FAQs - Document and record keeping

This page contains frequently asked questions and answers about keeping documents and records. It is a summary of the main record-keeping requirements but is not exhaustive. There may be others that your organisation needs to comply with depending on the type of organisation you are, the area your organisation works in or contracts/agreements it has.

Before you read the FAQs you should check:

  • your organisation's rules (constitution) to see if there is any provision about clients having the right to inspect their own files or have their records retained
  • your organisation's rules, policies or resolutions passed by members requiring that the organisation's records be retained for specified period, and
  • funding agreements to see if they require records to be kept and retained.

For information about documents and records that a Victorian incorporated association is required to keep, go to Documents and records of an Incorporated Association.

For information about documents and records that a Company Limited by Guarantee is required to keep, go to Documents and records of a Company Limited by Guarantee.

1. What charity and taxation records do we need to keep?

Generally, records, receipts and other documentation you have used to prepare your organisation's tax return, including written evidence to verify claims for deductions claimed, must be kept for 5 years from when the record is prepared or the transaction is completed, whichever occurs later.

You should keep any Australian Not-for-profit and Charities Commission (ACNC) correspondence regarding your organisation charity status, if any, while you are registered and, we suggest, 5 years from deregistration.  The ACNC also requires charities to keep readily accessible financial and operation records for 7 years.

For more information, go to the ACNC page on Record Keeping.

You should also keep any Australian Tax Office (ATO) correspondence regarding your organisation's tax endorsements, if any, while your hold those endorsements and, we suggest, for 5 years from revocation or relinquishment. For example, endorsement as a Tax Concession Charity (TCC) or Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR).

The ATO's website has further information about record keeping.

2. What employee and volunteer records does our organisation need to keep?

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), an employer must make, and keep for 7 years, employee records in relation to each of its employees, containing the information specified in the Fair Work Regulations 2009 (Cth), including:

  • the employer's name
  • the employee's name
  • whether the employee's employment is full-time or part-time
  • whether the employee's employment is permanent, temporary or casual
  • the date on which the employee's employment began
  • the Australian Business Number (if any) of the employer
  • pay details
  • leave details
  • superannuation contributions
  • any individual flexibility arrangement
  • any guarantee of annual earnings, and
  •  termination of employment details.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers ‘must, so far as is reasonably practicable, keep information and records relating to the health and safety of employees of the employer'.

In general, an organisation has a responsibility as an employer to maintain records of incidents which impact on its employees, including details of grievances and how they were resolved. They must be kept for a reasonable period. In particular, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers must keep a copy of written record of a ‘notifiable incident' for at least 5 years. A ‘notifiable incident' is an incident that must be notified to WorkSafe, including a death or incident resulting in employees or persons requiring either medical treatment by a doctor or immediate treatment as an in-patient in a hospital.

3. What records does our organisation need to keep if we are registered to raise funds from the Victorian public?

The Fundraising Act 1998 (Vic) requires records and accounts relating to a fundraising appeal to be stored in Victoria at the association’s registered office or principal place of business, for 3 years after the date the appeal ends. The records that need to be kept include details of all income/proceeds and expenditure, and the names and addresses of the beneficiaries and the people who managed the appeal.

Note that different laws apply in each state or territory in which you raise funds from the public.

4. What information does our organisation need to keep in relation to potential legal action against us or any of our clients?

Criminal litigation

The Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) requires an organization to retain documents if an office bearer or staff member is aware of any actual or threatened litigation being bought against the organisation or any of its clients: see very broad provision in section 254 of the Crimes Act (destruction of evidence).  Note that to be liable under section 254(1) a person must know that document is, or is reasonably likely to be, required in evidence in a legal proceeding.

Other Litigation

Typically an action can be brought against a person or entity within 6 years of the cause of action, for example a breach of contract or an act of negligence. Any legal documents that may be relevant if legal action was to be taken (but is not actual or threatened), for example contracts, should be kept for 6 years.

5. Can our organisation keep records in electronic form?

Information can be recorded in electronic form if the conditions in the Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (Vic) are satisfied.  For example, information must be useable, accessible, complete and unaltered, able to be reproduced in hard copy.

Companies limited by guarantee may keep financial records electronically, see question 1. 

6. Is our organisation required to have a document retention policy?

If your organisation has no policies currently in place regarding the retention and amendment of employment records and other documents you should develop such policies as a matter of good governance, and have regard to:

  • the type of information to be retained by the organisation
  • the purpose for which that information is retained
  • the means of accessing, and if necessary altering the retained information, and
  • the timeframes for retention and what happens to files once this timeframe has expired.

Also note that if your organisation receives funding from State or Commonwealth Government, or meets other requirements, it may be bound by the relevant Privacy Act. For more information, see the PilchConnect Guide to Privacy for Victorian not-for-profit organisations.

7. Are there any examples available of document retention policies?

Below are some examples of document retention policies.

Content last updated: 19/11/12