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How to Organize Your Small Business Records

By Richard D. Harroch

Part of Small Business Kit For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Dealing with the paperwork is a large part of running a small business. The following table suggests essential file drawers to label in an actual file cabinet or two and what must-keep information to file in each:

File Drawer What To Put There File Drawer What To Put There
Accounting and bookkeeping records Sales and expense information, inventory, ledgers, income
statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and other
financial statements.
Forms used in the business Standard forms that you use in the business, such as purchase
orders, sales agreements, offer letters to new employees, and
employment applications.
Bank records Bank statements, cancelled checks, bank reconciliations,
notices from and to your bank, deposit slips, and any loan-related
notices and documents.
Intellectual property records Trademark applications, copyright filings, patent filings and
patents, licenses, and confidentiality or non-disclosure
agreements.
Contracts All contracts you have entered into, including: real estate
leases, equipment leases, purchase agreements, sales agreements,
joint venture agreements, work for hire agreements, and other
contracts.
Marketing and advertising Marketing brochures, print ads, Web banners, text of radio ads,
and records of other marketing materials.
Corporate records For corporations: Articles of Incorporation, bylaws,
shareholder minutes and consents, board minutes and consents, state
filings, Action of Incorporator, and amendments to the various
corporate documents.
For non-corporations: Documents may include partnership
agreements, LLC documents, consents of the owners, and similar
records.
Permits and licenses Permits, licenses, or registration forms that you need to
operate the business, whether required under federal, state, or
local law.
Correspondence Letters sent by mail, faxes, and important e-mail that you
don’t want to lose and want to keep in hard copy. These
include both correspondence you receive and send.
Stock records The company’s Stock Ledger where you record all stock and
other securities transactions, copies of stock certificates,
options and warrants, and copies of all securities law
filings.
Employee records Completed employment applications, actual employment offer
letters, employee handbook or policies, employment agreements,
performance appraisals, employee attendance records, employee
termination letters, W-2s, and any settlement agreements with
terminated employees.
Tax records These records include quarterly and annual federal and state
income tax filings, W-9 filings for independent contractors,
records supporting tax filings, withholding tax records, and other
tax-related matters.