Purposes of File Retention - Statutory Requirements and Future Needs

Statutory Requirements

There are statutory provisions relating to your retention of documents but you should return to your client any original documents that belong to them. The returned documents should be accompanied with a letter advising of the statutory requirements. If you have accepted instructions from your client to retain documents until the statutory requirements are fulfilled, it is best practice for you to confirm your agreement in writing and address issues such as the cost of retaining the file documents.

Some of the more common statutory file retention periods are:

Statute or Rule

Documents to Retain


Business Corporations Act R.S.A. 2000, c. B-9 section 226

entire record book

six years from dissolution

Canada Business Corporations Act R.S.C. 1985, c. 44 section 225

entire record book

six years from dissolution

Income Tax Act R.S.C. 1985 (5th Supp.); IT Reg. 5800, and Info Circular No. 78-10R4

records and books of anyone carrying on business, or who pays or collects taxes

six years after the end of last taxation year to which they relate, or from the date the return is filed

Rules of the Law Society of Alberta, Rule 119.37(1)

lawyer's trust ledger accounts, financial records and parts of files which support financial records

at least ten years (two years of which must be at place of practice) following the fiscal year of the law firm in which the file was closed, longer if applicable $ still in trust

Rules of the Law Society of Alberta, Rule 118.7(1)

information relating to identification and verification of clients

at least six years following completion of the work for which the lawyer was retained

Other legislation may have statutory requirements for document retention; see for example, the provincial taxation and employment statutes.

Future Needs of Lawyer or Client

When creating your file closure policy, you should consider the types of files at hand and the practical future needs of you and your client. Your files contain valuable precedents and original documents.

You must provide original documents to the client but you may copy them, at your expense, if you wish to retain copies for any purpose. You should also review the file to determine whether there are useful documents prepared by another lawyer or party that you wish to retain for precedent purposes.

<9.3 Purposes of File Retention - Ability to Respond

9.5 Closing Files>

Last modified: Monday, 17 July 2017, 4:44 PM