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If you’re using computers to store records and for accounting, check

  • what records to keep
  • how to store them
  • what data formats we can use.

Important instructions around business records

If you’re using computer based records and accounting systems, they must:

  • confirm your tax liability
  • be in English or te reo Māori, unless we've approved another language
  • contain the necessary information, required by law
  • be kept for at least 7 years (it’s the same rule for paper or electronic media)
  • must be retrievable and readable at all times (good backup procedures can help here).

What records to keep

As well as your computer based business records, you'll also need to keep these extra records for computer assisted audits:

  • Electronic accounting or transaction level records. These include the general ledger, other journals and subsidiary account books.
  • Charts and codes of accounts, accounting instruction manuals, and system and program documentation explaining your accounting system.
  • Record layouts. These are for the files you’ve kept. If your systems change, we may ask to see your old and new record layouts.

Computer system upgrades, replacements and data

When you install or upgrade a computerised accounting system, you will need to check:

  • that the new system can retrieve and read data from the old system
  • if data needs to be updated before it can be retrieved and read by the new system
  • costs to change data. It may be better if you pay a third party to change your data or print hard copies of the old data.

Data management

You can keep your electronic data on CD Rom, DVD, floppy disk or some tapes.

If we need to do an audit, we can also download from any of these to our own computers. Transfer by cable or by USB memory stick between personal computers is also an option.

The best format for saving and storing your data is:

  • text
  • delimited (use tab, pipe or comma delimited)
  • MS Access
  • DBF file
  • print file
  • XML.

You should document how you copy data onto disk, cartridge or tape. We will also need a record layout, the record length and the block size, if supplied on tape. Send this with the data.

Last updated: 23 Jun 2021
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