I was an eyelash away from sealing the deal on a six-figure refund claim. I made a call to my client to ask for the final set of supporting documents. Victory was in sight.
“Yeah, we don’t have any of those invoices. Sorry.”
What?? These transactions happened two years ago. Why wouldn’t they have any copies of these invoices?
The answer ended up being very simple. My client was a government contractor and their operations people had a 6-month record retention policy for security purposes. Anyone in the accounting profession, however, is used to a window of 3-7 years for keeping records.
In the case of my refund claim, we were lucky enough to sweet-talk my client’s vendor into providing copies of the invoices we needed. Because of that, we were able to save the refund claim. Without those invoices, we would have walked away with nothing.
If your company has unusually short record retention policies for groups outside of the accounting/finance area, then you need to figure out how to get your hands on documents that may be required for future purposes (e.g. audits and refund claims) before they get lost in off-site storage.
How many different record retention policies does your company have?