It’s a new year which means it’s time purge those documents and get shredding. In a year, a business will produce a large volume of paper. Although much of a business’s data is stored on a computer, paper still ends up in desk drawers, filing cabinets, and storage boxes, eventually cluttering the office and creating a disorganized workspace. This brings up the question, “What documents should be shredded?”.
Legally businesses are obligated to maintain certain records for specified amounts of time but holding onto unnecessary documents poses not only a security risk but exposes the business to additional liability. The longer unneeded documents are kept on-site, the more likely they are to potentially wind up in the wrong hands. Which makes determining what to keep and what to destroy an important question.
Many organizations maintain a ‘Document Retention Policy’ to help guide the decision-making process when it comes to the storage or destruction of paper records. The beginning of the new year is the perfect time to review this policy and become familiar with its guidelines. Retention policies outline the types of records, the retention schedules, and how and when to shred those records. Document Retention and Destruction Policies are based on the legal requirements for organizations to maintain certain documents and records prior to destruction. The policies are designed to mitigate the risk of disposing records too early or holding on to records for too long.
If your organization is unsure which documents to keep and which to send to the shredder, read the guidelines below to ensure the most important documents are on file while keeping your data safe and your office organized.
Keep vs. Shred
Documents to Keep (For Now)
There are a few documents you should keep forever—birth certificates, Social Security cards, trademarks—but many should eventually be shredded.
- Tax documents: Keep these for seven years before shredding. While the IRS normally has three years to audit you, it has up to seven years under certain situations. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has an itemized list of what to do with different kinds of tax records. If you are unsure of what tax records to keep, consult with an accountant or call IRS Taxpayer Assistance.
- Employee onboarding files (W-4 and I-9s): Hold on to these for four years after an employee leaves your organization.
- Contracts and legal documents: Maintain all legal correspondence. Only shred former client contracts seven years after they end.
- Bank statements, pay stubs, and medical bills: Shred them after one year unless you have an unresolved dispute with one of these vendors.
Documents to Shred
Much of the paper contained within an office is safe to be shredded as soon as it is no longer of use. If a non-essential paper has any sensitive data pertaining to your organization, it’s in your best interest to dispose of it quickly. Anything you don’t want to be public should be shredded.
- Bills: These can go to the destroyed as soon as they’re paid.
- Receipts: Destroy ATM and retail receipts right away unless they are related to taxes, insurance, or warranties.
- Work-related papers: Shred anything with username, password, and signature or account number as soon as you no longer need it.
- Expired credit cards: Just because a credit card is outdated doesn’t mean identity thieves can’t draw information from it—shred unwanted credit cards immediately.
Shredding can be simple and secure when you partner with a professional data destruction service. To learn more about retention policies, destruction and shredding policies, or any other compliance regulations regarding records management or paper shredding, contact DataShield today.