarding. It's a very liberating process, a bit like getting rid of all the books you've read. You know you will never read them again but for weird sentimental reasons you feel the need to hang on to them.

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By SteveHa
10th Jun 2020 15:04

6 years is mandated, though for things such as overlap claims, options to tax etc. I'd keep forever.

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By pauljohnston
23rd Jun 2020 10:10

Why not have those over the certain age scanned. Much cheaper to maintain and they dont fade. If you use Office 365 have a look at Sharepoint

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By Ben Alligin
23rd Jun 2020 10:17

Interesting responses which I don't disagree with. However, why is it whenever I send a professional clearance letter or a query to solicitors asking for clarification on matters they had previously dealt with, and well within 6 years, they always reply 'Sorry we no longer hold those records'.

The best was of course a firm of solicitors, who replied very promptly advising me that the solicitor who had dealt with the matter had left the firm (3 months ago), all their files were password protected and apparently no-one knew the password. So thanks for playing but no details would be forthcoming!

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By Rgab1947
23rd Jun 2020 10:18

Its all electronic for me so have a 2TB HDD x2 plus the cloud so keep it till I run out of space in maybe 20+ years? I will be dead then.

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By FirstTab
23rd Jun 2020 10:40

Just use one of the many scanning companies to scan all past papers. Life easier.

Sort out papers before delivery to a scanning company.

Cost not that high.

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Chris Caspell CTA TEP
By ccaspell
23rd Jun 2020 11:25

Interestingly (perhaps) at a CIOT/ATT webinar last week, we were told that record keeping and record destruction was now a part of our monitoring visits and that "personal information must be destroyed five years after the end of the business relationship unless a firm is required to retain it because of statutory obligations, legal proceedings or an alternative agreement with the client". They also required that there was a clear policy on record keeping and record destruction and to make sure that records can be identified for destruction.

So it seems that the tax institutes are keeping an eye on this - maybe the others will be looking at this during monitoring visits too (CIOT are doing these via zoom/Skype etc at the moment.)

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