Federal Government Guidelines on Record Retention

By Mateo Zeske
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Record retention concerns the federal government requiring businesses, organizations and government bodies keeping copies of records that may or may not be immediately relevant to day-to-day operations. These laws usually apply to financial, employment, naturalization and complaint paperwork. The subject has resulted in legislation and forming of new governmental bodies to address the concerns.

Internal Revenue Service

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) maintains that businesses should keep all financial and employment information for three years after tax season. Specifics of the IRS requirements can be found in the Internal Revenue Code, Section 6001, stating taxpayers should have some form of paper trail leading to their current financial situation for seven years. Procedure 97-22 in 1997 established this could be paper or electronic form.

Federal Records Act

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The Federal Records Act of 1950 established the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to maintain and approve the government’s records and established that all federal records were to be kept indefinitely unless they are of a temporary nature and their destruction is approved by the NARA.

Discrimination Prevention

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The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans with Disabilities Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act have provisions stipulating that certain employment-application files be maintained. These range from job-opening notices and applications to references and any physical-examination checks of the applicants to documents outlining selection process. This goes for all applicants, not only those offered employment, to protect people from discrimination.

Workplace-Fairness Issues

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Executive Order 11246 provides that companies, organizations and individuals who have gone through documentation of good-faith compliance (trying to comply with government requests or investigation despite technical or procedural error) on workplace-fairness issues should keep the associated documentation for two years after the cycle is complete. Claims filed in regard to the Fair Labor Standards Act (dealing with concerning minimum wage and overtime pay) and associated payroll information need to be kept for three years after the date of the claims' settlement. Additional state laws for record retention may or may not apply and should be investigated by concerned individuals.

Immigration Reform and Control Act

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The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 established immigration and naturalization guidelines and the I-9 legal forms to verify that a person has a right to work in the United States. The act stipulates the I-9s must be kept on file for three years after the hiring date or one year after employment ends, whichever is later.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act

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The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 forbids document destruction after government inquiry as a criminal offense for business, organizations, nonprofits and individuals. The act also requires publicly traded companies to retain documents dealing with insider dealings indefinitely. It also requires companies operating as federal contractors to mirror the record retention policies of the federal government.

Occupational Safety and Health Act

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Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act for businesses, paperwork concerning employee safety training, procedures and complaints about an unsafe workplace should be retained for two years after an incident or the employee in question has left.

About the Author

Mateo Zeske has written professionally for over five years, including articles for "High School Sports," the industrial "How to Get Started with a Talent Agency" and community-oriented e-zines. As a filmmaker Zeske worked with production companies Hit It and Quit It, Road Dog Productions and masterminded the series "Bastardized Product." He holds a Master of Journalism from the University of North Texas.

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