Document Retention Standards for California Nonprofits

As legal counsel and a CPA, frequently I get asked about document retention standards for California Nonprofits.

Standards vary from state to state. These retention standards are designed for California which has a longer statute of limitations.

You should check with your legal counsel who can give you standards for your state.

Reminder: If there is a governmental investigation or a lawsuit, you should immediately cease any document destruction and contact legal counsel before resuming any document destruction.

Document Retention Standards for California Nonprofits

Documents to Retain Permanently

• Articles of Incorporation
• Bylaws
• Other Incorporation Documents
• Form 1023 and/or 1024
• Employer Identification Number Determination Letter
• The IRS/State Determination Letter and the Related Documents
• Contracts and Leases Still in Effect
• Retirement and Pension Records
• Staff Personnel Records
• Tax Returns and Worksheets, Revenue Agent Reports, and Other IRS, State or Local Governmental      Determinations
• Trademark Registrations and Copyrights
• Patents and Related Papers
• Audit Reports
• Deeds, Mortgages, and Bills of Sale
• Depreciation Schedules
• Year-End Financial Statements with a copy of the General Ledger for the year
• Insurance Records, Current Accident Reports, Claims, Policies, and so on
• Legal and Important Matters Correspondence
• Donation Records of Endowment Funds and/or Significant Restricted Funds

Documents to Retain for 10 Years

• Bank Statements & Reconciliations
• Accounts Payable Ledgers and Schedules including bills from Vendors
• Contracts, Mortgages, Notes, and Leases (Expired) from the date of Expiration
• Inventory Records
• Accounts Receivable Ledgers and Schedules including Invoices (To Customers)
• Payroll Records
• Personnel Files for Terminated Employees
• Timesheets
• Withholding Tax Statements (example IRS Form 940 and 941)
• Expense Analyses/Expense Distribution Schedules
• Cancelled checks for those items not listed under “Documents To Retain Permanently”
• Donation Records
• Duplicate Deposit Slips
• Journals
• Sales Records

Documents to Retain for 4 Years

• Correspondence – General

Documents to Retain for 3 Years

• Internal Reports – Miscellaneous
• Employment Applications
• Purchase Orders
• Volunteer Records