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Home Documents –What Do I Need To Keep?

SFYRKERH4NLast month we talked a little bit about the piles of business paperwork we can accrue, and which documents you needed to keep and which you could throw away. To follow on that theme, we realised that paperwork doesn’t just pile up in a business. We all get piles of junk mail come through our letter box at home every day, from credit card applications, insurance documents or a financial report from that company you worked for 10 plus years ago. The trouble is that for a lot of people this all just piles up and results in a paperwork disaster. So this month we focus on the domestic side of what you should keep and what you should shred. Depending on what type of document you are dealing with they can be split into 3 categories, you need to store some of them for certain periods of time, others you can digitise, some you can throw away and others you need to keep forever.

Keep Your Physical Copies Forever 

  • Birth and death certificates
  • National insurance numbers
  • ID cards and passports
  • Marriage licenses
  • Divorce certificates
  • Business licenses (if applicable)
  • Insurance documents
  • Wills, living wills and powers of attorney
  • Vehicle titles and finance documents
  • House deeds and mortgage documents

As a general rule you want to keep anything that relates to a legal matter, including certifications, licenses or deeds. There are 2 reasons for this. The first is that you want to have easy access to them in case you need them for any reason, but they are also a nightmare to try and replace, often taking up a lot of time and money. If you’re not quite sure of what to do with these documents once you have gathered them together, we recommend putting together an ‘in case of emergency’ kit and keeping it in a safe, so that you always know where they are and that they are secure.

Storage Or Digitise

  • Tax records (keep for 7 years)
  • Pay slips & bank statements (keep for 1 year)
  • Property purchase, sale or improvement documentation (should be kept for at least 6 years after sale or purchase)
  • Medical records
  • Warranty documents (keep as long as you own the item)
  • Insurance policy statements
  • Pension plan statements and documents

This second set of documents need to be kept around for a while but not indefinitely. You can either store them in a segmented filing cabinet or scan and digitise them for you if that is what you prefer. Things like bank statements are usually available online, so as long as you have them recorded you can shred the paper versions or request that the bank stop sending them. A good rule of thumb is to think about how hard that document is to replace. If you need to stand in line at a government office or spend hours on the phone applying for a replacement, you should probably keep it. If you can easily pop online to see or download a copy, you probably don’t need a physical copy.

Shred It!

There is no need for a bullet point list here, because pretty much everything else can be safely shredded or thrown away. When deciding whether a piece of paper belongs in the bin or the shredder, check what is on it. If it contains personal information like your name, address, bank details or any other personal identifiers, it should be shredded for security reasons. This might include things you don’t even think about, like the receipts you find in pockets or when you’re emptying out your wallet, old airline tickets or paid bills. You should also shred expired personal documents like passports, driver’s licences or NI number cards as soon as you get replacements for them. Make sure you use a decent cross cut shredder for these, or bag them up and drop them into a collection centre to be shredded professionally.

Hopefully this post has helped you sort through the pile of paperwork at home and create some easy to find piles for your essential documents. If you aren’t sure whether a document should be shredded or if you aren’t able to shred a document yourself, get in touch with one of our advisors for your free consultation and shredding advice.

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How To Remove The Hard Drive From Your Computer

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Computing technology is still one of the fastest evolving industries in the world, so it can sometimes be difficult to keep up with the next big leap forward. A few months after you’ve bought a new PC, the next model is out and you need to upgrade again. Modern computers can withstand a lot of punishment from users and most can last a very long time, but sadly we don’t live in a super high tech future where computers will last indefinitely. Sometimes a computer will give up the ghost without warning, parts will fail or you might just notice it going very slowly. Whatever the reason, at some point you will find yourself shopping for a shiny new machine to replace your old reliable one. But we have a message for you. Before you sell or throw away your old computer, make sure you remove the hard drive!

Why Do I Need To Remove My Hard Drive?

A lot of people when selling their old laptops or computers will do a factory reset and format the hard drives to make sure their data is not on there when they pass it on to a new owner. But while the idea behind this is solid, the reality is that formatting your hard drive does not remove the data from it. A study done by students at MIT in 2003 proved this by buying 258 used hard drives, 68% of which had been fully reformatted and subjected them to some basic forensic software programmes. This readily available software enabled them to recover over 5,000 credit card numbers, medical records, social security numbers and other highly personal and sensitive information from the hard drives, all with just a few clicks of the mouse. In short – just because you formatted the drive doesn’t mean it’s clean. Instead you could be giving away your personal information to a complete stranger. It’s a scary thought. Fortunately there is an easy way around this. All you have to do is remove the hard drive.

