When cleaning up a company's supplier database, can suppliers ever be deleted? Is there a legal timeframe to keep them on file?

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Deleting records from your supplier database is a policy question for your company, but here are a few considerations.

Because the records typically contain history, deletion is not always the best option, at least in the near term. Some supplier databases have the capability to separate active vendors from inactive. Records may be marked as inactive, or moved to an inactive file, after a period of time appropriate for your business—perhaps one year with no activity.

With regard to deletion from the inactive file, TAPN has a Record Retention Guide in the AP Tools Suite under AP Tools, click "AP Accounting Forms and Checklist Templates", then click "Record Retention Checklist".

The Record Retention Checklist provides a guide for record retention. Depending on the kind of information contained in your supplier database, you may find this guide useful in determining a deletion time table.

TAPN also has just completed a survey on vendor master file practices, which is undergoing analysis and will be posted soon. In the survey, 75 percent of participants do tag records as inactive, or move to an inactive file; another 9 percent would like to but cannot due to system limitations; 16 percent do not mark or move records.

Following is the data on when a record is marked or moved to inactive:

  • 1 year
    14.4%

  • 18 months
    17.7%

  • 2 years
    24.5%

  • 3 years
    11.7%

  • we don't
    17.7%

  • other
    13.9%

Other ranged from 6 months to 7 years.

Summing up, an approach might be to inactivate a record after 12 or 13 months of inactivity, and delete it after 7 years. But your type of business and management’s philosophy will determine which way you set those time periods.

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