How long do you have to keep business records in UK

Running a business in the UK can be extremely stressful, especially when examining how long you have to keep business records; and which records to Keep. However, a business needs to maintain records for smooth operations and also to comply with the law. To learn everything there is to know about keeping business records in the UK, continue reading.

Keeping accurate records is essential to running a successful business. As a new business owner in the UK, the first year after forming your business may be challenging as you decide which business records to preserve. While maintaining accurate records of your employees, expenses, income, accounts, and tax paperwork can be difficult, doing so will help you monitor your business’s development and provide you peace of mind.

The ability to keep track of financial transactions and other crucial information allows business owners like you to make wise decisions regarding your operations. Additionally, firms in the UK are required by law to maintain accurate records.

how long you have to keep business records


What Is Record-keeping? 

The core of accounting is recordkeeping. It involves keeping track of financial business transactions. Its goals are to continuously keep track of all your transactions, reduce your spending, and make crucial information easily accessible for legal and tax purposes.

While maintaining accurate records of your employee payroll, expenses, income, accounts, and tax paperwork might be difficult, doing so will help you monitor your business’s development and provide you peace of mind.

In summary,  is the systematic recording and tracking of financial transactions, whereas accounting offers insights into a company’s financial performance. Recordkeeping is the cornerstone of financial management. Effective financial management and decision-making depend on all three. Learn more about the distinctions between bookkeeping and accounting.

Related: Importance of Financial Statements to Business

What kind of business records should I Keep?

For several reasons, including tax compliance and financial reporting, businesses must maintain accurate and current records. Financial statements, invoices, receipts, bank statements, and records of all financial transactions are some essential company records to retain. Additionally, it’s crucial to maintain records of any business dealings with personnel, including payroll and tax records, as well as any contracts or agreements with clients or vendors.

It is also advised to keep track of all records and assets, including the acquisition and sale of any assets. To ensure that you are keeping all relevant records and maintaining compliance with UK rules and regulations, it is crucial for you to speak with a tax expert or accountant. Additionally, it’s crucial to keep track of VAT transactions and send HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) regular VAT returns.

Additionally, all UK businesses must file specific information with Companies House and maintain certain documents, including meeting minutes and financial statements.

How long do you have to keep business records in the UK

By law, businesses must preserve records for a set amount of time as determined by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which is currently six years. The preservation duration varies for different types of records and their intended use.

Under the Value Added Tax Act of 1994, businesses must maintain records for a minimum of six years, while the Corporation Tax Act of 2009 requires preserving documents for a minimum of six years following the end of the accounting period to which they pertain.

For income tax purposes, you must preserve records for at least 22 months after the end of the tax year they pertain to.

P45s and P60s, which are payroll and employee tax records, must also be retained for a minimum of three years. Business owners and managers must understand these regulatory obligations and ensure the retention of records for the necessary amount of time, which is crucial.

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If you’re self-employed

Keep your records for at least five years after January 31st of the relevant tax year if you run a business as a sole proprietor or in a partnership. These records include all sales documentation, costs, personal income, money taken out and paid into the business, and, if applicable, VAT and PAYE information.

It is crucial to understand that you must maintain the records during an HMRC inquiry until you receive additional instructions from them. Frequently, businesses require bank statements, sales receipts, purchase invoices, checkbook stubs, and VAT documents as essential records.

Additionally, if your business has received a government grant, it is advised to maintain the supporting documentation for four years following the date the grant was awarded.

Limited Companies

Maintaining additional records and following different rules are requirements for limited companies. Directors of these companies must also keep records beyond those already mentioned. These additional records include information on the company’s assets, liabilities, loans backed by those assets, and shareholder activities.

Company records must typically be kept for six years following the conclusion of the accounting period. However, some documents must be maintained for extended periods, like 10 years, and these documents include:

  • The business must keep its statutory books (company registers) for the duration that it is in operation.
  • Records for VAT MOSS (Mini One Stop Shop)
  • Resolutions and board meeting transcripts To guarantee they fulfill their legal obligations, limited company directors must comprehend and abide by these requirements.

If you’re an employer

You must keep PAYE records for three years after the end of the tax year to which they pertain. These documents include tax code notices, payments to employees and HMRC, information on sick leave and employee absences, and any taxable benefits or expenses. To guarantee adherence to legal standards and prevent penalties, compliance with these regulations is crucial.

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Why Businesses Need to Keep Records

The efficient and effective running of firms in the UK depends on recordkeeping. Your company can comply with legal obligations, successfully manage money, make plans, and assure compliance with rules and policies by keeping accurate and current records.

