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1.15.2  Types of Records and Their Life Cycles

Manual Transmittal

August 11, 2015


(1) This transmits revised IRM 1.15.2, Records and Information Management, Types of Records and Their Life Cycles.

Material Changes

(1) IRM , Definition of Records, revised to reflect the definition of a federal record from the 2014 updates to the Federal Records Act.

(2) Editorial changes made to IRM, Retrieving Schedules Electronically, IRM, Calculating the Retention Period, and IRM, Obtaining Disposition Authority, to reflect migration of Records and Information Management responsibilities from Agency Wide Shared Services (AWSS) to Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure (PGLD).

Effect on Other Documents

This IRM supersedes IRM 1.15.2, dated August 30, 2013.


All divisions and functions.

Effective Date


Celia Richardson
Director, Identity and Records Protection (IRP)
Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure (PGLD)  (08-30-2013)

  1. This section explains and describes the various classifications or categories of record and non-record material, regardless of media or recordkeeping system. It also covers the life cycle of records, which begins when you create or receive records, and usually ends when you destroy or transfer records to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  (08-11-2015)
Definition of Records

  1. According to 44 United States Code (USC) Section 3301, the term “record” includes all recorded information, regardless of form or characteristics, made or received by a Federal agency under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the United States Government or because of the informational value of data in them.  (08-30-2013)
Types of Records

  1. There are several classifications or types of records. All IRS records are scheduled as either "Temporary" or "Permanent" . These are considered a record's disposition.

    1. Temporary Records must be retained for a determinable period of time or until a specific act or event is completed. They should not be preserved indefinitely. NARA must approve temporary records dispositions prior to any records destruction.


      Individual tax returns (the Form 1040 series) are temporary records which are eligible to be destroyed six years after the end of the processing year.

    2. Permanent Records are appraised by NARA as having significant historical or other value warranting their continued preservation by NARA beyond the time they are needed for administrative, legal, or fiscal purposes. Permanent records document the organization and functions of the IRS, contain fundamental information on programs or activities within the IRS, or are important in the long term to protect the rights and interests of the IRS, the federal government, or its citizens.


      Organizational studies documenting changes in the way the IRS does business are permanent records and should be preserved for eventual transfer to NARA.

  2. Each type of record, non-record information and material are described in the sub subsections IRM through IRM

    1. Vital Records

    2. Personal Papers

    3. Non-Record Material

    4. Electronic Records  (08-30-2013)
Vital Records

  1. Vital records are those records considered essential to the continued operation of the IRS before, during and after an emergency or disaster. They can also be records essential to protecting the legal and financial rights and interests of the IRS and the individuals directly affected by its activities. Vital records will be typically identified in the course of Continuity of Operations (COOP) carried out in the context of IRS emergency management. This type of vital records planning is required. See 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1236.

  2. IRS vital records include:

    • Mission statements in an emergency

    • Plans and programs for carrying out the mission

    • Statements of delegations of authority and of succession to command

    • Staffing assignments

    • Information about IRS employees' payroll, fiscal records, property, and activities

    • Copies of basic legislation, regulations, and procedures

    • The Master file

  3. The Servicewide Records Officer and Area Records Managers (ARM), as well as Physical Security and Emergency Preparedness (PSEP), and Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure (PGLD) personnel are involved in assisting the Office of Continuity of Operations (COOP) with continuity of operations planning and with developing the Vital Records program. Vital records are divided into two categories:

    1. Emergency Operating Records (e.g., delegations of authority, building plans, equipment inventories, system documentation); and

    2. Rights and Interest Records (e.g., payroll, retirement, insurance, social security, accounts receivable records, etc.).

