Legal Admissibility of Scanned Documents
Our advisors are regularly asked if scanned documents are legally admissible. To answer this question we will need to start with the most relevant point of law. Companies House made the following statement in relation to the way information they hold may be used in evidence:
“If a document is admissible in evidence, then an electronic image of that document may be treated as secondary evidence in the same manner as a photocopy or a microfiche image. It will be subject to the provisions regarding authentication contained in the Civil Evidence Act 1995 in England and Wales and the Civil Evidence Act (Scotland) 1988 in Scotland.”
The British Standards Institute (BSI) has recently introduced BS 10008:2008 Evidential weight and legal admissibility of electronic information. This standard covers the scope of all three parts of the more widely recognised Code of Practice (BIP 0008-1, BIP 0008-2, BIP 0008-3), first published in the late ’90s.
By complying with BS 10008 the BSI website says:
“… it is anticipated that the evidential weight of electronic information transferred to and/or managed by a corporate body will be maximised, by ensuring its trustworthiness and reliability.”
The BIP 0008 Code of Practice provides a set of “good practice” principles that, if followed, will maximise the chances of electronic documents and scanned images being accepted as evidence by the courts.
Therefore our answer to the legal admissibility question is “probably”! We are unaware of a test case, however we do know you will maximise your chances if the storage and scanning is conducted in accordance with the British Standards. We recommend organisations consult a lawyer as each application could be different.
DocumentScanning.net provides a document scanning service that uses the principles of “good practice” defined in the Code of Practice. It needs to be understood however, “good practice” starts when the document is created, therefore if legal admissibility is an issue, we urge you to take a look at these standards straight away.
Our scanning bureau’s legal admissibility service uses various technological and procedural methods to ensure we maximise confidence. These measures include double keying indexes, IT security and auditable process records. Please call for further details.
Phone 0800 197 2804 or click on the Live Chat Option to talk to an online advisor.
HM Revenue and Customs
In general scanned documents are acceptable however we recommend you take guidance from your local tax advisor as it can vary from industry to industry.
In 2007 the HMRC issued a notice on issuing, receiving and storing VAT invoices in an electronic format. Within the notice, under ‘Controls on the storage of electronic invoices’, the following statements are made:
- be able to guarantee the authenticity and the integrity of the content of your source documents throughout the storage period by electronic or procedural means, and store all the data related to your invoices; and
- store your invoices in a readable format. You must readily be able to recreate the invoice information as at the time of its original transmission. And you must keep history files so that you can find the appropriate details from any particular time in the past if you are asked to do so by a visiting officer.
This also applies to scanned images of paper documents used and stored as electronic records for VAT purposes.
VAT invoices must still be stored for 6 years although the notice does say if this is causing you an undue burden, contact your National Advisor.