Your home and office could benefit from an end of year cleanup. Here’s a list to get you started.
Everyone loves a good seasonal cleaning. Every new quarter, we are given an opportunity to declutter our spaces and make our homes and offices clean, happy, and efficient spaces. The final quarter of 2017 is upon us, and for businesses, that means you are well into executing a strategic plan for 2018. While you may have a sense of your needs as you gear up for a prosperous year, don’t forget to focus on what you can do right now to set the new year up for success. Are your files and databases thoroughly organized? Have you thought about purging old records? Believe it or not, these steps are a critical, but often overlooked success factor for everyone. Don’t be daunted by the size of this list, many of the jobs are small ones that will go by quickly, and you’ll be so glad you took the time to do them.
Clean Up Those Financial Records
Are your financial records in need of some organization? Are you behind in getting ready for tax season? Can you determine how your company is running financially? How long should you hang onto those old records? We have the 411 on retention periods.
- You should hang onto bank statements for a period of 3 years if you’ve been audited by the IRS. Most banks provide online statements that you can download and save to your computer if you prefer to save some space in your home or office.
- For tax returns, it’s a bit trickier: The IRS suggests that you “keep records for 3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.”
- Real estate and other investment records should be retained for 3 years for capital gains tax purposes.
- Keep the calendar year’s pay stubs until you reconcile them with your annual W-2 form, then shred them.
- For businesses, you can toss employment applications, general correspondence, miscellaneous internal reports, petty cash vouchers, and physical inventory for 3 years. Financial documents, such as bank reconciliations, bank statements, canceled checks, deposit slips, and expense reports should be kept for 7 years.
Don’t Forget Digital Data
While a percentage of digital data will inevitably be valuable, much of it is redundant, obsolete, trivial or unknown and hasn’t been accessed in years. Hanging onto data can lead to security and compliance risks, which carry financial and reputational penalties. Just as you would organize paper files, electronic files need a filing system for easy retrieval and efficiency.
- Focus first on data that is redundant, trivial, or obsolete. Deletion of these files should be guided by a policy. Once you’ve cleaned up your data and made it current, create a schedule to regularly clean out old data, whether it’s once a quarter or twice a year.
- Keep information as long as you need information and use the delete key as necessary. Don’t allow your personnel to fall into the “I might need it someday” sinkhole.
- If you’ve managed to get a hold on your data, don’t start hoarding obsolete hard drives and paper files. These are items that should be permanently destroyed by an insured and professionally trained company.
Remember, just as with paper files, hard drives shouldn’t be tossed in the trash; instead, rely on a company that offers hard drive shredding services. Hard drive shredding works similarly to how paper documents are destroyed, and the added bonus is you can toss your old paper documents in with your “to shred pile.” Both hard drives and paper data will be completely pulverized, making the information impossible to recover and be used again.
Legal Shred works with businesses and consumers to keep their offices and homes free of paper clutter, in addition to keeping identities safe and secure. Schedule your end of year cleanup today!
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