  1. Pay taxes

It’s crucial to keep strong business records, especially during tax season when you’ll need supporting documents for your filing. To avoid unpleasant fees and taxes, it’s a good idea to maintain your records up to date. In addition, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) may ask to see your company’s prior records if you encounter any tax-related difficulties. You must typically keep Value-Added Tax (VAT) records for at least six years, or five years from the final filing date of your tax return.

  1. Comply with laws

By keeping organized records, you can easily retrieve information anytime it is needed. Even while you might not always refer to bills from years ago, some circumstances call for old paperwork. For instance, if the HMRC audits you, you will be requested to acquire the relevant data.

  1. Prevent fraud or theft

Compared to large corporations, small and medium-sized enterprises are more vulnerable to fraud, and the results can be significantly more detrimental. Theft, the misappropriation of assets, and financial statement fraud are the forms of fraud that you should be cautious of. Conduct a routine audit of your company’s records to stop this from happening. This can help you find theft or fraud and stop losses.

  1. Fast access to personnel and customer information

Properly keeping records enables organizations to easily and swiftly access vital information about their clients and personnel when needed.

For instance, by keeping track of client interactions, your company may simply obtain consumer information. Then you can look up their contact information, purchasing history, grievances, and reviews. Companies can use this data to improve customer service, tailor marketing campaigns, and monitor client happiness.

Additionally, you get access to employee data including contact information, job history, performance reviews, training records, and perks. You can use this information to manage staff schedules, offer chances for training and development, and make wise judgments about promotions and terminations.

Types of Business Records to Keep

how long you have to keep business records

To manage your operations efficiently and comply with regulatory obligations, running a business in the UK requires you to maintain a variety of documents. A failure to maintain accurate records may have financial and legal repercussions. This is why you must comprehend the kinds of documents you must keep.

  1. Accounting

Keeping accounting records is crucial. If not, HMRC may impose a £3,000 fine or possibly bar you from serving as a business director. You must include the following details in your accounting records:

  • Information of all assets owned by the business;
  • All the money your business has received and spent;
  • Debts the company is owed or owes.
  1. Stock

You should monitor the specifics of your stock to ensure that your e-commerce firm always has enough on hand. We promise that doing this will make your job much simpler, especially as the fiscal year comes to a finish.

Additionally, you must keep track of:

  • Information about your previous purchases and sales;
  • Every stock you’ve bought and sold;
  • The inventory counts that you used to determine your stock amount.
  1. Other financial documents

You need the following financial details to file your accounts and tax returns:

  • Data on all the financial contributions made to your company through sales books, contacts, invoices, and till rolls.
  • Information on all expenditures made by your company, including delivery notes, orders, and petty cash books.
  • any more supporting records, such as correspondence and bank statements.
  1. If the business is VAT-registered, the VAT records and returns

As of 1 April 2021, Making Tax Digital (MTD) regulations require VAT-registered enterprises in the UK with annual sales exceeding £85,000 to maintain pertinent VAT records digitally. After April 1, 2021, or for the first fully completed VAT return form, this rule is applicable.

You are obliged to digitally store the following to avoid penalties:

  • Supplies by third parties;
  • Reverse charge transactions;
  • VAT return information
  • VAT registration number;
  • VAT accounting schemes used;
  • Supplies made and received;
  • Designatory data;
  • Business trading name;
  • Business address;

To acquire more information about your company’s requirements for maintaining digital copies of its VAT records, you can consult the rules and any letters or instructions that HMRC has provided to you. You must keep digital records for at least 6 years in software that is functionally compatible with them. If you are deregistered, you will need to keep your records for up to 6 years. If your business falls under MTD, you must digitally preserve the records relevant to the time between the mandate and deregistration for up to 6 years.

  1. Employment records

You must keep the following employment records as a business owner:

  • How much you pay your staff and what you take from their salaries;
  • The payments and reports you submit to HMRC;
  • Employee sick days and absences;
  • Tax code notices
  • Taxable benefits or expenses;
  • Payroll Giving Scheme documents, such as the agency contract and employee authorization forms.
  • You must keep accurate records and keep them for three years beyond the end of the applicable tax year in case HMRC needs to verify them to make sure you are paying the right amount of tax. In addition to a fine of up to £3,000, HMRC may estimate the amount you must pay if you fail to keep complete records.


Additionally, you should save any records about employee perks, such as:

  • Social Security benefits;
  • Statutory sick pay;
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance;
  • Statutory maternity;
  • Paternity pay;
  • Adoption pay.

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