Desktop Units

For desktop units this process is pretty simple. First you need to make sure you have backed up your data so that you don’t lose anything. Next turn the power off and unplug everything from your machine. Disconnect the internet and fully unplug it from any mains sockets to avoid electric shock.

  1. Now open up the computer case. Each model is manufactured in a different way, so you might need to unscrew a side panel or press a specific latch on the case to do this. The instruction manual for the machine may tell you how to do this, otherwise an internet search should find the information you need if you’re not sure.

  1. Once inside, you now need to locate your hard drive. A standard hard drive is a rectangular metal box the size and width of a small book. Your hard drive could be placed inside a cage fixed to the tower or it will be on a set of rails. Conventionally most manufacturers locate the hard drive near the front of the computer case and will be clearly labelled, so don’t go pulling out any other drives (like the optical drive, for example).

  1. Now you have located the hard drive you need to remove it. Some models will require a screwdriver to disconnect it from the case, while some will have a lever or a switch to disconnect it.

  1. Once the hard drive is disconnected, gently slide the hard drive outwards. You shouldn’t need to put any force on it to get it out, so if you encounter any resistance stop and make sure you’re not pulling something else out with it. If there are cables attached to the hard drive make sure you remove these before trying to take the hard drive out of the case.

  1. You can now safely dispose of the machine without worrying about giving away your data and have the hard drive destroyed by a professional data destruction service.

 Laptops

Laptop hard drives can be considerably tricker to remove, mostly because they are kept within a sealed unit. For some laptops the hard drive is easily accessible through a cover on the underside of the unit, which will be held in place with a few screws and when removed will reveal the motherboard and hard drive. But others (primarily Apple laptops) are a bit more complicated. Each laptop is manufactured differently, so you may need to look up the removal procedure for your specific machine if you are struggling to locate the hard drive.

  1. Firstly, you need to unplug the laptop and power it down. If your laptop has a removable battery, take this out and press the power button for 3 seconds to remove any residual charge.

  1. Next unscrew the back panel of the machine with the appropriate screwdriver and remove the panel. For Apple machines the hard drive is always accessed through the back panel, but for other models of laptop it can be accessed either through the back panel, underneath the keyboard or on the side of the machine.

  1. For Apple machines, disconnect the battery connecter using the tab attached or a cocktail stick to gently push it out. For keyboard access machines you will need to lift out the keyboard and remove the attachment strips in order to access the motherboard. For side access machines you may need to remove a CD/DVD drive.

  1. Now remove the hard drive. Most laptop hard drives will be screwed in and have a lever or tab attached to actually remove it. Once any brackets have been lifted gently pull the hard drive out of the machine.

  1. You will need to disconnect any cables attached to the hard drive by gently removing the connectors before replacing the panels of your laptop.

Of course this is just a broad overview of how to remove basic hard drives. Make sure you check your manufactures manual for any more specific instructions before you start unscrewing things. Once removed you can safely dispose of your hard drive and be confident that your old machine hasn’t retained any of your personal data. For more information about hard drive destruction or to book your destruction slot, get in touch with Hungry Shredder today.

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Destroying Business Documents – What Do I Need To Keep?

stored documents

When you’re running a business it can sometimes feel like you’re drowning in paper. From company documents to order forms, invoices, receipts and important correspondence, the policy of ‘better safe than sorry’ for keeping documents can make for a messy, disorganised office. But how do you know what you need to keep hold of and what is safe to put through the shredder? Instead of hoarding everything for fear of throwing away something important, we want to show you what kinds of document you have to keep, what you can get rid of and when.   

Keep For 6 Years

In order to be compliant with Government legislation there are certain documents that must be kept for 6 years from the date of the financial year they relate to. These are known as your accounting records. Your accounting records should be arranged by year and must include all money received and spent by the company, details of assets owned by the company and any debts the company owes or is owed. You should also keep a record of any stock the company owns at the end of each financial year and the stocktaking sheets used to work out that stock figure. Details of all goods bought and sold and who you bought them from and sold them to (unless you are running a retail business) are essential.

