If, like us, you’ve been taking advantage of the long summer days to do some cleaning and organizing around your home or business, we’ve got some items to add to your checklist! For even the most organized of businesses and homeowners, there’s one thing that always gets us: Paperwork. While it may be tempting to gather up all the old paperwork you don’t need and throw it into the recycle, certain documents need to be shredded. This is important not just for your own personal safety, but also for company liability. Here are a few commonly recycled items that should be shredded.
For Businesses: Know Your Responsibilities
If you own a business, you’re responsible for knowing what you need to keep, and for how long. While the 7-year rule of paperwork is a good starting point, some documents should be kept much longer. Any documents relating to employee records, property records, bank, financial, or tax documents should be stored for safekeeping. Your business attorney and CPA can answer more specific questions about what you need to save. Before we move on to good documents to shred, it’s important for you, as a business owner, to be responsible with the paperwork you need saved. Washington State has some of its own regulations on this, so you can start there.
Cleaning Checklist: Always Save These
With our disclaimer for businesses out of the way, here are documents that you may be tempted to recycle or shred that you should consider saving, even as an individual. When creating your cleaning checklist, make a note of what to look for when going through your paperwork. A few of the more obvious choices for saving–documents like birth and death certificates, and home deeds–should be kept somewhere safe. But for some less obvious documents, to save or to shred depends on the document’s age. Washington State has a detailed guide on this, but we’ll highlight it for you here.
Many documents need saving for a certain time period. Anything related to taxes, mortgage, or business expenses should be saved for at least seven years. Laws for the IRS and mortgage companies allow them a generous window to pursue you for problems, such as underreporting income. You’re safest when you have proper documentation if you find yourself in a dispute.
Smaller, less consequential documents are still good to save for certain periods. Bank statements, medical bills (that have been paid!), insurance records, should be kept for a year. Receipts, warranties, and other records depend on your needs. Remember that if there’s a chance you’ll need proof of documentation later, it’s always better to save!
Shred, Don’t Recycle, These
Anything that you aren’t saving that contains sensitive information should be shredded. If a document contains your social security number, full name and address, phone number, email addresses, birth date, income or household information, shred it. In the wrong hands, this information can be used for identity theft. Identity theft is a nightmare we wouldn’t wish on anyone. When you’re going through your documents, also set aside anything that has a pin number or password attached, or any medical or dental records. Essentially: If it provides any clues about you, your identity, or access to any of your accounts, it’s a risk. As part of your cleaning checklist, put everything that needs to be shredded in one place!
Ready to get shredding? That’s where we can help! As you’re cleaning your paperwork, anything that needs to be shredded can be put into a separate box, crate, or bag. One of the easiest and most fun ways to get rid of your sensitive paperwork is to attend a mobile shredding event! We have shredding events all around Western Washington. Even out to Ocean Shores and up to Port Townsend! Check out our calendar to see what’s coming up near you! If you don’t see an event near you that works with your schedule, you can call our Washington or Oregon office to inquire about alternative shredding options. The more paperwork you have to shred, the easier we can make it compared to shredding yourself at home. That’s why we’re here!