CH13100 - Record Keeping: How records may be preserved: General

A person fulfils their obligation to preserve records by

  • retaining the original documents, or
  • preserving the information contained in the original documents.

Retaining the original documents

At its simplest, this is storing the original invoices, contracts, cash book and so on, until needed.

Some records must be retained in their original form, see CH13300.

Preserving the information

HMRC may set out in writing conditions and exceptions to the general rules below for preserving information, see CH13200.

Where it is acceptable to preserve the information rather than the original documents, see CH13400, here are some examples of how information may be preserved.

  • Photograph the records, for example a purchase invoice received, reduce the size of the photograph and then store the tiny photographs (the principle of the microfiche). This preserves an exact replica of the original document.
  • Computerise the invoice generating system so that only the information from an invoice is saved. This enables an exact copy of the invoice to be generated on demand.
  • Electronic invoicing. Two or more computers exchange invoice information through computer media or direct connection without any need for paper documents. The system preserves all the original information.

If a person preserves the information contained in paper records on computer by transferring the information into an electronic form, they may discard the paper provided that the method of storage used is capable of

  • capturing all the information needed to make a correct and complete return, and
  • reproducing that information in a legible form.

If the method cannot do these things, the person must also retain the original documentation.

If standard terms and conditions are printed on the back of each invoice we only expect one copy to be retained although a fresh copy will need to be taken as and when the conditions change. There is more information about computer records in CH13400.