Copyright © 2002, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved.
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XVI. Records Retention
IntroductionThe records retention guidelines1 for diocesan/parish records were prepared to assist dioceses' and/or parishes' needs to establish control over routine records and to preserve records of permanent value. The list of records included is lengthy but not definitive. Each diocese/parish may have a series of records not mentioned here. Retention periods were devised based on canon law, state and federal statutes, and practical diocesan/parish realities. If questions arise regarding records-related issues, please contact the appropriate office at your diocese for additional information.
Records Retention SchedulesRecords retention schedules represent the period of time that records must be kept according to legal and/or organizational requirements.
This document covers retention schedules for seven different groups of diocesan/parish records:
Within each group, different series are listed followed by a retention period. Records older than the retention period should be destroyed. Those of permanent value should be stored appropriately.
We have tried to list the majority of types of records that dioceses/parishes produce. If a series of records is not listed here, locate a similar record series in the list and apply that retention period.
A. Administrative Records
These records are produced in the course of the management of the affairs of the diocese/parish.
Records Type Retention Period Abstracts, deeds (property) Permanent Annual reports to Chancery (Status Animarum) Permanent Annual reports to the diocese/parish Permanent Articles of incorporation and bylaws Permanent Bequest and estate papers (wills) Permanent Census records Permanent Contracts, inactive 7 years after end of contract Correspondence, legal Permanent Correspondence, official (regarding diocesan/parish policies, diocesan/parish directive, etc.) Permanent Correspondence, routine Review/discard biannually Donor lists Permanent Endowment decrees Permanent Finance Committee minutes Permanent Historical file (newspaper clippings, photos, etc., related to diocese/parish) Permanent Insurance policies Permanent Inventories of property and equipment Permanent Leases Destroy 7 years after expiration. Liturgical minister's schedules (altar servers, ushers, lectors, etc.) Retain until superseded Mass intention books 2 years Office files, subject Selective retention: retain those that document diocesan/parish administration and activities Parish council constitutions Retain until superseded Parish council minutes Permanent Diocese/parish organization records (minutes, correspondence, publications, etc.) Permanent Photographs (relating to diocesan/parish history, clergy, parishioners) Permanent Policy statements Permanent Religious education reports (for the diocesan offices) Permanent Rosters of parishioners Permanent Subject files (correspondence, memos, rules, schedules, etc.) Annual review; destroy superseded files biannually Will, testaments, codicils Permanent
B. Personnel Records
A personnel file should be maintained for each active diocesan/parish employee. That file should contain the following:
These records are confidential and should be made available only to diocesan/parish representatives with a legitimate right to know, unless their disclosure is compelled by some legal action. In many states, employees and former employees have the right to inspect their own personnel files. The diocese/parish/organization/employer has the right to require that the request be in writing and has a stated number of working days to comply with the request.
- Employee application
- Eligibility verification form (I-9)
- Salary information
- Sick leave taken and accrued
- Vacation record
- Performance evaluations
- W-4 form
Several items likely to be in a personnel file are specifically excluded from mandatory inspection in many states:
- investigation of criminal offenses
- reference letters
- test documents
- materials dealing with staff management planning
- personal information concerning another employee that could, if released, be an invasion of privacy
- records relating to a pending legal claim that would be discoverable in court
Records Type Retention Period Benefits Disability records Permanent Pension vesting files Permanent Retirement benefits Permanent Service records Permanent General Permanent earnings and records 7 years after benefit termination Attendance records 7 years after termination Employee contracts 7 years after termination Employee salary schedules 7 years after termination Health and safety Accident/injury reports 7 years Employee medical complaints 7 years Employee medical records 30 years from termination Environmental test records/reports Permanent Hazardous exposure records Permanent Toxic substance explore reports Permanent Workers' compensation records 12 years after injury (filing), death, or last compensation payment Lay Personnel actions Applications rejected 1 year Employee evaluations 2 years after termination Personnel files, terminated 7 years Termination records 7 years Salary administration W-2 forms 7 years from time of filing W-4 forms 7 years from date of filing Time cards 3 years from date of filing Time sheets 3 years from date of filing I-9 form 7 years after termination
C. Financial and Accounting Records
Records Type Retention Period Financial Banking Bank deposits 7 years Bank statements 7 years Cancelled checks 7 years Check registers/stubs 7 years
Audit reports Permanent Balance sheets, annual Permanent Balance sheets, monthly/quarterly Destroy after 1 year Budgets, approved, revised 7 years Financial reports, annual Permanent Financial reports, monthly Destroy after 1 year Financial statements Permanent
Bonds, cancelled 7 years from date of cancellation Certificates of deposit, cancelled 3 years after redemption Insurance policies/active Permanent Insurance policies/cancelled Permanent Letters of credit 7 years Mortgage records Permanent Securities sales 7 years Stock investment 7 years after sale
Accounts payable invoices 7 years Accounts payable ledgers 7 years Accounts receivable ledgers 7 years Credit card statements/charge slips 7 years Invoices and paid bills, major building construction Permanent Invoices and paid bills, general accts 7 years Cash books 7 years Cash journals 7 years Cash journal, receipts on offerings and pledges 7 years Receipts 7 years Mortgage payments 7 years
General ledger/annual Permanent Journals, general and specific funds Permanent Journal entry sheets 7 years Ledgers, subsidiary 7 years Payroll journals 7 years Payroll registers, summary schedule of earnings, deductions and accrued leave 7 years Pension records Permanent Pledge registers/ledgers 7 years Permanently restricted gift documents Permanent Temporarily restricted gift documents 7 years after meeting restrictions
Employment taxes, contributions, and payments, including taxes withheld, FICA 7 years from date of filing W-2 forms 7 years from date of filing W-4 forms 7 years from date of filing IRS exemption determination letters, for organizations other than those listed in The Official Catholic Directory Permanent Form 990 Permanent State tax exemption certificates (income, excise, property, sales/use, etc.) Permanent
D. Property Records
Records Type Retention Period Architectural records, blueprints, building designs, specification Permanent Architectural drawings Permanent Deeds files Permanent Mortgage documents Permanent Property appraisals Permanent Real estate surveys/plots, plans Permanent Title search papers and certificates Permanent
E. Cemetery Records
Records Type Retention Period Account cards (record of lot ownership and payments) Permanent Annual report Permanent Bank statements 7 years Board minutes Permanent Burial cards (record of interred's name, date of burial, etc., alphabetically) Permanent Burial record (record of interred's name, date of burial, etc.) Permanent Contracts documenting lot ownership Permanent Correspondence Selective retention: keep if item has historical, legal,
General ledger Permanent Lot maps Permanent
Records Type Retention Period Anniversary books Permanent Annual reports to the diocese/parish Permanent Newsletters of the diocese/parish or affiliated organizations Permanent Other diocese/parish-related publications Permanent Parish bulletins Permanent
G. Sacramental Records
Records Type Retention Period Baptism register Permanent Confirmation register Permanent First Communion register Permanent Death register Permanent Marriage register Permanent Marriage case files Permanent
- Initial format and contents drawn from Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Records Retention Guidelines for Parish Records (Milwaukee: Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 1998).