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11 common misunderstandings of file storage laws and regulations

1) All files need to be kept for seven years

Some documents need to be kept for seven years according to regulations and you cannot simply destroy or shred your paper records, but not all documents need to be kept for seven years. Contrary to most opinions, the US Internal Revenue Service does not have a seven-year retention requirement for tax-related documents.

2) Institutions must keep paper documents

Most countries accept electronic data and scanned documents produced under formal supervision and legal procedures. The process of creating electronic data and scanning documents must be documented.

3) The original signature must be retained

4) Digital, electronic and scanned documents will never replace paper documents

Electronic documents and scanned documents produced under formal supervision and legal procedures have been recognized by many countries.

5) The law requires all documents to be kept

This statement is absolutely wrong.

6) Documents must be kept in the company

Certain documents need to be kept in the company, but usually not too many. On the contrary, some countries even require documents to be stored off-site in order to standardize the standards and procedures for document storage. The process of remote file storage must be recorded.

7) Outsiders cannot view the organization’s files

Whether it is a civil law system or a common law system, courts can force institutions or individuals to surrender documents as court evidence.

8) This is a personal record, not a business record

If the record is business-related, then it is not personal. Being recorded at home does not mean it is personal.

9) This is only used in the United States, not in my country

U.S. courts may require records kept abroad to be provided or presented in order to comply with a document discovery request.

10) “Save all files just in case” is our policy

It is not feasible to save all files in space, time and management, even for electronic records. It is also very difficult to define “all documents”. This policy is likely to be eliminated in the first month, and the agency will need to explain why “all files” were not kept.

11) All our files are protected by privileges

Privilege is a common law concept that protects communication between lawyers and clients during legal proceedings. Privileges never protect all the files of the organization.

For more information about effective document management, please contact your local Crown Records Management team.

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