On top of the accounting records, you also need to keep any other financial records, information and calculations that you will need in order to prepare and file your annual tax returns. This will usually be covered by the above, but might also include receipts, petty cash books, delivery notes, copies of invoices, contracts and sales books. Documents produced relating to accounts, like balance sheets, profit and loss statements and financial forecasts should all be kept and stored securely.

To Be Kept Indefinitely

Amongst all of the day to day and yearly paperwork, there are a set of essential documents that should never be destroyed. For the most part this is the core information about your business and any changes that are made. You are required to keep detailed records about the company, including the details of directors, shareholders and company secretaries. The results of any shareholder votes, decisions and resolutions should be recorded, as well as promises for the company to repay loans at a specific date and who they are to be paid back to. You should also have documentation of any promises the company makes for payments if something goes wrong and the business is liable, any loans or mortgages secured against company assets and all records of transactions when someone buys or sells shares in the company. Because these documents don’t need to be accessed on a regular basis it is fairly common for businesses to keep them off site, or in secure locations, for example in a storage unit with other company records or stock. Bear in mind that if you do store your documentation anywhere but your companies registered address, you are required by law to inform companies house of where the documents are.

Keep Until Termination

There are certain documents that while you aren’t legally required to keep, you should hang on to. This covers things like contracts, agreements with suppliers or customers, service agreements or any other kind of binding contract. You may find yourself needing to reference these documents in the future, so you should keep a copy on hand until they reach their end dates. At that stage, you are free to shred the old documents and replace them with fresh agreements.

Safe To Shred

Unless the document shows proof of a deductible expense, experts say that things like receipts, deposit slips or monthly bank statements can be shredded on a monthly or annual basis. As long as your receipts have been reconciled with your bank statement or accounts and you have received your end of year bank statement, you don’t need to keep drawers full of receipts anymore.

Firmly in the ‘to shred’ pile is any document that does not directly relate to the company information or accounts and does not need to be kept for any other reason. Estimates, notes made in meetings, PDF’s printed of for group review and many other miscellaneous documents can be destroyed as soon as they are used in order to improve security and data protection policy.

If you aren’t sure about whether a document belongs in the ‘shred’ or ‘keep’ pile, think about how it relates to the business and how necessary it might be in the future. If it is a paper invoice you have an electronic copy of, you are probably safe to shred it. If you have a receipt from a customer meeting, you might need to submit it to accounting, or upload a photo of it to your accounting software before you get rid of it. But if you have just bought shares in the business, you should be filing it away for the future. For more information or to find out about our business friendly shredding service, get in touch with the Hungry Shredder team today.

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How To Avoid Drowning In Paper

drowning-in-paperWhen you look around your office or home, what would you say is the one thing you don’t want to see? The one thing on your to-do list that you really wish would just disappear of it’s own accord one day? For most people, that one thing is the ‘paperwork’ pile. Whether it’s an overflowing in-tray, the bag waiting to be shredded or the stack of post under the coffee table, paper can sometimes feel like the bane of your existence, especially when you’re trying to find something. But when you finally get round to sitting down to sort it, how do you know what’s safe to keep and what should go, and how do you stop the pile regenerating in 3 months time?

Sort Your Important Documents

It goes without saying that there are some documents you just shouldn’t throw away. Things like birth certificates, marriage and divorce certificates, pension plan documents, passports, wills etc. All of these documents should be kept safe, which means not being shoved in a pile in the office with the old letters and bills. Invest in a small fire proof safe and make sure all of your important documents are stored inside. Your important documents should be anything valuable, irreplaceable or vitally important to you and your family in the event of emergency or death. As you go through your documents you will always know what is important with a capital I and belongs in the safe.

