Records should be stored only as long as they are needed, and then they should be destroyed.
- Protect all information against unauthorized access, change, destruction, or disclosure. Highly sensitive records, including computer printouts and removable storage media, (1) should never be left unattended when they are being used and (2) should be kept in a locked drawer or cabinet in the bishop's or stake president's office when not in use.
- Records related to finances should be kept for three years plus current year (USA) unless your administrative office or local laws specify otherwise. Your administrative office can tell you what the length of time is.
- Records of ordinances should be kept for one year.
- All paper and electronic records of disciplinary actions, including applications to the First Presidency, should be destroyed as soon as the presiding officer receives notification that these actions have been processed at Church headquarters. Destroy all other records that are no longer needed in such a way that they cannot be reconstructed.
- Keep it simple. File records in way that makes sense for you and your leaders.
- To simplify audits, stake clerks and auditors may ask all ward clerks in their stake to file records in the same way.
- Store all records (including records from prior years) in the clerk's office in a cabinet with a working lock (it's not enough that the clerk's office has a lock).
- Consider labeling document containers with both the year the records were created and the associated destroy date (such as "2010 - destroy 2014").
- At year-end, move all records for that year to the back of your retained records and destroy all the records for the oldest year retained (such as 2010 records at the beginning of 2014).
- Where possible, consider printing some reports to a PDF format that can be saved digitally, rather than storing paper reports. Record retention policies apply to digital and paper records. Digital records are also required to be protected against unauthorized access, change, destruction, or disclosure.
Typical filing system
- Donations: Put weekly donation batch documents together in an envelope with the batch date written on the front (an old stationery envelope works fine - like the ones with the prior bishop's name on them). Include all donation slips (white copy), the supporting MLS reports, the pink donation slip and the tear-off tab from the deposit bag. File these envelopes in chronological order separate from all other financial records.
- Expenses: Put check requests/authorizations with receipts, check stubs and expense authorization reports together in check number order. Where multiple checks are included on an expense report, attach all documentation for those expenses to the expense report. Include non-check expense documentation such as Distribution Center invoices filed by date. Some non-check expenses are now delivered automatically through MLS (referred to as IROPS. See release notes for MLS ver. 3.4 in Timeline of MLS). Because IROPS represent expenditure of budget funds, it is appropriate to have an expense authorization for each expense. File these in a folder by either year, audit cycle, or month.
- Reports: Put signed monthly Unit Financial Statements in their own folder and in chronological order. File expense transmission reports in their own folder and in chronological order.
- Tithing settlement: Store all tithing settlement reports together (individual declarations, declaration summary, etc.)
- Miscellaneous: Store miscellaneous files such as lease documentation for fast-offering recipients and undeliverable end of year tithing statements.
- Membership records: (Optional) Keep a printout of the latest IOS for each member of the unit. The handbook requires the ward to have a membership record for each member living within the ward boundaries, but the handbook does not specify whether that record must be a hardcopy or electronic. Printed membership records that are not needed should be destroyed in a manner that makes it impossible to reconstruct them.
- Transaction reports: Store transaction reports and membership updates in date order. You might need to reference them in the future, because MLS does not retain membership records for members after they move from your unit.
- [LDSTech Forum post in thread How long should I keep financial records
- LDSTech Forum post in thread How long should I keep financial records
- LDSTech Forum thread Filing Best Practices
- LDSTech Forum thread IROP's and Audits
- LDSTech Forum thread How long do we need to keep hardcopies of membership records