There are important rules that all businesses must follow to keep business and accounting records accessible if requested by HMRC. The exact documentation that must be held and the time limits for doing so can vary significantly. For example, most company records must be held for at least 6 years from the end of the last company financial year they relate to and even longer in some circumstances. Significant penalties can be imposed for failing to keep records or if records are inadequate.
These record keeping requirement include international trade documents.
HMRC publishes specific guidance concerning archiving international trade documents. This includes ensuring that your records are up to date and accurate, are legible, readily accessible and available for inspection at all reasonable times.
HRMC’s guidance states that the archiving period for your records will vary according to the individual procedure. However, in the event of a criminal investigation, traders’ records dating back ten years may be used as evidence. Accordingly, you may decide to retain documents for that length of time. After the date of entry, you can keep your records on a computer.
If these record keeping requirements cause storage issues or undue expense, then HMRC may allow you to reduce the length of time for storing documents.