FAQ: “How long do I keep email?”

By Angela Ossar, Government Information Analyst

U.S. troops almost buried by parcels do their best to handle that year’s holiday mail. Circa 1944. Smithsonian Institution via Flickr Commons

Revised 7/16/12 to reflect changes to administrative rules for correspondence.

This week’s Question of the Week is the #1 most-asked question in the Records Management Assistance unit: “How long do I keep email?”

The short answer is: you treat emails the same you would paper records, meaning that you retain them for as long as you’d keep their paper equivalent.

Email has to be retained according to its content. Email is a delivery method, not a records series! If an email serves as a contract, it is retained as long as contracts are retained.  If an email is a sick leave request, it is treated just like a paper sick leave request.  Some emails are going to be unique to your agency or local government — an appraisal district is probably going to get a lot of tax correspondence (TX3000-12), for example.

For all other emails that you send and receive in the conduct of business — for emails that do not fall into another, more specific category — use the record series for correspondence. For local governments, this will be on Local Schedule GR, series 1000-26, Correspondence and Internal Memoranda. State agencies, this will be on the Texas State Records Retention Schedule (RRS) as 1.1.0071.1.008, and 1.1.057.

We have developed a general guide for classifying your emails. Click here to download the guide: How Long Do I Keep Email? General Guidance for Texas State Agencies and Local Governments:  Word|PDF