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Delicate Paperwork: How you can Know What to Destroy

Published on December 13, 2017

When it comes to your confidential documents, you want to be sure that you are protecting yourself appropriately. Whether you're worried about your personal files and possible identity theft, or your business records, you want to make sure you're safe. Part of it could mean destroying certain records, but how do you know what to destroy?

The 7-year rule

For your security, documents with confidential information should be deleted as soon as they are no longer needed. It is generally believed that all business records have a legal minimum retention period of 7 years. While this is not a blanket statement about all companies and records, there are numerous documents that should be kept for this period. These include employment contracts, business loan documents, process documents, and general expense reports and records, including overhead and consulting fees. However, other companies may have specific guidelines on how long documents and files should be kept.

In the medical profession, for example, patient files must be kept as short as possible before they can be destroyed. In adult patients, the records must be kept for at least 10 years after the date of final entry in the record. In the case of children, the records must be kept until 10 years after the date of the child's turn or the child would have turned 18.

Other files that should be kept for a period of time include your tax records. For example, the Canadian Income Tax Act requires certain tax records to be kept for at least 6 years after the end of the year to which they relate. You should keep receipts such as receipts, T4s with information about your earnings and withholding taxes, as well as receipts for donations to charity. This only applies to proof of income for Canada.

Other requirements

The rating agency requires companies to keep certain records such as share registers, documents on the purchase and sale of real estate as well as historical information on business shares or liquidation.

Records that are not covered by the Income Tax Act include pay slips, business license agreements, customer records, memos, memos, protocols, founding documents, sales and marketing records, and employee compensation records.

As soon as documents no longer need to be maintained, they should be disposed of as soon as possible. Keeping old documents with confidential data can increase the risk of identity theft, fraud, and financial loss. Destruction high priority documents include the following:

  • Statements from financial institutions. These should be destroyed after receiving the necessary information.
  • Obsolete tax information
  • Outdated medical information
  • Old employee and customer files
  • Documents with protected data
  • Contracts and Proposals

In order to adequately protect yourself from the loss of confidential data and the associated risks of identity theft, fraud, and possible damage to your reputation, it is important to establish a record destruction policy. Determine which documents and how long they need to be kept and clearly indicate the date of destruction. After this date, ensure that the records are destroyed in good time. In this way you help to protect yourself, your employees and your customers.

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