Despite the digital transition that has occurred for most businesses, there are still some who rely heavily on paper copies of documents. In particular, government agencies and some large businesses still find the need to store hard copies of specific documents. If you are having a hard time letting go of the tangible and making a full digital storage conversion, here are some tips to help you store your company's records safely.
What Should You Be Keeping?
As a business owner, there are many things you'll need to store copies of for many years. In some cases, it's important that you have the original paper document with a signature on it, even if you have digital archives. Here is a look at some of the records that you should be storing.
The Internal Revenue Service recommends keeping copies of everything related to your company's employment taxes for at least four years after the filing date. This means keeping copies of employee W-2s, retirement plan records, worker's compensation statements, and any withholding certificates.
It's in your company's best interest to keep copies of all of your old personnel records for several years as well. How long you want to store the hard-copies of these records is up to you, but it may be beneficial to keep them for at least as long as you have the tax records on hand.
For example, if an employee was terminated or left the company in 2002, you should keep all of the personnel records for that employee until at least 2007. You can digitally archive things afterward if you want to keep those records indefinitely.
Some of the employee records you'll want to keep include attendance information, performance reviews, timesheet documents, any life insurance or leave requests, and anything out of the ordinary. If you suspect there's any reason you may need to reference something later, keep it on hand for a while.
How Should You Store These Records?
Keeping this much paper on file can take up a lot of space. If storage space is at a premium in your offices, you may find that it's easier to rent a storage unit, such as from Epic Group Inc., to keep all of the old records in. After all, if you don't need to reference them every day, there's no need to have them onsite all the time. If you are going to store your documents in a storage facility, here are some things to keep in mind.
Paper can be vulnerable to damage from a variety of environmental factors. Warm, damp air may lead to mold growth on the paper, which can destroy records. In addition, light can be harmful to some ink products and may cause paper to age and brown. Careful packing in document-safe boxes and the rental of a climate-controlled facility are in your best interest to avoid these dangers.
Place all of your document boxes on a layer of wood pallets in the storage unit. By putting wood pallets beneath the boxes, you'll have some elevation between the boxes and the floor. If the storage unit is ever threatened by flooding, the pallets should keep the documents out of the water. In addition, pallets will help to improve the air circulation under the boxes, keeping moisture at bay.
Organizing from the Start
As you start packing your records, make sure that everything is clearly labeled. Consider creating boxes by quarter or by year, and creating separate boxes for tax records and employee documents. The clearer your organizational approach and the more clearly labeled the boxes are, the easier it will be for you to find records later if you need to reference them.
Consider stacking things in the unit with the oldest records in the front. These will be the first ones you'll purge, so putting them near the front starts a rotation, much like the way stock is rotated on grocery shelves. When you add a new year's records to the unit, you just purge the oldest set from the front, move everything forward, and put the newest year in the back.
Over time, you may decide that you want to store your records indefinitely in a digital format. You can archive scanned documents to an external hard drive and store your hard drives in much the same manner. Just be sure that each drive is clearly labeled so that you don't have to spend hours hooking up each one just to find a single document. You may find it easiest to organize these with metal shelving racks along the walls of the storage unit.
Keeping accurate business records is essential both for tax filing and for employee management. If you are not ready to let those old records go just yet, you can still save the storage space in the office and keep your files safe with these tips.