retention period

(also disposition standard), n.The length of time records should be kept in a certain location or form for administrative, legal, fiscal, historical, or other purposes.


Retention periods are determined by balancing the potential value of the information to the agency against the costs of storing the records containing that information. Retention periods are set for record series, but specific records within that series may need to be retained longer because they are required for litigation or because circumstances give those records unexpected archival value.


Skupsky and Montaña 1994, p. 135 Records retention periods generally will be based on several factors. ¶ Operational / Record User Needs – retention periods based upon an organization's need to preserve records to protect the organization's rights, conduct, business, or facilitate research. ¶ Legal Requirements – retention periods stated in statutes, regulations and rules establishing legal minimum periods for maintaining records. These periods can be enforced by government by subjecting the party to fines, penalties and loss of rights. ¶ Legal Considerations – retention periods based on other legal issues such as statutes of limitation or a legal duty to preserve records for future or current litigation, tax or other audit. ¶ Historical – retention periods to preserve records for public historical or research needs or as part of internal organizational archives.