No we’re not talking about docx or xlsx. Those are types of word processing documents and spreadsheets. What we’re referring to here is, does it qualify as a business record? What’s the difference between a business record and a non-business record, you may ask? Ultimately that decision is left up to the business owner in a non-public entity. But there are a few guidelines that can help you figure it out.
Risks of Retention
If you are legally obligated to retain records for a certain amount of time, there’s more room for risk and exposure. Retention past the obligated retention period makes that record a liability rather than an asset. Therefore, your business should develop a file plan that not only includes both paper and electronic records, but also indicates the source of the records, the retention period, and the locations of those records.
Is this particular piece of information vital to any department in our business? If yes, it’s a business record. If it’s a business record, answer these questions to determine retention period:
- How long do you need to keep this information?
- What rules or government regulations must be satisfied?
Common Retention Periods
- Fixed period of time – common time periods are 50, 25, 8, 7, 3, and 1 year.
- Variable period of time – until superseded or some event + a fixed period. For example, termination + 7 years.
When in doubt, consult your National Association of Records Administrators (NARA) representative.