Do I really have to keep all this stuff?

When my family and I moved into our townhouse earlier this year, we decided that it was time to do a little “purging” before we packed. My mission for my family was clear — if you haven’t seen it, worn it, used it, or played with it in the last year, it’s going in the garbage. They knew I meant business when they saw me throwing away shoes (don’t judge me…my foot grew!) and clothes. Why would we want to move into a new place with anything that we are not going to use? It just creates clutter, and I loathe clutter…

One of the things I was assigned to do was purge the paper file folder that we have…and I was not looking forward to it. I put EVERY bill statement, cancelled check, expired debit card, and the like in that folder. It was busting at the seams, and that’s not an exaggeration. I took a deep breath in, closed my eyes, said a prayer, and got to work…

Now, you’re probably wondering “how does this relate to time and attendance?” That’s a great question, and the answer is simple. But first, let me ask you this: do YOU have a desk drawer, file cabinet, or manila folder that’s busting at the seams with paperwork that you don’t want to throw away? Chances are you do. And that’s okay. The reality is, we keep these documents as proof of what we are doing on a day-to-day basis; timesheets, payroll records, tax returns, bill statements, etc. But there are a few great tips that you can use to help “calm the clutter” and purge some of those pieces of paper that have become the bane of your existence.

  • Keep business and payroll tax returns for 5 years — Returns should be archived for the current year and 4 years behind. If you are audited, it’s likely that your friendly neighborhood auditor (yuck!) will want to view the current year and 2 years behind. Keeping 5 years virtually ensures that you will be able to provide all of the necessary documentation that is required and allows you to breathe a brief sigh of relief.

  • Archive personnel records for the tenure of the employee (and then some) — As an employer, it is your responsibility to keep an accurate and up-to-date personnel file for each active employee. This will include, at the very least, a W-4, I-9, current address and telephone numbers, and a copy of a social security card. You will also need to keep copies of W-2’s and/or 1099’s for the current year and 4 years back, just like the business and payroll tax returns mentioned before. More times than not, an employee is audited by the IRS or a state agency and doesn’t have a copy of their W-2 on hand. Requesting this information from government and state agencies can be a daunting and time-consuming task. You’d be helping your employee (and yourself) if you keep them on file. Of course, if your company offers an employee self-service option (say, they use our Acrotime platform for HR management…yeah, it does that, too), they can view and print their old returns in the blink of an eye! Oh — and for terminated employees — keep their files for 3 years from their termination date. You may need to provide information to the Social Security Administration, the state unemployment board (for unemployment benefits), or even a prospective employer if they are seeking employment elsewhere.

  • Scan it! — I know there are still some folks out there who love to rustle through piles of paper, but scanning documents is an easy, cost-effective, and paper-free option to keep your files for as long as you want! Many business are choosing the option to scan paperwork and save it to a computer drive rather than having several file cabinets. You can create a folder for each employee, allowing yourself to access their information quickly and efficiently. Not to mention the amount of paper cuts you’ll forgo from not having to deal with so much darn paper! Same goes for anything with regard to the business itself. If you’re nervous about shredding a credit card statement from October 1987 because of the very off-chance that you may need to dispute a charge (um…), scan it! This way, you can easily contest the $13.48 purchase from Party City that reads BLONDE MULLET WIG—AXL ROSE REPLICA. Oh wait…was that the wig I purchased for the CEO for the office costume party? OOPS!

Whatever organization and archiving method you choose to adopt, be sure that you’re comfortable with it, and stick to it! There’s nothing worse than spending 2 days purging and organizing, only to revert back to old habits. Your time is precious and should be treated as such. And don’t forget to include this process as a part of your office’s risk management program!

Okay, it’s time to make the donuts! This is Jessica Lancaster, signing off, because…it’s TIME FOR BUSINESS!!!

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