20+ Years Experience

Specialist Insolvency Practitioners

Licensed Insolvency Practitioners

Insolvency Practitioners Nationwide

How Long Should I Keep My Business Records

Is your business maintaining accurate records?

Are you aware of the legal requirements set by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for keeping business records?

Proper record keeping is not only essential for meeting legal obligations, but it also helps businesses stay organised, make sound financial decisions, and avoid unnecessary penalties.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the various aspects of business record keeping, the different retention periods required by HMRC, and tips for efficient record management, including answering the question “how long do I need to keep my business records?”

Whether you’re a self-employed individual, a limited company, or an employer, understanding the record retention periods, essential documents to keep, and the consequences of inadequate record keeping is crucial.

Let’s dive into the world of business record retention and ensure that you need to keep all your keep your records together. adequate business records you need to keep is compliant with HMRC regulations by learning how long do I need to keep my business records and other essential information.

Short Summary

  • Businesses must adhere to record retention periods set by HMRC in order to remain compliant and avoid penalties.
  • Essential records that must be retained include financial, sales, tax and employment documents.
  • Digital storage solutions facilitate improved productivity while ensuring accuracy for legal purposes.

Record Retention Periods by Business Type

Record retention periods set by HMRC vary depending on the type of business. Complying with these timeframes is crucial to avoid penalties and difficulties in demonstrating compliance with regulations.

For self-employed individuals, relevant documents must be kept for five years, while companies must retain most documents for six years and some for ten years.

Maintaining accurate records is essential for filing tax returns and ensuring compliance with HMRC requirements. Sales, purchases, expenses, cash books, mileage records and bank statements are essential business documents.

They must be accurately recorded and maintained to ensure efficient business operations. Keeping these records for the required duration not only helps with tax return filing but also avoids potential fines, criminal charges, and additional tax liabilities.

So, what are the specific record retention periods for different business types? Let’s look at the requirements for self-employed individuals, limited companies, and employers.

Self-Employed Record Keeping

For self-employed individuals, the record retention period is five years after the 31st January of the relevant tax year.

This means that a sole trader must keep their company owns own financial statements and records, including sales documents, actual figures, expenses, personal income, taxable expenses, any money spent, withdrawn and paid into the business, and VAT/PAYE information if applicable, for at least five years.

Self-employed individuals can choose between traditional and a cash flow and basis accounting methods. Regardless of the method chosen, maintaining accurate accounting records is crucial for filing tax returns and avoiding penalties.

In certain circumstances, some self employed people re-employed individuals may be required to retain their records for longer than five years. It’s essential to stay updated with HMRC regulations and ensure that your record keeping practices adhere to the prescribed guidelines.

Limited Company Record Keeping

Limited companies have a slightly different set of record retention requirements. Most limited company records must be kept for approximately six years from the end of the accounting period, while certain documents need to be retained for a decade.

Limited company record keeping involves maintaining and keeping records of the limited company directors”s various financial statements, transactions, assets, liabilities, and other pertinent documents.

As a limited company, you must keep records of directors, shareholders, and company secretaries, shareholder votes and resolutions, debts, indemnities, transactions, loans and mortgages, loans and mortgages, loans and mortgages secured against the limited companies house company directors”s assets, and a register of people with significant control.

Failing to maintain these records can result in a monetary penalty of £3,000 and disqualification from acting as a company director.

It’s important for limited companies to be aware of their record retention obligations and ensure they comply with the set guidelines to avoid penalties and maintain transparency.

Employer Record Keeping

Employers also have specific record keeping requirements. They must keep accurate records of their employees and retain them for at least three years from the end of the tax year they are related to. In addition, a company’s accounting periods and records need to be kept for six years following the end of the last such company’s statutory books or itself the company’s fault accounting period as per the Companies Act 2006.

PAYE records, in particular, must be retained for three years from the end of the relevant tax year. These records are crucial for ensuring accuracy in employee tax calculations and avoiding potential penalties.

It is essential for employers to comply with these record retention requirements and maintain their records diligently to avoid any legal or financial consequences.

Essential Business Records to Retain

Now that we’ve covered the different record retention periods for various business types, let’s look at the essential business records that must be retained.

These records include sales documents, expenses, personal income, VAT/PAYE info, business assets, liabilities, loans, and shareholder transactions.

Additionally, the company’s statutory books, formation documents, shareholder agreements, and any other documents related to the company’s formation and operation must be kept.

Financial and accounting records such as invoices, cash receipts, bank statements, and other documents associated with the company’s financial dealings should also be maintained. Furthermore, tax records, VAT documents, sales and takings records, employment documents, and immigration checks must be kept for which company owes, and for loans secured, against the company’s assets for specified period.

Ensuring that all essential business and financial records are properly maintained not only helps with compliance, but also allows businesses to make informed financial decisions and avoid penalties.

