The Department for Education’s (DfE) chart of accounts was introduced in spring 2019 and, although not compulsory to implement, it has been encouraged since being released. More recently it has received greater emphasis, with the DfE now expecting trusts to adopt it.
The chart of accounts is a standardised general ledger that means all academies that adopt it have the same nominal codes and reporting categories.
Whilst it will take some time and effort to implement the chart of accounts, once adopted there are many benefits:
- All academies within a trust can have the same nominal codes without being on the same accounting software.
- Using the chart of accounts reduces subjectivity across the academy sector and improves the ability to compare information from different academies.
- The general ledger information will map directly to the accounts return and budget forecast returns allowing direct input of balances.
- It allows automation of up to 80% of the accounts return, leaving fewer areas to manually input
The nominals set out in the chart of accounts are designed to cover the needs of most academy trusts and, therefore only codes that are relevant need to be used by each academy. Each code ends in zero to allow for up to nine specific accounts to be added per DfE nominal. For DfE reporting purposes these additional nominals will be recognised under the main DfE code heading.
Further guidance on each income and expenditure nominal account code can be found here: Academies chart of accounts: account code guidance.
The DfE advise to not change the name of any existing nominals in the chart of accounts. If an academy believes there is an account missing, the DfE can be informed and if there are enough requests for the same addition, this will be created. Furthermore, the DfE will create new codes when there is a change in accounting standard or reporting requirements.
There are two ways the chart of accounts can be adopted:
- The DfE chart of account nominal codes can be used in the existing general ledger which will then map directly to the accounts return.
- Existing nominal codes can continue to be used in the general ledger with the FMS software supplier enabling mapping functionality to the DfE chart of accounts and subsequently the accounts return.
The option of how to adopt the DfE chart of accounts will depend on the FMS software that is being used - it is expected that 88% of FMS providers will be able to offer automation for the 2021-22 financial year.
For more information on automation see the following from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).
The DfE is also currently testing the automation of the preparation of financial statements from the information provided in the accounts return. The intention is to release this more widely in autumn 2022 with the aim to have both documents prepared more efficiently and at the same time.
For more information on the chart of accounts and accounting for academies, please contact Ashleigh Child on 01242 680000 or email@example.com