Record Keeping: How long must records be retained for: VAT: Determining the 6-year period
The point at which the 6-year record retention period starts varies depending on the nature of the documents.
Documents that record individual events
Records such as invoices should be retained for 6 years from the date of issue. This rule applies equally to documents that refer to events that are to take place in the future (possibly a future date of payment or future supply of goods). In such cases the 6-year period runs not from the date of the future event but from the date on which the document itself is issued.
Documents that record a summary
Records such as a balance sheet or trading account should be retained for 6 years from the date they are prepared.
Documents that record a series of events
Records such as ledgers, daybooks or stock books which are
- kept in bound books, should normally be retained for 6 years from the date of the last entry made in the bound book (but see below for the retention of parts of records),
- maintained in loose-leaf binders, on cards and so on, should be retained for 6 years from the date of the last entry on the loose leaf record (but see below for the retention of parts of records),
- kept in an electronic format, are to be treated the same way as paper records, see CH15500.
Retention of parts of records
A taxable person, see CH10400, is only legally required to retain records that are less than 6 years old. It is not a breach of the law if they destroy piecemeal the pages of a bound book, or parts of pages or cards, as soon as the information recorded on them has been kept for the statutory period. However, the person should consider whether the record is required for any other reason. For example if this is the only record of improvement expenditure on a capital asset and the sale would be liable to capital gains tax, see CH14650.
This guidance is subject to any different requirements set out in a special scheme, see CH12400.