The Filing Drawer

There is usually a spot in every home or office that finds itself home to the ‘sort it later’ pile. This pile tends to be full of bills, official documents, letters and all sorts of other bits and pieces. Going through this pile is usually what stops people from actually sorting their paperwork, but once it’s done you can start working on ensuring it doesn’t come back again. The second stage after sorting your Important documents is to separate everything for the ‘filing’ drawer. This can be an actual filing drawer in your house or a folding box file, as long as it has several separate sections with labels. In this filing drawer you need sections for each type of document – for example, instead of ‘household’, you would have ‘water’, ‘electricity’, ‘gas’, ‘TV’ under which you would file all of your agreements, statements and any extra letters you need to keep. A section for ‘car’ for any vehicle documents or finance agreements is also useful, along with ‘home’ for your house deeds, mortgage statements etc. With this system you can easily file away new paperwork as soon as it arrives, and when you are on the phone to the water board and they ask for your most recent statement it’s really easy to find. It’s also useful having a section in there for payslips, tax information, receipts for valuable items like electronics or jewellery, medical information and insurance documents. All of these are important to keep, but can create one nasty looking pile if they aren’t organised.

The Shredding Pile

Once you’ve sorted out the important documents and the things you need to file, you should have a fairly thin pile. In this pile will be junk mail, monthly statements from phone suppliers, banks and credit cards, maybe some receipts, bank withdrawal or deposit slips and other miscellaneous paperwork. Most of this paperwork is only needed for a short amount of time, so once you’ve reconciled it it’s just taking up space. But that doesn’t mean you should just throw them in the bin. Anything with your (or anyone else’s) name, address, bank details or NI number should be put into a black bag labelled ‘shred’ and either put through your own shredder (which can be very time consuming and not as secure) or handed over to a professional shredding company for secure and thorough destruction. This avoids any attempts at fraud or identity theft that could be made using this information, and it’s one of the easiest steps in the process – just a phone call! There will be a few things, like product manuals for things you don’t own any more or scraps of paper with nothing but ‘call Lucy’ scribbled on them that can go straight on the bin, but just make sure there is nothing on those papers that you wouldn’t want a complete stranger to know.

Once you’ve tackled the pile of paperwork the first time and implemented these systems, you will never again find yourself drowning in paperwork. Anything that needs to be kept can be instantly filed away, and any other documents can be reconciled and then shredded. If you don’t own a shredder or can’t face the chore of getting it all done, we would be happy to help in your de-cluttering effort. Just get in touch today and find out how we can help you get rid of your pile of papers and help it stay down

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The Evolution Of Shredding As A Service

shredded paper

Last month we wrote a delightful blog post about the evolution of the shredder. If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead, we’ll wait here. Got it? Good. We started at the invention of the very first shredder and wound our way to the present day paper eating machines and all the variations that have come along since. But of course, some of those shredding models would be completely impractical to have in your home or office or have been designed specifically with commercial use in mind. That brings us quite nicely onto our next subject and something we know quite a bit about. The birth and evolution of shredding as a service.

The Birth Of Shredding As A Service

Shredding as a service may not have been around since the beginning, but it’s been around for much longer than you would think. The first shredding service emerged onto the scene in 1988, specialising in destroying paper documents for businesses in small quantities. They found themselves in high demand, as businesses didn’t want to spend hours bent over a shredder that could only take 5 pages at a time and push them out again at 2.5 metres per minute (that’s your standard £15-£20 office shredder). It’s hard work and it’s really inefficient – time is money after all. So instead one enterprising man decided to buy himself a big shredding machine and a warehouse and started destroying people’s documents for a small fee.

Since that moment shredding as a service exploded. Shredding warehouses sprung up like weeds and the demand kept coming for more. Not long after the shredding as a service system was first adopted, shredding companies started looking for ways to stand out from the crowd. Mobile shredding services were tested and eventually rolled out with their own unique equipment, and mobile shredding trucks started offering on-site shredding solutions. This meant businesses didn’t need to deliver their bags of paper to a warehouse to be destroyed; they could just bag it up and wait for the truck to visit. Automated retail kiosks were trailed to give the public access to industrial shredding capability, but while these were fairly popular in the US they didn’t take off in the UK.

Moving Into The Modern Age

 

Of course, in recent years there has been a big push towards the ‘paperless office’, attempting to get businesses to cut down on the paper they are generating or taking in, therefore reducing the environmental impact. We’re also seeing a generation of millennial emerging into the world, 34% of whom see data theft as a ‘victimless crime’, making high quality, easy to use shredding services all the more essential. But it’s not just paper that contains sensitive information that needs to be destroyed. Now we are seeing more and more professional shredding services incorporating digital or other methods of data destruction. Many are investing in new shredding machines that can tackle USB sticks, hard drives and even entire computers. With waves of cyber crime and high profile data thefts on the news every few weeks, media destruction is becoming a big part of the modern shredding service.

