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Best Practices For Document Shredding At Work

September 30, 2016

Protecting your business from liability

Many businesses are required to keep certain documents by law. Some laws specify a minimum amount of time to keep these documents. But eventually, most documents can be disposed of. However, privacy laws and concerns about fraud and identity theft mean that shredding is an essential security strategy.

What You
Should Know

Shredding is a legal requirement for many kinds of documents.

What You
Can Do

Create a clear policy for your employees on which documents to shred and when.

Man shredding paper to illustrate shredding documents safely

The following guidelines will give you an idea of which documents are essential to keep and which must be kept but can be shredded eventually. But these are just guidelines since there might be specific regulations depending on your business or the kinds of documents you handle, such as medical records, for example. So be sure to contact the appropriate federal, state and local authorities to ensure you are in compliance with the law, or consult with a lawyer.

Over half a billion personal records were lost or stolen in 2015.1

Documents you should save indefinitely

Because these kinds of documents should be kept indefinitely, make sure you have them in a secure place—like a fireproof safe or safety deposit box:

  • Deeds
  • Auditors’ reports
  • Annual financial reports
  • General ledger and financial records
  • Insurance policies
  • Pension plan/profit-sharing/retirement plan documents
  • Sales tax returns
  • Federal, state and local tax returns
  • Diplomas, licenses or accreditations

Documents you can safely shred—eventually

Different localities have different laws regarding how long your business must retain these documents. Check with your legal advisor to be sure you’re in compliance with the law before shredding.

  • Contracts
  • Payroll records and payroll tax returns
  • Employee benefit plans
  • Bank records and cancelled checks
  • Inspection reports
  • Shipping and receiving reports

Shredding is just one way to reduce the risk of fraud and identity theft. For other tips on keeping sensitive business information secure, read about mail theft here.

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