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Destroying Records

Destroying Records Indiana Archives and Records Administration

Properly disposing of records is essential to maintaining effective records systems, but records should NOT be destroyed without full and formal authorization beforehand. Understanding the steps involved with, and consequences of, disposition and destruction will help ensure disposal actions are performed appropriately and in keeping with Indiana requirements.

Records Destruction for County and Local Governments

Complete instructions for this process may be found in the County/Local Records Custodian Handbook.

Records Destruction for State Government

When a retention schedule indicates that the records it governs are due to be destroyed:

  • a state agency has two options for records stored within the agency:
    • with approval from the agency Records Coordinator, staff can destroy the records in-house, notifying the Records Center of this action with a Records Disposition Notification (SF 16)
    • the agency Records Coordinator can send a Records Disposition Notification (SF 16) to the Records Center with the "Destruction Request"  section completed in addition to the Agency and Records Information sections..
  • if the records are already being stored at the Records Center, their staff will initiate and manage this process for you.

The preferred method of destruction for most records is recycling. According to IC 5–15–5.1–13, however, confidential records must be destroyed in such a manner that they cannot be “read, interpreted, or reconstructed.” The Records Center can destroy both ordinary and confidential records in the approved manner.

Whether agencies decide to destroy records in-house or at the Records Center, extreme caution should be exercised as destroyed records cannot be recovered. Please make sure that the criteria specified in the retention schedule are met before initiating the process. It's also important to double-check that the records are approved for destruction, rather than transfer to the Indiana State Archives, which has its own separate process.

While this page gives a general overview, for more complete details on all stages of the records destruction process, you should consult the Records Center Handbook for Agency Staff.

Calculating When Records are Eligible for Destruction

To calculate the date records are eligible for destruction, start with the month/year date of the latest records, then add the period specified in the retention schedule, plus one month. For example, General Correspondence (GRADM–4 on the General Retention Schedule), can be destroyed after three (3) years. If the latest correspondence is from March, 2014, then the records may be destroyed in April, 2017.

Records Disposition Notification form (SF 16)

To initiate the destruction of records, complete a Records Disposition Notification form (SF 16).  Retention schedules grant agencies the authority to destroy records after the specified period; it is not necessary to obtain permission from the Archives and Records Administration each time scheduled records are due for destruction. It is necessary to notify the Administration that the records were destroyed, in order to be able to satisfy any later request for an audit trail.

Complete all required entries on the Records Disposition Notification form, especially those that note the dates of the records and the date they are eligible for destruction. It is extremely important to use the record-series title and record-series number exactly as they appear on the retention schedule, since it may be necessary to establish at a later date that the records were destroyed legally. The Disposition Notification must be signed and dated by the agency’s records coordinator.

After completing the form, retain a photocopy for your records, then send the form itself to the Records Center for review and processing. If you have already destroyed the records, the Records Center will file the notification; if the records are to be destroyed by the Records Center staff, you will receive another copy of the notification once this has been accomplished.

Destruction of Records by the Records Center

To ask the Records Center to pick up and destroy paper records, complete the Records Disposition Notification form as described in the Records Center Handbook for Agency Staff.

For the destruction date, use the date at which the records became eligible for destruction, even if that date has already passed. If the records are duplicates (and thus non-record material that can be destroyed at any time), write "Copies" or "Duplicates" next to the Record Series Title, and use either today's date or "Immediate" for the destruction date.

Check Yes in the box labeled "Request Destruction by Records Center?" and send the completed form to the Records Center. The Records Center staff will arrange to pick up the records from the agency.

To prepare records for destruction by the Records Center, place these records in properly labeled, one-cubic-foot boxes. Unless instructed otherwise, it is not necessary to segregate colored paper, file folders, or other material from files before loading records into boxes.

To avoid confusion, all records picked up for destruction by the Records Center staff must have fully-completed box labels  - the information should come from the Records Retention Schedule, just as if you were preparing them for storage.

Electronic Media Destruction

State agencies wishing to destroy electronic media may do so through IARA's Electronic Media Destruction Program. To begin the process, please complete and submit a SF 16 - Records Disposition Notification to IARA as outlined on the form. Electronic media should be boxed separately from any paper records for pick-up. Any and all records contained on electronic media must have reached the end of their scheduled retention period(s) before the media may be approved for destruction. If you have questions about electronic records or media, you may contact

Please note that the destruction of State-owned computer hardware undergoing PC Refresh is managed by the Indiana Office of Technology (IOT) and is subject to IOT's PC Removal Policy (12-02). IARA does not accept these materials.

For more information about IARA's Electronic Media Destruction Program, please contact:

Meaghan Fukunaga
Deputy Director, Electronic Records