Today, 6 or 7 out of 10 medium to large sized business will use shredding as a service to keep up with their data destruction needs and we expect that number to increase over the next few years. Shredding within the office environment is often regarded as the job reserved when you’ve run out of other things to do, or a job reserved for the work experience kid. It’s time consuming, no one really wants to do it and why spend hours feeding a shredder when a professional service could have your entire pile destroyed in minutes. At Hungry Shredder we have a range of shredding services to suit your needs, all designed with security and simplicity in mind. To find out more, get in touch today and feed the hungry shredder.

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The Evolution Of The Shredder

Paper shredder

The office shredder is one of those things that many people consider as just office equipment. Yet this simple machine is what stands between many individuals and businesses and the possibility of identity fraud. The shredder has become an incredibly important element in office security for any business, but have you ever wondered how the humble paper shredder came to be?

The Birth of The Shredder

Before the invention of the paper shredder there was still a need to destroy paper, especially if it contained important or dangerous information. Because there was no other way to destroy the tough paper, these documents were often burnt. For example, during the Second World War governments burned all papers, books and documents that contained sensitive information. There are numerous accounts of soldiers burning documents that contained intelligence about their operations so that it could not be passed on to their enemies, and often books and papers were burnt as an act of barbarism or conquer. For a long time this was the only option for effectively destroying paper.

The idea for the very first paper shredder can be traced back to 1909, when Abbot Augustus Low filed for a patent on his invention, the ‘waste paper receptacle’, which was designed to improve the method of disposing of waste paper. However, Low’s invention was never actually manufactured – it was all just theory. The first physical shredder was invented and manufactured in Germany by Adolf Ehinger in 1935. He based his design on a hand pasta maker and he invented it as a way of destroying his anti-Nazi propaganda to avoid inquiries from the authorities. After the war, Ehinger was able to market and sell his shredders to government agencies and financial institutions who were looking to switch from the hand crank to electric motor as a way of destroying confidential documents. Government agencies soon deemed the use of strip-cut shredders essential for the destruction of important files.  In 1959 Ehinger’s company (EBA Maschinenfabrik) manufactured the first cross cut paper shredder, a system that the same company still produces to this day.

The Modern Shredding Solution

Until the mid 1980’s it was very rare for paper shredders to be used by anyone who wasn’t a government entity. It wasn’t until the US Supreme Court ruled that it wasn’t illegal to search and seize rubbish left for collection outside the home that paper shredders became popular with home users.  This came at a time when anti-burning advocates groups concerned about the environment were rising in popularity, along with the heightened awareness of identity theft and proper rubbish disposal. This resulted in thousands of home owners and private citizens rushing to get their own paper shredding machines at home.

Now of course, shredders have become a commonplace item, and there is more than one method available to us. Strip cut has begun to fall out of favour, criticised for it’s lack of security, and cross cut has become the most popular option for home users. For industrial shredders, there are also particle cutters (which shred paper to confetti sizes pieces), disintegrators, hammermills, piece-and-tear and grinders, all of which can reduce a piece of A4 to dust.

The humble office shredder has been around for over 80 years and it has undergone a series of evolutions to become the efficient machine we know today. But this is just part of the story. To find out how shredding has evolved from home to industrial shredding and given life to shredding as a service, stay tuned for next months’ blog. And remember, if you need some documents shredded for you, or would just like to know more about our shredding machines, get in touch today to find out more.

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5 Ways To Maximise Your Potential Working From Home

 

work from home

Your home office can be many things. It can be a place to work without interruptions, the base for your wider operations or a way to get an efficient tax break (isn’t use of home allowance wonderful?). Whatever your home office means to you, it should be a place where you can feel productive and get work done, which is why it’s such a shame that one of the major problems with working from home is the amount of time we tend to waste. There are many reasons that time seems to slip by unnoticed in a home office, and it isn’t always because of the amount of work we are doing. So if you find yourself struggling to get everything done, try one of these tips to maximise the efficiency in your home office.

