Person sitting in a home office writing with a pen and paper.
From passwords and permits to tax documents, there are many business-related pieces of information that you should keep a physical, nondigital record of. — Getty Images/damircudic

If you’re like most business owners, you’re probably looking for ways to eliminate all paper-based processes. But there are still certain documents you should back up on paper. Here are seven things to start with.


Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) found that stolen or weak passwords caused over 80% of data breaches. There are many ways you can attempt to cut down on this problem — enabling two-factor authentication, not reusing passwords, and regularly installing software updates.

You can also use a password manager like LastPass to keep your passwords straight. But it’s also a good idea to keep a physical copy of passwords you regularly use throughout the day. Just make sure you store this document in a safe place where other people can't access it.

[Read more: 8 Best Practices for Keeping Customer Data Secure]


If you’re like most business owners, you probably use software like DocuSign to electronically sign and store contracts. But it’s also a good idea to keep a paper record of contracts, leases, and any other important agreements.

Maintaining the original signed document ensures you’re legally protected if you ever have to go to court over a breach of contract. You should check to find out what the statute of limitations is for breaches of contracts in your state.

Licenses and permits

If you have any licenses or permits from federal or state agencies, you’ll want to keep a hard copy and a digital copy on hand. This ensures you have easy access to these documents if you ever need them.

And if you receive any documents with a raised seal, you should store these somewhere safe. It may not be possible to correctly reproduce those types of documents in a digital form.

Maintaining your tax records for at least seven years ensures you can defend your business against potential audits or lawsuits.

Financial documents

You may want to keep a hard copy of certain financial documents, like promissory notes, annual reports, and insurance documents. And you always want to have a copy of your financial projections on hand to reference when speaking to company investors and stakeholders.

And if you run a brick-and-mortar business, you want to keep hard copies of receipts and invoices. That way, if customers request a chargeback, you’ll have the necessary paperwork on hand.

Tax records

You also want to keep paper records of your business’s tax records. The IRS requires that you keep a copy of your filed tax returns and any supporting documents for at least three years.

You may need to retain your records for six to seven years in certain situations. Maintaining your tax records for at least seven years ensures you can defend your business against potential audits or lawsuits.

[Read more: 10 Tax Deductions Your Business Should Know About]

Business documents

If you run an S corp or C corp, you want to keep a record of your articles of incorporation on hand. If you’re looking for funding for your company, you’ll need to show these documents to banks and investors.

It’s also a good idea to keep a copy of your bylaws and operating agreements. These documents outline how your company operates and its management structure, so it’s a good idea to maintain the physical records.

[Read more: Sole Proprietorship vs. Incorporation: What’s the Difference?]

Your company goals and values

You should also keep a physical copy of your company’s goals and values. Keep an ongoing list of your company’s short-term and long-term goals, and print them so you can regularly review them.

You might also consider keeping a physical copy of your company’s values and hanging them in a place where you’ll see them regularly. This can serve as a physical reminder of what you’re working towards every day.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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