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.