Keeping Business Records

How Long Should You Keep Business Books & Records?

As with so many things there isn't a one size fits all answer to this question because different types of records are covered by different types of legislation.

See below for more information.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

VAT records have to be kept for six years.


Wages and payroll records have to be kept for at least three years after the income tax year to which they relate.

Taxes generally

All business records must be retained for a period of (broadly) six years.

HMRC can in normal circumstances raise an enquiry into a self assessment tax return within 12 months of the date the return was submitted.

However, where an incomplete return has been submitted they can issue an assessment at any time up to four years after the end of the chargeable period to which the assessment related. Where the loss of tax is due to carelessness, this time limit is extended to six years. 

There is a limit of 20 years in cases of fraud or wilful default.

Company records

Under corporation tax self assessment, accounting records must be kept for six years from the end of the accounting period.

With regard to the statutory books, the Companies Act states they must be retained for 10 years.


Documents relating to grants must generally be kept for four years from receipt of the grant. Where grant aid is still being received, no documents should be destroyed.

Employers’ Liability Insurance policy certificates

A potential liability for illness and injury at work does not end when the policy expires. Records should be retained to ensure that any future claim can be met.


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