Guernsey: Guernsey Document And Records Retention

Last Updated: 16 March 2017
Article by Alasdair Davidson, Jon Barclay and Rebecca Hale

Over recent years, businesses and employers in Guernsey (as in the rest of the world) have come under increased pressure from legislators and regulators alike to take steps to combat financial crime, including money laundering and terrorist financing. Some of the measures introduced to counter these threats include a drive towards more comprehensive record keeping, and various laws have now been passed requiring businesses and employers to retain certain records/documents for a prescribed period of time (amongst other things), so that they may be provided to law enforcement officers if required. On the other hand, where records contain personal data, businesses are obliged to comply with general data protection principles, including the requirement not to keep personal data for any longer than is necessary.

With these conflicting tensions in mind, this briefing aims to summarise the minimum obligations imposed upon businesses and employers by the relevant Guernsey enactments and the possible consequences for failing to adhere to the same. It also looks at the general considerations which businesses ought to bear in mind when considering how and for what length of time to keep documents and records. 


The key sources of the various obligations are:

  • Financial services regulations and anti-money laundering/combating terrorist financing ('AML/CFT') legislation, including The Criminal Justice (Proceeds of Crime) (Financial Services Businesses) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations, 2007 (the 'Regulations'), which should be read in conjunction with the Guernsey Financial Services Commission Handbook for Financial Services Businesses on Countering Financial Crime and Terrorist Financing (the 'Handbook');
  • Companies and accounting law including The Companies (Guernsey) Law, 2008 (the 'Companies Law');
  • Data protection law emanating from The Data Protection (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2001 (the 'Data Protection Law'); and
  • Practical considerations relating to document and record management and potential future litigation.  

Generally speaking, by retaining documents for at least 6 years, businesses will ensure that any prescription periods are covered and that the requirements under the various rules and regulations are met.

We set out below a more detailed analysis of the legal requirements and conclude with some key points on risk management and document storage.

Financial Services Regulations and AML/CFT Legislation


Under Regulation 14 of the Regulations Financial Services Businesses ('FSBs'), are required to keep certain documents/records for a prescribed period of time, as summarised in the table below:

See pdf file for table. 

Pursuant to Regulation 14(4)(b), documents and CDD which FSBs are required to keep may be stored in any manner or form provided they are readily retrievable and made available promptly when required, whether by an auditor or an enforcement officer  or some other person where such documents or CDD are requested pursuant to the Regulations.

In addition to the above, FSBs in Guernsey are required, pursuant to section 7 of the Transfer of Funds (Guernsey) Ordinance, 2007, to keep records of any wire transfers for a period of 5 years from the date of the transfer of funds.

There are both criminal and regulatory sanctions for non-compliance.

Criminal Sanctions for Non-Compliance

Under Regulation 17(1), any person who contravenes the requirements under Regulation 14 shall be guilty of an offence and liable:

  • on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment not exceeding a term of 5 years or a fine or both; or
  • on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the Uniform Scale or both.

Body corporates and partnerships (or an unincorporated association other than a partnership) are punishable under paragraphs (2) to (4) of Regulation 17, together with, in the case of a body corporate, any director, manager, secretary (or other similar officer) or member of that body corporate who is proved to have been involved in the commission of the offence or, in the case of a partnership, any partner or a person concerned in the management of control of the association who is proved to be so involved.   

Regulatory Sanctions for Non-Compliance

For regulated and unregulated FSBs, failure to meet the above requirements will be taken into account by the GFSC when considering whether to renew their licence/registration.   

The GFSC also has the power, under section 11D of the Financial Services Commission (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 1987, to impose a discretionary financial penalty of up to £200,0001 where it is satisfied that a licensee, former licensee or relevant officer:

  • has contravened in a material particular a provision of, or made under the 'prescribed laws'; or
  • does not fulfil any of the minimum criteria for licensing specified in the regulatory laws and applicable to the party.

The prescribed laws include the regulatory laws administered by the GFSC, the Regulations (mentioned above) and all other Guernsey AML/CFT legislation (and regulations and rules made under these laws). Financial penalties can therefore be imposed across the range of regulated and supervised activities.

The GFSC may also, where it comes across a suspected or apparent breach of the prescribed laws, refer the matter to Her Majesty's Procureur or directly to the law enforcement agencies – the Guernsey Police or the Guernsey Border Agency. A decision whether to commence an investigation and/or bring criminal charges is a matter solely for H. M. Procureur.

Other Businesses

Similar provisions to those set out above apply to lawyers, accountants and estate agents under the Criminal Justice (Proceeds of Crime) (Legal Professionals, Accountants and Estate Agents) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations, 2008. The maximum penalty for contravention of this legislation is imprisonment for five years or an unlimited fine, or both.

Companies and Accounting Law

Company Records

Under section 228 of the Companies Law, companies are required to keep records of resolutions of members (passed otherwise than at a general meeting), minutes of general meetings and details of any decisions taken by a sole member (in accordance with section 230) for at least 6 years after the date of the resolution, meeting or decision (as appropriate). Where a company fails to comply with this requirement, it is guilty of an offence. As an officer of the company, a director becomes responsible for ensuring these duties are satisfied and could therefore be held personally liable for a breach of these requirements.

