All businesses must keep and preserve certain records and accounts and be able to present these upon request to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). If you are VAT registered you must keep records and accounts and/or if you’re importing or exporting you must declare any goods you move and keep appropriate records.

Although a lot of trade is carried out electronically it’s still important to have an efficient system of record-keeping and to know how long to store documents.

This will help you comply with international trade regulations and also allow HMRC to carry out audits effectively. Your records must be:

  • accurate and up to date
  • legible
  • readily accessible whether held on paper, computer, microfiche or microfilm
  • available for inspection at all reasonable times

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.


In the case of procedures, be sure to:

  • have a facility to download data for any off-site checks or audit work that HMRC officers might need to carry out
  • maintain adequate back up and disaster recovery systems
  • include the computer system in your annual audit
  • give advance notice to HMRC of any proposed operating system changes

Click here to read more on the very latest advice or for further information please contact Stephanie Warrington on or 01254 356473