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Archiving Important Documents – How, What and Why?

3rd August 2016

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The storage of valuable and legal documents is of vital importance for both businesses and individuals. Certain documents must be kept through law, while others are just plain helpful to call upon when needed. One such example is old payslips, which may not necessarily need to be retained, but can be useful for tracking earnings or payment trends.

An individual’s papers – such as passports, birth certificates and deeds to houses – can help to prove identity, give an indication of family history, and show proof of ownership. Therefore keeping these safe is of the upmost importance, as without them it can become impossible to leave the country, set up bank accounts or sell a house.

Similarly, paper trails are vital for a business – and although it is a legal requirement to keep things such as receipts for the tax year, it is highly suggested to keep them past the immediate assessment. It is also a requirement to keep VAT papers and Inland Revenue Tax documents for 6 years, PAYE documents for 3 years, and entries that refer to a former company member for 20 years…!

Why store?

Storing documents is in part a legal requirement, but can also just be helpful, in both business and in your personal life. Through good organisation and storage of important personal documents, you will save countless hours looking through mountains of paper when it comes to apply for a mortgage or bank loan. Knowing where all of your important personal documents are – such as your passport – will take away some of that uncomfortable pre-holiday stress. Additionally, knowing exactly where a birth certificate is when applying for a marriage certificate or a child’s school place can make the arduous process that little bit easier.

By not keeping certain documents for the set amount of time, a business may make unnecessary errors or risk getting into trouble with HMRC. However, by having a good system, it is easy to track expenses and make accurate financial judgements – through this it will becomes easier to see who is up-to-date with their accounts and who else may owe money.

How to store

Organisation is key in keeping essential personal and legal documents safe and accessible. Folders, boxes and a label maker will get you far!

Your personal document folders should include birth certificates, passports, health insurance documents (if applicable), bank details and Wills (where applicable). Having individual boxes will save confusion and time when looking for something important. It’s also advisable to take advantage of modern technology and scan all of your documents – keeping them on a USB – just in case the hard copies become lost or damaged in the future.

If you’re archiving documents as a business, set aside a convenient time each month and work chronologically… Kkeeping everything in the correct order will make it easier if you need to retrieve something for auditing. Working out a retention date from this may be helpful, and from this it can be possible to assess when it is suitable to finally dispose of documents.

When packing either folders or boxes, make sure that the information inside is easily retrievable. Plastic wallets in folders and dividers in boxes will see that your documents are kept in good order and good condition.

Where to store

Deciding where to store all of your important documents can be one of the most frustrating factors when it comes to archiving. The ideal place needs to be secure, but with easy access. It also needs to have protection from fire, rain and other forms of natural disasters – and most importantly, it needs to be able to fit everything in…!

Personal documents are inherently easier to store, as they often won’t be particularly bulky and can be stored at home. However most banks offer safety deposit boxes if you’d rather keep documents out of the house or would just prefer extra security.

For businesses, lockable filing cabinets in the office will do the job just fine initially… yet as your business grows, so too will the amount of paperwork that you need to keep by. In an ideal world, your business will grow at the same rate as all of your documents – but the paper will always come first! Multiple filing cabinets can quickly take up prime office space, and although there is the option of online/cloud-based storage, the security of such solutions cannot be guaranteed. Dedicated rooms are a good option… or conveniently located self storage units!

There is a constant need to store documents. As either a business expands or your personal life develops, so too will your documents. Keeping these documents safe is hugely important – and by following our advice and tips above, you can be sure that your documents are organised and stored efficiently!

If you’re looking for archive storage in South Wales, why not check out Easystore? Offering self storage in Cardiff and Bridgend, our facilities are fully secure and accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Contact us today.

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Author: Brendan

Brendan is the owner of Easystore Self Storage.

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