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How long do we need to keep business records in Australia?

You might think ‘7 years’ is the answer, but the laws are more complicated.

The end of the year is a great time to declutter the office and get rid of any excess paperwork or document files cluttering up your hard drive. Sure, it feels great to start out the new year with a clean slate, but before you throw yourself into a deleting frenzy or throw old paperwork into the recycling bin, it’s important to exercise due diligence to ensure that you comply with the Australian Government’s document and record retention requirements so you don’t risk severe punitive fines and/or criminal liability. 

Does your organisation have a Document Retention and Disposal Schedule?

To ensure that everyone in your small business, large corporation, or nonprofit organisation knows which documents to keep and which ones to destroy, it’s essential to have a Document Retention Policy in place. This is an important policy that needs not only be formalised and agreed-to by all departments but actively enforced by a relevant authority within the organisation.

Before you create your company’s Document Retention and Disposal Schedule, it’s important to consider the following questions about the type of documents you have to manage:

  • What type of business are you?
  • How do Australian Government laws pertain this type of business?
  • What kind of documents do retain (invoices, receipts, purchase orders, etc.)?
  • Legal retention periods for each type of document?
  • What is your secure document destruction process once the retention period is over?

A Handy Guide: Which records to keep and which ones to securely destroy.

What follows is a quick summary guide of which records you can keep and which ones you can destroy via a secure document destruction service such as Corporate Document Destruction.

Category

Minimum Retention Period

Corporate Tax Records

  • Income
  • Expenses
  • Liabilities
  • Assets (receipts, sales, purchases, etc.)

5 years (min.) from the end of the accounting period. Longer if tax returns are late

GST Records

  • Taxable supply
  • Importation
  • Creditable acquisition & importation

5 years following the assessment period

Company Documents

  • Statutory books
  • Board minutes
  • Resolutions

Keep indefinitely

  • Accounting records with regards to transactions and all supporting documentation

7 years

  • Other business registers

5 years (min.) from date of last entry

Personnel Files (HR documents)

  • Employee records, payroll, wages, worker’s comp, etc.

7 years from EOFY

NOTE: The above table should be used as a guide only because depending on your industry segment the times for keeping documents may vary. It is intended as a high-level overview does not in any way constitute legal advice. Please contact your company lawyers, regulatory authorities, government bodies, or industry associations to ensure you are following current and relevant legal requirements for your industry sector.

What do you when you know which documents you can safely dispose of?

If you’re stacking boxes of old obsolete documents in a dusty warehouse somewhere you’re probably doing it wrong--and wasting money on storage fees. When you know which documents you can safely dispose of with no legal risk to your business, your best tactic is to ensure that they are immediately collected and taken to a secure document destruction facility via secure transportation by a company like Corporate Document Destruction.

For a more in-depth advice see the Australian Government’s guide: ‘Keep The Right Records

It has been my pleasure and indeed a privilege to conduct business with Alex and his Corporate Document Destruction service He has been most cooperative and discreet when certain requirements were necessary, both in my Dental Profession and my AFL administrative life. But more than that he has become a member of our team with his very pleasing and warm personality.

Our circumstances have changed, but wherever the future takes us we will use every endeavour to recommend his services to other business clients who may be seeking new fields.

Dr. Allen Aylett OBE
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