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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Record Keeping: How long must records be retained for: General

Tax law sets out the length of time that a person must retain the records that will allow them to make a correct and complete return for a particular tax period. This applies even if the person does not normally make a return or claim. You will find details of these retention periods for

  • income tax and capital gains tax at CH14510 
  • corporation tax at CH14600 
  • direct taxes claims not included in a return at CH14900 
  • VAT at CH15000 
  • insurance premium tax at CH14930 
  • stamp duty land tax at CH14940 
  • aggregates levy, climate change levy and landfill tax at CH14950 
  • bank payroll tax at CH14980
  • excise duties at CH14990.

Where the same record has to be kept for more than one tax purpose and there is a different retention period for each of those taxes, the person should keep the record for the longer period.

You should always remember that a person may be required to keep and retain records for purposes other than tax. Those other purposes may have a shorter or a longer retention period than tax law. As a general rule, the person should retain their records for the longer period.

For example

Janine runs a hairdressing salon and keeps an appointments diary. She also uses this diary to record the amounts she has charged each client. This is her only record of takings. As a diary, this record is only useful for the period it covers. However, it is also the record of takings and so forms part of her business records, see CH11200. It must be kept for the longer period required by tax law.

Whilst the law relating to how long a person must retain their records for income tax, capital gains tax, corporation tax and VAT is broadly similar, it is not the same. A person may also need to retain their records for longer periods perhaps for the purposes of other taxes or duties. For example, you may find that we have given a person permission to retain certain records for a shorter period for VAT purposes. Further details are at CH15300.