A guide to keeping track of company archives

Although it may not be the most glamorous aspect of a successful business, keeping track of company archives is one of the most essential. Any business, no matter the size or scale, will accumulate important documentation over time that will need to be securely stored. This often sensitive information may or may not be needed in the future, but nevertheless will need to be stored for the length of time necessary. Failure to maintain proper archives can create cash-flow problems, slow down administrative processes and even lead to government fines.

So what’s the law?

According to government guidelines, limited companies must keep and maintain all “records about the company itself”, as well as all “financial and accounting records.” The particulars of these documents may be specific to your industry, but there are certain documents that all companies must be able to produce on request. These include staff information, debentures, indemnities, as well as all money spent and received by your company. More information about company and accounting records can be found on the UK government website.

Many companies unwittingly dispose of important documents that they are legally obliged to keep hold of. This is especially the case when paperwork is badly organised and left to build up in office filing cabinets. Employing an efficient archiving system is a fool-proof way to make sure your business adheres to its specific retention schedules. Data protection authorities now have the power to apply strict penalties to any companies that do not comply with their standards. You don’t want to be bitten when HMRC turn up to check your records!

Time frames

The Companies Act of 2006 made it law for private limited companies to keep their accounting records for 3 years from the date they were created. Similarly, public limited companies are required to keep their records but for twice as long. Furthermore, tax law compels all private businesses to archive any records used to complete their tax return for 6 years, starting from the end of the initial accounting period. That’s a long time to keep hold of paperwork, emphasising the importance of keeping business records well organised and securely stored.

Organising your archives

As explained above, it is vital that company records are archived in accordance with business and legal requirements. To make the whole process easier, all important documents should be filed appropriately and as soon as possible. Delays in archiving or storing files haphazardly increases the likelihood of them being lost, damaged or accidentally destroyed. It may be time-consuming but the consequences of poorly maintained company archives can be detrimental to the success of your company.

Where to store your records

It is the responsibility of your company’s director to ensure all significant records are accurate, up-to-date and accessible for inspection by the relevant authorities. Many companies archive their records at their registered office address, while others choose to store them at Single Alternate Inspection Locations (SAIL).

Companies House, the UK’s registrar of companies, will assume that your company records are stored at your registered address. However, if you have chosen to keep some or all of these documents in a separate location – such as a professional storage facility – you will need to inform Companies House that this is your SAIL address. As well as its location, you will also need to divulge which of your business records are being stored there. You can only have one SAIL and it must be in the same country as your registered office.

Tracking files

Whilst the majority of documents in your business archive will rarely need to be touched, there will be occasions where you may need to gain quick and easy access to certain files. Any movement of documents outside of your office (or SAIL) will need to be tracked to ensure you know where your records are at any given time. Many of your archived records will be original documents, so it is imperative that they are not lost, damaged or destroyed. If they are, you will need to inform your Corporation Tax Office immediately.

To avoid running into the aforementioned problems, many companies devise their own tracking schedules. In theory, this records information on the whereabouts of a given document, who is currently responsible for its safety, when it was sent out and when it is due back. This practice is definitely advisable, but ultimately you should try to avoid sending out original records wherever possible. Nevertheless, we understand that releasing physical records is sometimes unavoidable and companies must turn to safe and reliable practices instead.

Although original paper files are needed by many organisations, it is becoming an increasingly common practice to simply send scanned copies of documents. Rummaging through a mountain of paperwork for a specific record can be a painful and time-consuming task if your records are disorderly. Keeping your archives securely stored in a professional storage facility may not only be the most secure option, some storage companies also make it the most convenient with their online document management and scanning services.

Get in touch with one of our professional storage consultants to learn more about our document management and scanning services and receive a tailored quote.

What is the most secure way to store documents?

Every business and household in the land will be familiar with the problem of document storage. No matter your size, success or age, you will need to manage and store important information for future reference. It’s part of everyday life. This has been the case for centuries and continues to this day, in spite of the digital age in which we now live.

The paperwork that builds up in your offices and homes can become not only an eyesore but, if managed improperly, a threat to personal and professional security. Storing documents in a simple and secure way will improve the efficiency of your home and business, as well as ensure that all of your data is protected. The only question that remains is – ‘what is the best way to do it?’ In this article, we will explore the best options available for securely storing your documents.

Storing at home

Whilst you might be filing aficionados at work, many people are less than diligent at home with their personal paperwork. Stuffing your sensitive documents into a cupboard or under the stairs might be the easiest solution but it puts your sensitive material at risk. Confidential material such as your bank account details, tax returns and credit card information can be just as attractive to a burglar as your jewellery and electronics.

One of the most common ways to store sensitive documents at home is with a personal safe. These should ideally be fire and waterproof to protect the files from damage and kept in a hard-to-find place in your house. Home safes can often be expensive and quality can vary significantly. The average home safe costs over £500 and needs to be secured to walls or floors to be fully effective, which can be a nuisance.

Storing at work

If you walk into the office of an average business the chances are that most of their sensitive documents are either stacked in a storeroom or dumped in a filing cabinet and forgotten about. Paperwork stored in this fashion quickly builds up and is often exposed to prying eyes. When someone wants to see a particular document, a rummage-fest ensues in which it is often never found. Their premises may be locked at night but this is far from the most efficient or secure system to rely upon.

Safe Deposit Box

Many banks and credit unions still offer a safe deposit box service, although it is becoming less common with the decline of high-street banking. Documents stored in this way are safeguarded in industrial vaults which is, although highly secure, not the most practical way to store confidential documents. Most people need somewhat regular access to certain documents such as birth certificates and tax returns, which cannot be quickly accessed when stored at a bank.

Professional storage

Professional storage companies maintain facilities that are specifically designed to securely store belongings, including paperwork. Long or short term, these companies can store sensitive documents in industrial storage units. For example, at Flexible Storage our storage units are fire and water proof, secured by automated gates and under constant CCTV surveillance. Even under all this security, we provide customers with easy access to their stored documents as well as scanning services to swiftly retrieve, scan and send over any document they might need.

So which is most secure?

The first step in securely storing important documents is to decide what to store. Sort through all of your paperwork and decide what needs to be stored and what needs to be destroyed – responsibly. Professionally shredding all confidential documents that are out of date or no longer needed is the most safe, efficient and eco-friendly way to dispose of sensitive material. It frees up space in your homes and offices, and certificates of destruction give you peace of mind.

The decision ultimately comes down to your situation and requirements. Will you need regular access to your documents? Do you think that your home or office is secure enough to store them? What level of security will give you the most peace of mind? You will need to consider these questions before making your decision. However, we at Flexible Storage believe that a professional document storage service such as ours does not only offer you the highest level of security but the highest level of convenience too.

Get in touch with one of our professional storage consultants to learn more about our document management service and receive a tailored quote.