Document shredding can be a sensitive subject for businesses. On the one hand, record-keeping is absolutely essential. For a wide range of tax-related, legal and practical reasons, you may have to retain documents. On the other hand, GDPR requires you to get rid of any documents that contain personal information as soon as possible. How do you balance these seemingly contradictory requirements? In this guide, we will give you a shredding timeline that highlights the retention periods for the most common types of documents.
Don’t forget, your shredding timeline may vary depending on the type of industry you’re in. There may be different retention periods in your sector. Additionally, certain types of businesses may have industry-specific documents with their own rules, e.g., the legal and medical professions.
What are the legal requirements that affect your shredding timeline? The newest and most topical is GDPR. Basically, people’s names, dates of birth and other personal information are protected and cannot be stored without good reason. What constitutes a good reason? That depends on the document, but it normally relates to statutes of limitations on potential legal action and data that may be relevant for an audit or for tax reasons.
Revenue & Tax
The Revenue requires you to keep certain records for tax purposes. The records need to be clear and concise and must confirm any information contained in your tax returns. This includes what the Revenue refers to as ‘linking documents’, i.e., anything that can be used to calculate tax. The retention period for these documents is six years. Some examples are:
- Receipts for expenses
- Receipts for purchases
- Sales invoices
- Nominal Ledgers
- Accounting books
All businesses store information about their employees. This includes highly sensitive information such as PPS numbers. It is therefore essential to get the balance right between retaining the information you need and properly disposing of that which you don’t need.
For example, in the event that a former employee files an unfair dismissal claim against you, it is your responsibility to produce the relevant records. Normally, an unfair dismissal claim must be filed within six months of the termination in question, but you may need the same records to defend a breach of contract claim, which can be filed up to seven years later.
Don’t forget that there can be an overlap between tax information and personnel files which fall under the retention period for other tax-related documents.
- Employee working time records: 3 years
- Records of annual leave, public holiday leave etc: 3 years
- Employee tax information: 6 years
- Recruitment records: 1 year for unsuccessful candidates and the entire period of retention + 7 years for successful candidates
- Records of health and safety incidents: 10 years
What to Shred Immediately
At Pulp, we recommend a shred-all policy. In other words, you should shred every unneeded document as soon as possible. This is the best way to keep your office neat and tidy, fulfil your legal obligations and avoid any problems in the future. Thankfully, there are many types of documents that you can shred directly after their initial use.
- Paid bills
- Bank statements
- Cancelled cheques
- Miscellaneous correspondence
Remember to use your best judgement and never shred anything that you have used to calculate your taxes.
What to Keep Indefinitely
Some records are simply too important to shred, regardless of the amount of time they have been retained. These include but are not limited to:
- Lease agreements
- Internal company documents such as minutes for board meetings
What Documents to Shred and When
Regardless of the retention period of your documents, the best way to shred them properly and efficiently is to bring in a specialist like Pulp. This will eliminate the risk of data breaches and ensure that the whole process is as smooth as possible. Give us a call today to find out how Pulp can get your shredding timeline on track.