  4. The Servicewide Records and Information Management (RIM) staff deals with both types of vital records to ensure they are appropriately identified and scheduled, and will:

    1. Work with functional areas in IRS Headquarters to transfer applicable records to new storage locations as appropriate;

    2. When applicable, conduct an annual inspection of the emergency operating records at the storage locations to verify the inventory; and

    3. Monitor the activity of these records, when necessary.

  5. In carrying out the Vital Records program it is important that:

    1. IRS employees understand their responsibilities in identifying and protecting those records that specify how the IRS will operate in case of an emergency or disaster;

    2. Designation of and the records themselves are correct and complete; and

    3. The records, originals or copies, are protected, accessible and immediately usable as needed.


    The designation or use of duplicate copies versus the original record where permitted allows for destruction or deletion of obsolete duplicates when replaced by updated copies, whereas the original records must be retained for the period specified in the IRS RCS. Timely "cycling" or replacement of obsolete with current documents, is critical to the Vital Records program and the successful implementation of the Recovery Plan, successful mitigation of the event, and operations in the event of an emergency or disaster.  (08-30-2013)
Personal Papers

  1. Personal papers are documentary materials belonging to an employee that are not used to conduct IRS business. They are of a personal nature and relate solely to an individual's personal and private affairs or are used exclusively for their convenience. They may refer to or comment on the subject matter of IRS business, provided they are not used to conduct that business. Personal papers should be marked as such and should be kept separate from IRS records. See 36 CFR 1222.26.


    Records an employee accumulated and brought into government service from a prior position, i.e., Standard Form 50, Notification of Personnel Actions, personal copies of job applications, previous work files, political materials and references files.


    Records brought to or accumulated in the office that relate solely to family matters, outside business pursuits, professional activities, or private political associations. Such items could consist of family/personal correspondence, volunteer or community service records, literature from professional organizations, and manuscripts or drafts of articles and books.

  2. Work-related items, such as diaries, journals, notes, personal calendars, and appointment schedules, that are not prepared, received, or used in the process of transacting IRS business. Although these materials contain work-related information, they are personal papers if they are claimed as such and are for the employee's exclusive use and/or convenience.


    Paper copies of calendars or schedules of the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner, or other IRS senior executive positions which document daily, official activities are historical (permanent) records. Refer to Document 12990, Records Control Schedules, RCS 8, Administrative and Organizational Records for more information.  (08-30-2013)
Non-Record Material

  1. Non-record material is a term used for papers that are not included with the definition of "records." All such papers serve purposes other than "records" purposes. See 36 CFR 1220.14


    Library and museum material created or acquired and maintained solely for reference or exhibition purposes. Copies of correspondence
    ("suspense" or "follow-up" ), drafts of letters, memoranda or reports, information notes that do not represent significant, basic steps in the preparation of the record copies, and machine readable data, which are maintained only for convenience or reference.


    Extra copies of correspondence, stocks of publications and processed documents, and machine-readable data, which are maintained only for convenience or reference.


    Only the Servicewide Records Officer or the ARM has the final determination on record or non-record status. Direct any inquiries to their staff.  (08-30-2013)
Electronic Records

  1. Electronic records are records that are stored in a form that only a computer can process. Electronic records are also called machine-readable records. These records are defined as numeric, graphic, audio and textual information, recorded on any medium (e.g. magnetic, tape, optical disk, or CD-ROM) and which satisfy the overall definition of a record. Review 36 CFR Part 1234

  2. This definition applies to all electronic information systems, whether on microcomputers, or mainframe computers, or personal computers including both laptop and desktop, regardless of storage media, in network or stand-alone configurations.


    IRM 1.15.6, Managing Electronic Records covers the creation, maintenance and use, and disposition of federal records created by individuals using IRS electronic information systems and personal computers, including electronic mail (email) applications.  (08-30-2013)
Records Created in Flexiplace Situations

  1. As the IRS establishes more offsite or satellite work locations and work-at-home situations, the emphasis on proper IRS records management, irrespective of location, is appropriate. Specific laws and regulations were enacted, which govern the management of federal records versus personal papers. Regardless of their location, federal records are subject to the disposition authorities in Records Control Schedules 8 through 37, Document 12990 and in Records Control Schedules 38 through 64 (General Records Schedules 1 through 27), Document 12829.

  2. Employees are encouraged to maintain and refer to these Records Control Schedules for all disposition matters related to records created and/or managed within their function or organization.


    Employees must consult RIM Headquarters staff or their local servicing ARM or function regarding records series that are not covered by a published IRS Records Control Schedule. These records may be unscheduled and require NARA authorities before any final disposition, such as destruction, may take place.  (08-30-2013)
Stages of the Records Life Cycle

  1. There are three stages of a records life cycle.

    1. Stage One - Records Creation

    2. Stage Two - Maintaining and Using Records

    3. Stage Three - Applying Records Control Schedules  (08-30-2013)
Records Creation - Stage One

  1. A document that is made or received in the transaction of IRS business and provides evidence of the organization, function, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other IRS activities is a record.

