Complying with federal government record retention guidelines is critical for your business. It not only helps you keep your records in order, but it also helps to protect your company from the negative consequences that can result from poor preparations for government oversight measures such as tax audits. Though the volume of records that you have to manage can make compliance seem difficult, it can in fact be fairly simple if you know what to do.
Be aware of what you need to keep
To make managing your records easier, you probably regularly destroy certain records. As you well know, however, the federal government requires you to retain certain documents for specific periods of time. Make sure that you are aware of the requirement for each type of document. You must retain most financial documents, for example, for several years -- and sometimes forever.
Know the formats
Federal government record retention guidelines not only require you to keep certain documents, but also keep them prepared in certain formats for easier viewing and sharing. For example, images must be in either .jpg or .tif formats. Converting all of your records -- even older ones -- to digital files will come in handy here.
Be aware of what you need to destroy
Most organizations are aware of the fact that the federal government requires them to retain documents, but what you may not be as familiar with are the guidelines for documents that you are required to destroy. As with retaining records, digital technology – especially the web – has influenced the way the government requires you to destroy certain documents. The personally identifiable information of customers and employees, for example, cannot be left sitting around. As soon as a piece of personally identifiable information has been used and it has been determined that you no longer explicitly need it to identify someone, you are required to destroy it.
Put a system in place that streamlines the management of your records
All three of the steps discussed above won't matter at all for your organization if you do not have a system in place to effectively manage your records. You can make this easy with the right tools. Here is what you need:
- A digital document conversion system - This makes it possible for you to convert your incoming documents to digital files for easier indexing and management
- Document management software - This allows you to organize and access all of your digital records in the snap of a fingerThese tools will make retaining, formatting and destroying your records easy.
Keep up with the latest record retention legislation
You cannot comply with federal government record retention guidelines if you do not know what they are. New record retention legislation is constantly causing guidelines to change; these changes are accelerated, thanks to the influence of digital record keeping and the web. The Canadian Policy on Information Management, for example, completely replaced the 1994 Policy on Personnel Information Management and the 2003 Policy on Management of Government Information; then it was overhauled and updated in 2012. As such, being in the know means keeping up with current events in record retention legislation. There are reliable resources that can provide you with this information regularly, so this shouldn't be a big problem.
Make sure that you are ready to comply with federal government record retention guidelines
Whether your company is facing a government audit or a legal matter, you should be prepared. By adhering to the advice discussed in this article, your organization will always be in line with federal government requirements for record retention and management.