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Records management for small business

How well are you keeping your business records?

On this page

  • Organise your record keeping system
  • Understand your legal requirements with financial & business records


You're required by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to keep business records for a minimum of five years, in plain English and in a way the ATO can access if they need it.

Set up a record keeping system

Evaluate your record keeping skills

Find out what records you should keep, and evaluate how well your business is keeping records by using the ATO's record keeping evaluation tool.  

Keep track of your procedures

Make note of the procedure you use for filing your records – so if someone has to do it for you they know what to do. And as your business grows, this is a job you could give someone else to do

Use our financial policies and procedures manual template below if you don't have one already.

Financial policy and procedure manual template (DOCX 98.15 KB)DOCX icon

Financial record keeping

For any transaction that has a financial element, the ATO requires you to keep:

  • copies of invoices and receipts you provide for goods sold or services rendered
  • invoices for goods or services you purchase, or bills you pay such as rent, rates, insurance, licence fees
  • payments to employees and to other organisations on behalf of employees, such as super funds, and PAYG tax
  • financial statements including profit and loss statement and balance sheet
  • tax return information
  • bank account and credit card statements
  • end of year stocktake records, assets register.

Good practice records management should include preparing and using both the profit and loss budget and cash flow forecast.

Business record keeping

In addition to your ATO financial records requirements, other government departments require you to keep records relating to your business and employees.

When setting up your record keeping system, keep:

  • contracts, insurance agreements and other legal documents
  • your lease – if you're renting
  • licences and permits
  • employee records – including time sheets, copies of pay slips 
  • safety records, such as risk assessment for occupational health and safety
  • any other records which are 'business activity' specific and required by law for the operation of your business, for example a food safety plan for a café owner.

Case Study: Avoid conflict in your family business

'It took Cory and Lyndon about two years of financial struggle and hard work before the business started to change – but it has been for the better, and the company has continued to thrive ever since.'

Gary Kennedy-Kennedy Trailers (photo courtesy of the Bairnsdale Advertiser)

Read more about avoiding conflict in your family business.

Gary Kennedy from Kennedy Trailers