How long should you keep important paperwork for? If like me you probably have a lot of paperwork regarding your personal details lying around the house. Hopefully somewhere safe and within easy reach. You may think well all my details are on a computer (you may even have scanned all important documents to your PC). While scanning the documents is a great idea you must bear in mind that all digital records could be affected by a virus on your PC and your data could be lost.
So how long should you keep important documents before you have a clear out?
Why keep the paperwork
- You may need to refer back to it if you have an issue
- You may need the paperwork if you need to prove your ID at a job interview – often if you are going for an interview for a Legal/Financial firm they will want to see evidence of who you are and this often is a copy of your Passport and proof of address (eg Utility bill) valid for the last 3 months.
- You can keep a track of your spending
- You may wish to claim back PPI
Bank and credit card statements.
You should try to keep these for at least three months. However, do make sure you check them when they arrive to spot any unusual activity. It is no good just putting them away unopened when they arrive by post.
Do try to keep these for a year so you can keep a log of how much energy you are using. This is particularly useful if you are thinking of changing supplier as you will need these details for comparisons
Receipts and warranties
Most warranties have a different period of length (usually they run out the day after the item has stopped working!) For important receipts try to hold onto them for at least 6 years. For general day-to-day receipts hold on to them until you have checked against your recent bank statement.
You need to keep these documents in a secure place in case you need to make a claim. Keep them until you change your policy.
You must keep your monthly (or weekly) pay slips until you receive your annual P60 which is a summary of your pay to date. Should you lose your payslips then you could contact your HR department for copies. Also please keep your P45.
The type of records you keep for tax purposes should include everything you need to complete your tax return – invoices, payment receipts, statements of interest from banks and building societies, dividend vouchers, evidence of capital gains or supporting claims for capital losses, charges and income related to rental property, expenses receipts and so on.
If you are self-employed then HMRC will require you to keep your business records for six years. You would need to keep records for tax purposes and this would include invoices, payment receipts, bank statements (which would show the interest), any dividend vouchers, evidence of capital gains or capital losses, rental (if you rent out a home), day to day expenses (work related). If you are self-employed and concerned about what you should keep then please speak either to your Accountant or HMRC for further clarification.
Medical information records.
These should be kept for life. Your Doctor will have your details on their records but you may need them for other reasons. For example if you re visiting your dentist and they offer injections they will normally ask if you are taking any medication as this could have an impact on your treatment.
Passport /birth certificates/marriage/divorce papers
You must always keep these items in a very secure place. The best place is to have a specified box or a drawer and do let members of your family know where they are kept in the event of an emergency.
Deeds to your home and conveyancing documents
These also should be kept for life. For most home owners your house details are registered at the Land Registry so they will have an electronic copy of your deeds. If you are thinking of having major planning development to your home this would be indicated on the deeds as to what can be done to your property. For example if your home is listed building then certain restrictions would apply and this would be available on the deeds and conveyancing documents
Other documents which should be kept for life include (but not limited to) thefollowing:-
- Exam results (yes even if like me you took CSE’s. I have even been asked to produce these at interviews!)
- Baptismal certificates
- Death certificate (these could be needed for tax purposes)
- Driving licence
- Employment records (you may need to evidence as to why you left a particular role)
- Adoption papers
- Military records
- Retirement details
- Social security records/cards
- Retirement and Pension Records
How to keep your records safe and immediately accessible
I suggest you get a large A4 ring binder folder with plastic inserts and label each section eg Utility Bills and place the latest statement at the front of each section.
When you add new documents to the folder check to see if you can remove what is at the back of the file. A good example is car insurance. If you have a new car insurance contract then the old one can be removed.
If you are going to remove old documents do not just throw them in the rubbish as this information has sensitive information regarding you. SO make sure you purchase a shredder.
I hope these tips prove helpful.