Accounting Records

Under The Income Tax (Keeping of Records, etc) (Amendment) Regulations, 2012:

Records must be kept of all amounts received, arising or accruing and from whom they were received, arose or accrued, and the periods to which the amounts relate. Documents which contain or may contain information relevant to any liability to tax to which that person may be subject, or the amount of any such liability, also have to be retained, together with the supporting documents relating to the same, including (without limitation) accounts, contracts, leases, licenses or other agreements, vouchers and receipts.

Documents referred to above must be kept for a period of 6 years, where the documentation relates to the income of a trust or foundation; for 6 years if the person concerned is a legal person (such as a company); and two years in any other case.

In each of these cases, the period for which records have to be retained runs from the end of the year in which the relevant income tax return is submitted, or where no such return is required to be submitted, from the end of the year in which the record or document was created, received or obtained.

A person who fails without reasonable excuse to comply with the above requirement is liable to a penalty of £2,500 or, upon summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the uniform scale (£10,000).

Section 239 of the Companies Law requires accounting records (and, where returns are sent, returns) to be kept by the company for a period of at least 6 years after the date on which they were made. Where a company fails to comply with this requirement, it is guilty of an offence.

Data Protection Law

Under the Data Protection Law, employees can write to their employers to request a copy of the information held about them, as well as a description of why the information has been processed, anyone it may have been passed to or seen by, and the logic involved in any automated decisions. Employers must reply within 60 days and a fee of no more than £10 can be charged by the employer.

As a matter of general prudence, employers should keep records for all members of staff for a minimum of 3 years after the employment ends, partly due to the potential for future litigation (see below). There is also a specific requirement under The Health and Safety at Work (General) (Guernsey) Ordinance, 1987 for employers to make and keep for 3 years a record of any accidents suffered by an employee at work (as set out at section 9 of the Ordinance). Additional employee information which should be kept on record includes:

  • job title;
  • place of work;
  • date of birth;
  • date employment started;
  • Right to Work document reference number; and
  • Right to Work document expiry date, if any.

Personnel records are likely to contain confidential information and 'personal data'. Under the Data Protection Law, 'personal data' means data which relate to a living individual who can be identified – (a) from those data, or (b) from those data and other information which is in the possession of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the data controller, and includes any expression of opinion about the individual and any indication of the intentions of the data controller or any other person in respect of the individual.

The Data Protection Law requires all organisations to take appropriate technical and organisational measures against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data. Serious breaches of the Data Protection Law can lead to criminal prosecution and, on summary conviction, a fine not exceeding £10,000 or, on conviction on indictment, imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Risk Management and Potential Litigation

Potential Litigation

In Guernsey, the prescription period for most claims based on breach of contract or tort is 6 years (with the exception of fatal accident and personal injury cases, which have a 3 year prescription period, hence the requirement for employers to retain employee records for a minimum of 3 years).

It is therefore sensible for businesses to keep documents which may be relevant in litigation for at least 6 years, although there may be circumstances where it is not only wise, but it may also be required, for one reason or another, to keep documents longer than this. Businesses are required to exercise their own judgment in such matters.

For instance, most original deeds should be kept indefinitely - and certainly for at least 20 years from the date on which they were executed, for example on account of the prescription period for actions in respect of land being 20 years. Certain types of action against trustees have no prescription period.

Document Storage

When considering where, and how, documents are to be stored, the following considerations are likely to be relevant:

  • Space/cost - physical documents take up a great deal of space, and the cost of retaining physical documents either on site or off site can be significant. One alternative is to convert hard copy documents (other than original deeds) into soft copy documents which can be stored on mass storage devices or on offsite servers. However, businesses should consider whether keeping documents other than in original paper form could pose legal evidential difficulties, for example, in civil court proceedings. Regard should also be had to possible data protection issues (as outlined below) and also how quickly documents can be accessed/retrieved given the requirement under the Regulations for certain documents to be readily retrievable and made available to law enforcement officers as and when required;
  • Security from fire and/or theft - certain documents (such as original deeds) should be kept in a safe and secure location, such as a locked safe;
  • Confidentiality and data protection, particularly as regards sensitive information including 'personal data' - in view of the potential consequences under the Data Protection Law, sufficient consideration must be given to whether a proposed storage location and provider is appropriate. Cloud storage for instance offers certain cost and productivity gains but could be a security nightmare unless data is adequately encrypted.

Citations and References


1 The former Policy Council has recommended that the maximum level of fine available to the GFSC for licensees and former licensees (other than personal fiduciary licensees) be increased from the current level of £200,000 to £4,000,000 (with any fine over £300,000 being limited to a maximum of 10% of the turnover of the licensee/former licensee in question and the maximum level of fine for relevant officers and personal fiduciary licensees be increased to £400,000 (with an additional criterion required to be considered by the GFSC being the emoluments arising in respect of the relevant officer's (or personal fiduciary licensee's) position) - see Billet D'Etat V of 2016.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Alasdair Davidson
Rebecca Hale
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions