Good record-keeping practices are necessary to comply with various laws, and to operate your business properly. You need to establish a system where you can file records so that they can be easily and efficiently retrieved.
Below is a way to categorize your important company records. You can combine or subdivide categories, depending on the nature and extent of your business — and remember to keep hard copies of important e-mail documents. The bottom line: The task of filing and managing all your important documents can be difficult to keep up with, but it can prove to be a real problem if it’s not done correctly.
- Accounting and bookkeeping records. These records include sales and expense information, inventory, ledgers, income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and other financial statements.
- Bank records. These records include bank statements, cancelled checks, bank reconciliations, notices from and to your bank, deposit slips, and any loan-related documents.
- Contracts. These records include all contracts you have entered into, including real estate leases, equipment leases, purchase agreements, sales agreements, joint venture agreements and work-for-hire agreements.
- Corporate records. If your business is a corporation, these records include articles of incorporation, bylaws, shareholder minutes, board minutes, state filings, action of incorporator, and amendments to the various corporate documents. If your business is not a corporation, other documents relevant here include partnership agreements and the owners’ LLC documents.
- Correspondence. These records include correspondence sent and received by mail, and may also include faxes and important e-mail that should be retained in hard copy.
- Employee records. These records include completed employment applications, employee offer letters, employee handbooks or policies, employment agreements, performance appraisals, employee attendance records, employee termination letters, W-2s, and any settlement agreements with terminated employees.
- Frequently used forms. You want to build up and maintain a host of standard forms that you use frequently in the business. These forms can include a standard purchase order, sales agreement, offer letter to new employees, and employment application.
- Intellectual property records. These records include trademark applications, copyright filings, patent filings and patents, licenses, and confidentiality or nondisclosure agreements.
- Marketing and advertising records. These records include marketing brochures, print ads, Web banners, text or radio ads, and other marketing materials.
- Permits and licenses. These records include permits, licenses, or registration forms required to operate the business under federal, state or local laws.
- Stock records. These records include the company´s stock ledger (where all stock and other securities transactions are recorded), copies of stock certificates, options and warrants, and copies of all securities law filings.
- Tax records. These records include quarterly and annual federal and state income tax filings, W-9 filings for independent contractors, records supporting tax filings, withholding tax records, and other tax-related matters.