Protecting the public purse

Electronic annual returns (eAR)

2014 Electronic annual return forms for local councils, internal drainage boards and small bodies in England

The electronic annual return (eAR) for the financial year ended 31 March 2014 has been issued by the Joint Practitioners Advisory Group (JPAG*) for use by local councils (parish and town councils and parish meetings) and internal drainage boards on England. Other small local public bodies in England preparing accounts subject to Audit Commission limited assurance audit may also use the eAR.

You must always print the eAR and, once completed and approved, post it to your external auditor with any additional information required. You cannot send the eAR electronically. You will not be able to save electronically a completed eAR.

* JPAG is the sector-led standard setting body responsible for issuing proper accounting practices guidance for local councils, internal drainage boards and certain other small local public bodies in England in the form of Practitioners’ Guides. The Practitioners’ Guide for local councils in England is published jointly by the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) and is available for free download from their respective websites. For internal Drainage Boards in England, the Practitioners’ Guide is published by the Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA) and it too is available for download from their website.
  1. Getting started with electronic annual returns

    1. Decide to complete either the paper version of the annual return sent to you by your appointed auditor or an electronic annual return. You must not complete both.
    2. Print a copy of the eAR ready for review by internal audit and approval by members. To avoid accidental duplication, you are unable to save a copy electronically or to send a completed eAR by email.
    3. To download the relevant eAR for your body, first select an eAR from the choices below. Highlight the eAR you need and download by right clicking your mouse or keyboard and selecting save target as
    4. Follow the guidance on page 1 of the eAR and the general guidance on completing annual returns on page 6.
    5. Complete the highlighted fields in Sections 1, 2 and 4 online. Click the Highlight Existing Fields icon at top right of the page to see the fields you may complete electronically.
    6. Once you have completed as much of the eAR as you can, or wish to, your next step is to print a copy. You must do this to progress the completion and approval process. Colour printing is preferred but not required.
    7. Once you have fully completed sections 1, 2 and 4 of the eAR, a full meeting of your body must approve the annual return.
    8. Ideally, the accountable body should approve the eAR before the beginning of the statutory inspection period for the exercise of electors rights. Approval must occur before 30 June 2014.
  2. Notes for online completion of your electronic annual return

    1. Add the name of your body in Sections 1, 2 and 4.
    2. Fill in the highlighted data cells in Sections 1 and 2.
    3. In Section1, enter positive numbers only. Do not use a minus (-) sign or brackets (). When you start to fill Section1 of the eAR you will note each section comes with a zero (0) in each cell. If you have no entry for a cell, leave the zero. If you do have an entry, remove the zero before entering your number (click in the cell and press backspace).
    4. Numbers in cells in Section 1 will be automatically right justified and comma separated at the thousands. Only enter figures in whole rounded pounds. Do not try to add pence.
    5. Check the accuracy of your arithmetic after entry. The eAR does not balance the cells automatically. See also section 3 below.
    6. Unlike the paper version, the pages of the eAR will print separately. You may use two-sided printing to save paper. Keep all six pages (or three pages if using double-sided printing) together. You can print as many copies of the eAR as you wish but you will not be able to save your completed eAR electronically.
  3. Consistency checks for your electronic annual return

    1. The eAR has no built-in or automatic balancing. You must check that the figures in Section 1 of the eAR add up and balance, and that they are internally consistent.
    2. Check that:
      • Carry forward (Box 7 AR 2011) equals brought forward (Box 1 AR 2012
      • The sum of Boxes (1+2+3) _ Boxes (4+5+6) equals Box 7
      • Box 7 equals (Box 8 plus debtors minus creditors). If you are accounting on a receipts and payments basis, Box 7 should always equal Box 8
      • If there are values in Box(es) 10, there should be values in Box(es) 5
      • If Box(es) 3 include loans received in the year, there should be a matching increase in Box(es) 10
      • If the total in Box(es) 6 includes any capital expenditure, Box(es) 9 should also increase
    3. Provide your auditor with an explanation of variance for any of the consistency checks in 3.2 above.

If you have any questions or queries about completing the annual return please refer to your Practitioners Guide.