  2. Multiple copies of the same document, including messages created or received on email systems, may all have record status depending upon the administrative requirements of the information or data which they contain.


    A general request for inventory information on equipment and software sent to multiple offices for response by a specific due date. A requisition maintained by the purchasing officer, as well as, the Procurement office. An IRS Form 1040, Individual Income Tax Return, a copy of which is stored in Files Activity, and another in a Collection file. Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) documents for tracking and payroll purposes.  (08-30-2013)
Maintaining and Using Records - Stage Two

  1. Employees maintain and use records for the organization's current work, according to approved records disposition authorities, which are published in Document 12990, Records Control Schedules 8 through 37 and in Document 12829, Records Control Schedules 38 through 64 (General Records Schedules 1 through 27). Any action which involves storing, retrieving, and handling records kept in an office for current use is considered the second stage of the records life cycle.  (08-30-2013)
Applying the Records Control Schedules - Third and Final Stage of the Records Life Cycle

  1. A Records Control Schedule (RCS) is a listing of records series which provides mandatory instructions for what to do with records (and non-record materials) no longer needed for current business. The comprehensive IRS RCS comes from two sources:

    1. NARA approved records disposition authorities for IRS program-specific records, and

    2. NARA's General Records Schedules for records series common to most federal agencies.

  2. IRS program-specific records covered by the RCS, including copies and electronic versions, are printed in Document 12990, Records Control Schedules, Catalog 57910D. Some of the schedules are arranged by organization for convenience of use by IRS employees. Due to the frequency of organizational changes within the IRS, the preferred arrangement of these RCS is by function instead of by office or organization. This allows IRS staff to use the approved records disposition authorities according to the function for which they were maintained rather than having to determine which organization they were managed by when created or received.

  3. All RCS dispositions must be reviewed and approved by the IRS Records Officer and NARA prior to implementation and use by the IRS. Therefore, IRS staff are reminded not to develop or revise records retention instructions for organizational and functional (i.e., program) operations without first consulting the servicewide RIM program.

  4. All RCS apply to records that will or may accumulate in an office, and they provide a legal disposition authority for:

    1. Continued retention and preservation of records of historical value;

    2. Systematic retirement of records to the Federal Records Centers; and

    3. The destruction or other disposal of records no longer having sufficient administrative, legal, research or other value warranting their further retention.


      Disposal is the action taken regarding records no longer needed and usually consists of burning, pulping, shredding, or discarding with other waste material according to specific requirements established by the IRS Office of Disclosure under the Office of Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure (PGLD).

  5. Use of Records Control Schedules and their instructions is mandatory under 44 USC and is applied on a continuing basis.  (08-30-2013)
Exceptions to the Rule

  1. Some of the exceptions to applying the authorized dispositions for records are listed in the table below:

    If the records are Then
    Involved in unsettled claims or actions by or against the IRS Do not destroy. Consult records management staff.
    Needed for a longer retention period. Do not destroy. Consult records management staff.
    Needed for internal audit purposes Do not destroy. Consult records management staff.  (08-30-2013)
Where can I find the Records Control Schedules?

  1. Records Control Schedules are available for each IRS major function. These have been moved from IRM 1.15.8 through IRM 1.15.37 to Document 12990, Catalog 57910D, .

  2. NARA also produces a set of Records Control Schedules, more commonly known as General Records Schedules (GRS) [36 CFR Part 1228, Subpart c]. The GRS covers records series that are common to most federal agencies. IRS uses most of the GRS disposal authorities to meet its administrative records requirements with some minor modification to certain series to comply with various General Accountability Office (GAO) and Department of Treasury specific requirements. The General Records Schedules have been moved from IRM 1.15.38 through IRM 1.15.64 to Document 12829, Catalog 54713E.


    The RCS and the GRS are mandatory. IRS employees are urged to ensure that they use the most recent version of the RCS when applying records disposition instructions. Unless there is an approved IRS RCS covering the same series of record, the GRS authority must be applied. Check with your local records manager to make sure that you are using the current version of the GRS and to be certain there is no IRS authority for which a deviation from the GRS has been approved.

