Two years ago, the Electric Wastebasket Corporation published a two-page "Record Retention Timetable" summarizing legally required retention periods for about 200 types of records. Some common records which EWC says can be pitched in three years or less are:
On the other hand, there are certain records which EWC says you should retain permanently, or for 4, 5, 6, 7 or 10 years. For permanent retention, it cites 56 kinds of records, including accounts payable ledger, balance sheets, check register, certified financial statements, general ledger records, P & L statements, file copies of forms used, systems and procedures records, lab test reports, training manuals, inventory records, purchase or lease records of plant facility, research presentations, fire prevention program, tax bills and statements, and tax returns.
The brief introduction says, "This chart covers most Federal and State regulations (there are about 900 regulations). Because state retention statutes vary widely on tax, unemployment, and workmen's compensation records, check with the tax commissioner of the states in which you do business for details." Each item in the list is followed by a code for the "authority to dispose": administrative decision [whatever that means]; Armed Services Procurement Regulation; Code of Federal Regulations; Fair Labor Standards Act; Interstate Commerce Commission; Insurance company regulation [which company?]; Industrial Security Manual, Attachment to DD Form 441. The timetable is printed on Permalife and is distributed by Howard Paper Mills, Inc., P.O. Box 982, Dayton, Ohio 45401.