How Long to Keep Church Records

Q: We’re doing some housecleaning at church and we have a question about how long we should be keeping our legal and financial records. Is there a recommended time period that a church should hang onto its financial records?

A: This is something each organization needs to decide on its own, says Tim Brennan, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA’s) treasurer and vice president of finance. He recommends that congregations seek legal counsel locally before discarding records. The firm Pfau England Nonprofit Law offers recommendations on records retention. The general recommendations are to permanently keep agendas and minutes, year-end treasurer’s reports, audit reports, and background checks.

IRS returns and bank and investment statements should be kept seven years. Employee files should be kept for three years after termination. 

[Note: This article was updated on 6.5.14.]

About the Author

  • Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

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