Digital Record Keeping and Accessibility

With the advent of digital technology, record keeping has become more convenient and efficient.

Digital record keeping offers rapid and effortless document access, improved productivity, diminished data security risks, and cost savings from storage space. It also assists with compliance and guards against unfounded claims.

Businesses can store their records on a computer, but they must ensure that they can always access these records in case of a software or hardware upgrade. Records stored digitally must be easily readable.

Ensuring legibility and accessibility of digital records is of paramount importance to guarantee accuracy and enable their use for legal and financial purposes.

By embracing digital business record keeping and ensuring accessibility to business itself, businesses can streamline their business record management processes and focus on growing their business enterprises.

Consequences of Inadequate Record Keeping

Inadequate record keeping can have severe consequences for businesses. Not retaining records for the mandated period of time can lead to sanctions, fines, and even criminal prosecution.

In addition, inadequate keeping inadequate business records can result in fines, criminal charges, and additional tax liabilities. It can also lead to difficulties in proving compliance with regulations.

When concluding a business, record keeping is a vital component of finalising the business. You may also be legally obligated to maintain certain documents upon business closure.

To avoid these consequences, it’s crucial for businesses to be diligent in their record keeping practices and ensure they comply with the legal requirements set by HMRC.

Reconstructing Lost or Damaged Records

In the unfortunate event of lost or damaged records, businesses must act promptly to mitigate the consequences. It is imperative to notify HMRC immediately and attempt to reconstruct any lost documents.

Reproducing lost records may involve contacting suppliers for duplicate invoices, retrieving bank statements from financial institutions, and piecing together any available information to reconstruct the records.

Taking swift action when records are lost or damaged can help minimise the impact on your business and ensure you remain compliant with HMRC regulations.

Special Considerations for SEISS Grant Recipients

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant recipients have additional record keeping more documentation requirements.

In addition to the standard self-employment record keeping requirements, SEISS grant recipients must retain records of the amount taxable benefits claimed each tax year and the corresponding claim reference number.

Furthermore, SEISS grant recipients must retain records that demonstrate their eligibility for the grant. Ensuring that these additional records are properly maintained is crucial for compliance with government grant, and avoiding potential penalties related to the grant.

Tips for Efficient Record Management

Efficient record management is key to ensuring that your business remains compliant with HMRC regulations and can make sound financial decisions. Here are some practical tips for effective record management.

1. Construct a system for tracking and monitoring records, devise a records retention schedule, and utilise automation to pinpoint essential information.

2. Use digital storage and establish an organised filing system for easy record access and retrieval.

3. Review and keep your records very regularly to ensure accuracy and make any necessary updates. The frequency of review you need to keep of your records may vary depending on the type of records you are keeping, such as monthly, quarterly, or annually.

By implementing these tips, your business will be well on its way to efficient record management and compliance with HMRC requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What records must be kept for 10 years?

Maintaining accurate records is essential for businesses, and keeping certain documents for 10 years is part of the company’s assets’ responsibility. These include payroll information owed stock,, employee benefit plans, tax returns, and expense receipts for business expenses.

By making sure these records are available, businesses can stay compliant with IRS requirements.

How long do you need to keep business records for HMRC?

You must keep your business records for 5 years in accordance with HMRC requirements. This means that you should retain your financial documents sales receipts and other related records for at least five years after the 31 January Self Assessment tax return submission deadline of the relevant tax year.

This is so HMRC can take estimated figures from tax return and check them if necessary to ensure the accuracy of tax codes in your figures and confirm that you are paying the right amount of tax.

What records should be kept for 3 years?

No, different types of documents require different retention periods. Generally, it is recommended to keep records for at least three years, inadequate business records such as payroll records, employment contracts, and tax returns.

Additionally, employee medical records should be kept for five years and certain records such as employment applications and job descriptions should be kept indefinitely.

How long do you have to keep business records for a sole trader?

Generally speaking, you are required to keep all records for your last company and your company tax return for up to five years.

As a sole trader, it is your responsibility to ensure that all company registers and records are kept in a secure and accessible location for up to five years from the submission deadline of the relevant company tax return each year.

This allows HMRC to check the accuracy of any figures and verify that you are paying the right amount of tax.


In conclusion, proper record keeping is essential for businesses to comply with HMRC regulations, make informed financial decisions, and avoid penalties.

Understanding the record retention periods for company records for different business types, maintaining essential business records, and ensuring accessibility and legibility of digital records are all crucial aspects of effective record management.

By following the tips and guidelines provided in this blog post, businesses can streamline their record keeping processes and focus on growth and success. Remember, diligent record management is not just a legal requirement – it’s a key component of a thriving business.

About Insolvency Practitioner

We are Insolvency Practitioners based in Barking who are dedicated to providing expert solutions for financial distress.

Contact Us