Actually Claim A Space

It’s amazing just how many of those who work at home don’t actually have a designated space to do so. So your first step should be to claim (if you don’t have one already) a space for your office. You need a spot within your home that is yours and yours alone so you can be completely free from distractions so that you can make the most of your work. This shouldn’t be a table in the family room or ‘your spot’ on the sofa – there should be enough room for a small desk and space for filing if you need it. There are even some amazing tutorials out there for turning your cupboards into an office if you’re handy with tools. Ensure your family knows that when you’re using this room you shouldn’t be disturbed and that you are working. This room should be treated like an external office would be – your own space that is completely dedicated to work.

Get Rid Of Distractions

Working from home comes with it’s own unique set of distractions. It could be the stray dog toy under the desk or the TV in the corner singing to you to just watch one more show. Keeping the treadmill by your desk because it saves space in the house might sound like a great idea, but it might also drive you crazy thinking about working out (and how you should be doing more of it) instead of actually working. To make the most of your office space, get rid of anything that might be distracting or negative so that you can focus on working.

Establish Your Work Hours

One of the best things about working from home is the ability to set your own working hours, but this can be a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand you can be flexible around home commitments or illness, but on the other hand the temptation to work at any time is always there. To truly maximize your efficiency and productivity, you should have set working hours. You might want to work a typical 9-5, or maybe you want to try working 10-6, or 8-4 instead. Once you have found the hours that work best for you, you need to ensure you stick to them. Make sure you are at your desk at 8am and finish what you’re doing at 5pm every day, if that is your set schedule. The idea of sleeping in and start later might seem appealing, or maybe you want to stretch your hours and just work that little bit longer, but these little things do add up. To make sure you don’t end up working 9am-9pm every day it’s important to keep an eye on your hours from the beginning.

Separate Home And Work Computers 

In terms of claiming your home office tax deductions this step is pretty much essential, but it also helps your focus to keep your work and play machines separate. Get yourself an inexpensive machine to be your personal or family computer and keep your work computer off limits to everyone else. Put passwords in place and make sure you change them regularly. This is important for the confidentiality of your clients and your work, but it also means you can do research without a hundred ads popping up for things your kids were looking at and you don’t need to go searching through files to find what you’re looking for.

To Do Lists

The to-do list is without a doubt the saviour of anyone working from home. Keeping track of everything you need to do within your business is essential to your organisation, but there is another to-do list that is equally important. This is your household to-do list. The point of this to-do list is to take all the non-work related things that jump into your head throughout the day and put them out of your mind so that you can focus. So if you suddenly remember something you need to do when you get home, just write it on the home list and you don’t have to think about it anymore. This means you can focus on your work and be more productive, and you will never finish a day and be annoyed that you can’t remember that thing you thought of at 11am that you needed to do.

 

Often what works for one person’s home office is completely different to another’s, so it’s important to experiment with ways of working until you find the one that works for you. Very few people know straight away what the best routine is for them when working from home, so the trick is to try out different working patterns and routines all the time. You should leave your home office at the end of your day feeling accomplished and ready to relax and enjoy your free time. It’s one of the perks of working from home after all!

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Rugby Fever? Win a signed England shirt!

Prize Draw now Closed: Win a signed England rugby shirt with Hungry Shredder

That’s right, we’ve managed to get our hands on an official England rugby shirt, signed by all 33 of the 2014/15 England squad. Comes complete with a certificate of authenticity. It’s size XL.

We’re going to give it away – and you have the chance to win it. No purchase necessary!

To enter the free prize draw, simply sign up to our newsletter. We want to be able to let you know the news of our expansion which is coming soon. And once you’ve done that, why not check out our secure shredding services for homes and small businesses?

One lucky winner will be drawn at random from our newsletter mailing list on Saturday 3rd October. Good luck!

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How long should I keep records for?

One of the most common questions that customers ask us is “How long should I keep my records for?” It can be confusing working out which documents you need to keep and which documents to send for shredding.

At Hungry Shredder we like to keep things simple but we do advise customers to obtain professional advice (for example, from your solicitor or accountant) regarding record keeping as it will depend on your individual circumstances.

Here are a few links we have found to guidance on record keeping from the UK Government. We hope that you find them helpful!

Individuals

Keeping your pay and tax records (gov.uk)

Businesses

Keeping pay and tax records if you are self employed (gov.uk)

Keeping records for business: What you need to know (HMRC)

New pension rules and record keeping (The Pensions Regulator)