  3. Records retention guidelines are also issued by GAO and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for financial and personnel records respectively. Where appropriate, their schedules have been incorporated into the IRS schedules. However, the IRS Human Capital Office (HCO) or the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) may have to consult these schedules for specific instructions for some fiscal and personnel record requirements, when necessary.  (08-11-2015)
Retrieving Schedules Electronically

  1. All Records Control Schedules are available through Multimedia Publishing via the IRS intranet at:, or from the Records and Information Management website.  (08-11-2015)
Calculating the Retention Period

  1. The retention period starts at the end of the calendar year or month, respectively, in which the records were created. If the records are arranged by fiscal year, list year, processing year, program year, or some standardized time period, then the retention period begins with the close of that period in which the records were created.

  2. Cutoff periods are often set forth in the Records Control Schedules.


    Time and Attendance records - Approved Disposition: Destroy when 6 years old. Records created in calendar year 2000 from January up through and including December would be eligible for disposal January 2007.


    The Records and Information Management website has two disposal calculation charts--Calendar and Fiscal Year--for use in determining when records should be destroyed. The Records Management Process Awareness Guide, on the Records and Information Management website is another resource.  (08-11-2015)
Obtaining Disposition Authority

  1. To obtain a disposition authority, a written request or recommendation sent through your ARM to the IRS Records Officer (OS:PGLD:IRP:RIM) is required. Your office must have primary control or authority for the record series for which you are requesting disposition authority. Your request must include the following information:

    1. Identity and location of the offices that create or maintain the records;

    2. Title and description of each record series/collection;

    3. Form numbers and titles, if any;

    4. A recommended retention period.

    5. A statement justifying destruction of the records, including any applicable laws, statutes, or regulations requiring said retention or destruction;

    6. Such information as the location of other copies which are maintained, either in your office or another office and a proposed disposition authority for these records as well; and

    7. A properly identified sample of each type of record(s) listed. This information is most easily placed onto a Records Series Data Collection Instrument, available on the Records and Information Management website


      Office of Primary Responsibility:

      Retire to the Federal Records Center when 5 years old.
      Destroy when 10 years old.
      All other offices/Copies: Destroy when 3 years old.

  2. To revise an existing disposition authority, your written request to the IRS Records Officer, via your ARM should explain why the revision is necessary, and provide the reason or justification (see Example below), particularly if the proposed revision will restrict access to the records in question or remove restrictions.


    Recycling Investment Tax Act (RITA) Case Files - Various documents relating to the collection of taxes, including applications for reduced withholding which contains purchase and selling contracts, invoices, copies of tax returns, (Form 1040NR, Form 1120F, or Form 1065), work papers and withholding certificates. (Job No. N–1–58–88–5, Item 6)

    (1) Cut off files annually.
    (2) Retire to the Federal Records Center 1 year after case is closed.
    (3) Destroy 6 years after case is closed.

    Reason: Changes to this Disposition Authority are required due to recent changes in the statutory retention period

  3. Questions? Contact your local ARM or the Servicewide Records Management staff (OS:PGLD:IRP:RIM).

Exhibit 1.15.2-1 
Records Control Schedules moved to IRS Document 12990.

  • IRM 1.15.8 - RCS 8 - Administrative and Organizational Records

  • IRM 1.15.9 - RCS 9 - Taxpayer Advocate

  • IRM 1.15.10 - RCS 10 - Appeals

  • IRM 1.15.11 - RCS 11 - IRS Practitioner Enrollment, Professional Responsibility, and Agent Practices

  • IRM 1.15.12 - RCS 12 - Personnel Security

  • IRM 1.15.13 - RCS 13 - Chief Counsel

  • IRM 1.15.14 - RCS 14 - Associate Chief Counsel Offices

  • IRM 1.15.15 - RCS 15 - Regional/District Counsel

  • IRM 1.15.16 - RCS 16 - Chief Financial Officer

  • IRM 1.15.17 - RCS 17 - Information Technology

  • IRM 1.15.18 - RCS 18 - Enterprise Computing Center - Detroit

  • IRM 1.15.19 - RCS 19 - Enterprise Computing Center - Martinsburg (ECC-MTB)

