Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer, plan sponsors find themselves asking “how long should I keep retirement plan records?”. The short (and not very helpful) answer is: “it depends”.
As you may be painfully aware, there can be many, many different types of records associated with maintaining a retirement plan: the plan document, annual reports, employee records, government filings, and asset trust statements to name a few.
There may be different retention requirements for different types of records, but to avoid the IRS’s slings and arrows, we generally recommend plan sponsors keep all plan records until six years after the plan has been terminated, all benefits have been paid and the last government filing has been submitted. It is especially important that employee records supporting the compensation and years of service used in determining benefits are kept.
Some sponsors find that they can meet these requirements via electronic files ceasing the heart ache of retaining numerous paper files. Let us know if you have any questions about which specific records must be kept, how long and in what format.
Note that any references to Hamlet are unintentional in nature.