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How long must you keep your business documents in France?

Businesses must, by law, keep all official documents, such as invoices, that they have sent out or received

How long they must keep all documents depends on their type – and it can vary from one year to 30.

The relevant inspection authorities can ask to see any of the documents within the time limit.

In some cases, but not all, you can be fined for getting rid of them too early.

For tax-related documents, including declarations and any paper that will justify the accuracy of those declarations, you can be fined up to €5,000 for not keeping them for six years. 

This includes all taxes on businesses, such as income tax, business taxes, local taxes, VAT, and the CFE business property tax.

As an example, papers for 2014 revenue, declared in 2015, must be kept up to the end of 2020.

The longest period, 30 years, is for the purchase or transfer of property.

The shortest, of one year, is for documents relating to employees’ working hours, on-call hours and any compensation they receive for this.

Employees’ contracts and documents concerning their salaries, bonuses and retirement schemes must be kept for five years. So must all commercial contracts and correspondence, banking – including cheque stubs and statements – and transport documents.

The statutes of a company have to be kept for five years after it has ceased to exist.

Documents relating to the annual accounts must be kept for 10 years, including client and supplier invoices and order forms.

Customs declarations, meanwhile, must be kept for three years.

You should keep the documents in the form they were originally sent or drawn up in.

Government advice is to keep it in paper if it was first in paper, as any digital version will be regarded as a copy.

If the document was created digitally and sent by email, or it is online on a website, there is no need to download and print it as this version will be seen as a copy of the original.

Paper versions can be stored digitally for easy access, as long as they are an exact copy and are regarded as valid justification for VAT purposes.

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