As a small business owner, you have many documents you should keep on file, from taxes to financials to customer information. For most of these documents, using a digital system or a cloud storage system is enough to meet the needs and requirements of your business. However, easy access to a hard copy document is sometimes necessary.
For instance, in most states, it's a legal requirement for a limited liability company (LLC) to keep a copy of its operating agreement in its primary place of business. Hard copies of business licenses and permits should also be kept in physical form because regulations often require it.
Here are some other key business documents that your business should have easy access to in a hard copy format:
- Annual reports
- Fictional and assumed name (DBA) certificates
- Insurance documents
- Employer identification numbers (EIN)
- Promissory notes
- Capital contributions and withdrawals
- IRS and government correspondence
There are no laws dictating what tax documents should be in hard-copy form, according to IRS Publication 583. But, the IRS says, you should keep your records until the period of limitations expires — this is the period of time you have to amend a tax return. Some organizations, including insurance companies, could require you to keep your records for a longer period of time than the IRS. You should check with your provider for specific requirements.
How to Store a Hard Copy Document
A critical hard copy document should be stored in a fire resistant filing cabinet for safety. If your hard copy storage system is taking up too much space, you may want to consider off-site storage. Because you'll be storing potentially sensitive business and customer information, the storage facility should have a sophisticated security system. And because you're storing hard-copy documents, you might want to consider a temperature-controlled unit to avoid heat damage.
Now that you have more information in hand, you're on your way to creating a hard copy document system that will meet your business needs.