Covering the Basics – Your Home-Based Business Filing System Explained


There are several common files that should be present in a business filing system. Below are the basics from a home office or small business perspective. Depending on the nature of your business, these may be to general or to specific for you, but you can customize the following information to suit your business. Remember to use the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Sweetheart. You need not invest in a complicated and costly system to house only a few files. The information contained in your files should only take 30 seconds to find. Customize your system to work for your business and your work style. Keep the files you use most often closest to your desk. Put archives or files you don’t use often in another location.

You will notice that some file titles seem to be repeated, like Web site(s) under Marketing and Domain Names under Expenses. The distinction here is that you would put items related to Web site content and design under the Marketing file, and invoices for hosting and domain name registration under Expenses.


o Last Name, First Name

o Contact information

o Personal information (if required)

o Projects – On going (if required)

o Projects – Completed (if required)


o Business Guides from local Chambers of Commerce

o Supplier Directories

o Trade Directories


o Accounting

o Advertising

o Business licences, fees (government fees, local and provincial/state fees)

o Computer

o Computer equipment – hardware (printer, scanner, PDA, mouse, router, microphone, speakers, etc)

o Consultant Services (business coach, organizing coach)

o Contracted Services (virtual assistant, sub- contractors, cleaners, etc.)

o Domain names

o Employee Benefits (medical/dental, insurance, RRSP, 401K, etc)

o Insurance – business/office property

o Insurance – professional liability

o Interest and Bank Charges

o Legal

o Library

o Maintenance and Repairs (or Leasehold Improvements if you rent)

o Meals and Entertainment

o Office Equipment (telephones, fax machine, calculators, shredder, etc)

o Office Furniture (desks, chairs, lamps, radio, book cases, etc)

o Office Supplies (stationary, pens, labels, file folders, etc.)

o Postage/Courier

o Property Taxes

o Travel

o Utilities

o Cellular phone

o Telephone

o Fax line

o Internet connection

o Heating/Lighting

o Rent

o Vehicle expenses

o Fuel

o Repairs and Maintenance

o Insurance

Education and Professional Development

o Include any courses you take that are business related, including seminar information, conference information, online courses, continuing education courses, staff development courses, etc.


o Accounts Payable – Current

o Accounts Receivable – Current

o Accounts Receivable – 30-60 days

o Accounts Receivable – 60-90 days

o Accounts Receivable – 90-120 days

o Accounts Receivable – In Collection

o Balance Sheets – Monthly

o Bank or Credit Union Monthly Statements (store only 1 year in active file/retain up to 10 years worth, depending on Federal/Provincial/State laws)

o Bank Loans (original loan papers, interest rates, amount borrowed, payment terms,etc)

o Capital Cost Allowance Information (Canada only)

o Corporate/Business Tax Returns (retain for up to 10 years, depending on Federal/Provincial/State laws)

o Credit Card statements

o GST/HST Forms (Canada only)

o Income Statements – Monthly/Annually

o Payroll Records and Taxes

o State tax remittances

o Tax Forms


o Inventory Count

o by product name/number

o Invoices/Statements

o by Supplier Name

o then ordered by Invoice Number

o Suppliers

o listed alphabetically

o ordering/contact information at front of file


o Advertising – Print

o Advertising – Radio

o Advertising – Television

o Advertising – Web site

o Advertising – Internet

o Articles of Interest

o Business Plan (review annually – archive old copies)

o Information Package (about your business)

o Press Releases

o Trade Show Information


o Professional/Trade Organizations to which you belong

o Boards on which you serve

Personnel Files

o Each employee by Last Name, First Name

o resume/application form, tax forms (Canada – TD1), payroll records, information on benefits package (medical/dental, RRSP, 401k, etc)

o performance evaluations/reviews, disciplinary information, record of education provided by the company, etc.

o record of salary/wage rate, and notes on raises, Direct Deposit information (if you provide EFT)

o Miscellaneous tax forms

o Procedures Manual

o Resumes/Applications kept on file for six months

o Record of Employment forms

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