Scottish Public Finance Manual

The Scottish Public Finance Manual (SPFM) is issued by the Scottish Ministers to provide guidance on the proper handling and reporting of public funds.

Annex 2: retention of financial records

1. The term financial records covers not only accounting records such as vouchers, authorities, schedules and computer records, but also financial management records and policy papers supporting and justifying financial transactions.

2. Retention periods for public records are subject to the requirements of specific legislation but as a general rule retention periods for financial records should comply with those indicated in the Retention and Disposal Schedule for Accounting Records available on the website of the UK National Archives. These currently indicate that financial records should normally be retained for either 6 years or 2 years, depending on the type of record, following the end of the financial year in question. Extended retention of financial records may be necessary to enable the handling of late claims or the settling of disputes.

3. Guidance on the retention of records relating to VAT is set out in the HM Customs and Revenue Notice 700/21. This indicates that business records should be kept for at least 6 years but it is open to registered bodies to seek dispensation where the retention period was likely to cause undue expense or storage problems.

4. The position on EU related payments is covered by specific provisions in EC law. Essentially all the supporting documents regarding expenditure and checks on the operation must be retained for a period of 3 years following the last payment in respect of any operation. Payments could conceivably continue for 3 or 4 years beyond a programme end-date so the period for which documents should be retained could extend to 7 or 8 years for a 3-year programme and possibly to 10 or 11 years for a 6-year programme.

5. Other provisions of EC law require financial documents in relation to "Guarantee" spending to be kept for a period of one year following the clearance of Member State Accounts by the Commission for the year in which the relevant payments were made.

Page reviewed: January 2019

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