  • IRM 1.15.20 - RCS 20 - Administration/Organization Support Operational Records

  • IRM 1.15.21 - RCS 21 - Strategic Planning

  • IRM 1.15.22 - RCS 22 - Tax Administration - Compliance

  • IRM 1.15.23 - RCS 23 - Tax Administration - Examination

  • IRM 1.15.24 - RCS 24 - Tax Administration - Tax Exempt Government Entities (TEGE)

  • IRM 1.15.25 - RCS 25 - Statistics Division (SOI)

  • IRM 1.15.26 - RCS 26 - Tax Administration - International

  • IRM 1.15.27 - RCS 27 - Compliance Research

  • IRM 1.15.28 - RCS 28 - Collection

  • IRM 1.15.29 - RCS 29 - Submissions Processing Campus Records (Service Centers Operations)

  • IRM 1.15.30 - RCS 30 - Criminal Investigation (CI)

  • IRM 1.15.31 - RCS 31 - Customer Service

  • IRM 1.15.32 - RCS 32 - Electronic Tax Administration

  • IRM 1.15.33 - RCS 33 - Legislative Affairs

  • IRM 1.15.34 - RCS 34 - Communications

  • IRM 1.15.35 - RCS 35 - Tax Administration Systems - Electronic

  • IRM 1.15.36 - RCS 36 - Permanent Records Directory/Index

  • IRM 1.15.37 - RCS 37 - Economic Stabilization


    Certain Records Control Schedules have not been incorporated into Document 12990. As the Records Control Schedules are updated by their organizations, they will be placed in Document 12990.

Exhibit 1.15.2-2 
General Records Schedules moved to Document 12829

  • IRM 1.15.38 - RCS 38/GRS 1 - Civilian Personnel Records

  • IRM 1.15.39 - RCS 39/GRS 2 - Payrolling and Pay Administration Records

  • IRM 1.15.40 - RCS 40/GRS 3 - Procurement, Supply, and Grant Records

  • IRM 1.15.41 - RCS 41/GRS 4 - Property Disposal Records

  • IRM 1.15.42 - RCS 42/GRS 5 - Budget Preparation, Presentation & Apportionment

  • IRM 1.15.43 - RCS 43/GRS 6 - Accountable Officers' Accounts Records

  • IRM 1.15.44 - RCS 44/GRS 7 - Expenditure Accounting Records

  • IRM 1.15.45 - RCS 45/GRS 8 - Stores, Plant, and Cost Accounting Records

  • IRM 1.15.46 - RCS 46/GRS 9 - Travel and Transportation Records

  • IRM 1.15.47 - RCS 47/GRS 10 - Motor Vehicle and Aircraft Maintenance and Operations Records

  • IRM 1.15.48 - RCS 48/GRS 11 - Space and Maintenance Records

  • IRM 1.15.49 - RCS 49/GRS 12 - Communication Records

  • IRM 1.15.50 - RCS 50/GRS 13 - Printing, Binding, Duplication and Distribution Records

  • IRM 1.15.51 - RCS 51/GRS 14 - Information Services Records

  • IRM 1.15.52 - RCS 52/GRS 15 - Housing Records

  • IRM 1.15.53 - RCS 53/GRS 16 - Administrative Management Records

  • IRM 1.15.54 - RCS 54/GRS 17 - Cartographic, Aerial Photographic, Architectural, and Engineering Records

  • IRM 1.15.55 - RCS 55/GRS 18 - Security & Protective Services Records

  • IRM 1.15.56 - RCS 56/GRS 19 - Reserved

  • IRM 1.15.57 - RCS 57/GRS 20 - Electronic Records

  • IRM 1.15.58 - RCS 58/GRS 21 - Audiovisual Records

  • IRM 1.15.59 - RCS 59/GRS 22 - Inspector General Records (Withdrawn)

  • IRM 1.15.60 - RCS 60/GRS 23 - Records Common to Most Offices within Agencies

  • IRM 1.15.61 - RCS 61/GRS 24 - Information Technology Operations and Management Records

  • IRM 1.15.62 - RCS 62/GRS 25 - Ethics Program Records

  • IRM 1.15.63 - RCS 63/GRS 26 - Temporary Commissions, Boards, Councils and Committees

  • IRM 1.15.64 - RCS 64/GRS 27 - Records of the Chief Information Officer

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