Academies financial returns

Guide and links to further information about financial returns academy trusts submit to the Education and Skills Funding Agency.


Academy trusts are required by their funding agreements to submit financial returns to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

The financial accountability and assurance framework is set out in the Academies Financial Handbook and the detailed guide to academies financial assurance.

Submit your budget forecast

Academy trusts must monitor and manage their own budgets to ensure effective financial oversight of public funds. ESFA reviews academy trusts’ budget projections and actual results to assess financial health and to ensure the estimates of the future funding requirements for academies are accurate.

ESFA requires academy trusts to submit their budget forecast return outturn (BFRO) in May each year and budget forecast return (BFR) in July each year.

You can read detailed guidance about the academies budget forecast return and link to the online form.

New academy trusts are required to submit budget forecast information by 6 weeks after receiving their final funding letter using either the BFR or BFRO form available at that time. They will then follow the regular cycle of BFR and BFRO submissions.

Budget forecast returns from multi-academy trusts (MATs)

A multi-academy trust (MAT) preparing aggregated financial statements comprising more than one academy must submit a consolidated BFR and BFRO aggregating the budgets of each of its academies.

If a new academy joins the MAT on or after the July BFR deadline but before the subsequent May BFRO deadline, a separate return for that academy is required.

Submit your land and buildings collection tool

The land and building collection tool (LBCT) is a return that requires each trusts to tell us how it occupies the land it uses and what buildings are on each parcel of land. It also asks for supporting documentation such as leaseholds, annotated site plans and tenancy agreements. This information enables ESFA to report full information on the land and buildings held across the sector in the academies consolidated annual report and accounts.

You can read the guide to completing the academies land and building collection tool and use a workbook to help you prepare.

New academy trusts that open a school 31 August, must complete both LBCT and the academy land and buildings valuation return for that year.

Submit your accounts return

Academy trust accounting officers are required to submit to ESFA an annual accounts return in January each year.

The accounts return is used for the academies consolidated annual report and accounts, which consolidates academy trust accounts for the year ending 31 August each year rather than as part of ESFA’s and DfE’s annual accounts, which are based on year ending 31 March each year.

The accounts return also helps DfE to produce benchmarking data that is comparable with other academies and with maintained schools.

Academy trusts need to commission from their external auditors an assurance report on the preparation of the accounts return. The auditor’s report is the final step of the online form submission process.

All academy trusts with a funding agreement with the Secretary of State and an open academy at any point during the accounting period to the end of August each year must complete the accounts return.

Deloitte carries out the validation of financial returns on ESFA’s behalf, and may need to email your academy trust with queries about the data you supplied. ESFA will publish information about the validation tests, thresholds and standard questions Deloitte uses in the workbook for the accounts return.

The accounts return is separate to the requirement for academy trusts to produce audited financial statements.

Submit your financial statements

Academy trusts must submit to ESFA audited accounts for the period ending 31 August each year by 31 December, using the Academies Accounts Direction as a reference pack.

You can read information about how to submit your financial statements.

Additionally, you must publish your accounts on your academy trust’s website as soon as possible after approval by the trustees, but by no later than 31 January each year.

You must also file these accounts with Companies House within 9 months of the end of the accounting period. For most trusts, this will be 31 May.

Submit your land and buildings valuation return

New academies should complete the land and buildings valuation online form within 6 weeks of opening. This allows DfE to produce desktop valuations of the land and buildings of all new academies. ESFA will send academies that opened in the year between 1 September and 31 August a copy of the desktop valuation in the following January. The copy is for information only.

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Published 11 March 2014
Last updated 28 February 2018 + show all updates
  1. Updated information about academy trusts budget forecast returns.
  2. Updated with a link to information about submitting academy trusts 2016 to 2017 financial statements.
  3. Updated the link to the new page for the academies accounts return.
  4. Updated to add a link to the guide to completing the academies land and buildings collection tool.
  5. Updated information adding information about the land and building collection tool and a link to the budget forecast return online form.
  6. Updated information about arrangements for the academies budget forecast returns.
  7. Updated information about financial returns for 2015 to 2016.
  8. The Education Funding Agency has updated the page with information on how to register for the 2 December 2015 webinar for academies on completing the August accounts return.
  9. The Education Funding Agency has updated this page to confirm academy trusts no longer need to complete an annual value for money form by 31 December. Instead, trusts must complete an assessment of value for money within the governance statement in their annual financial statements.
  10. The Education Funding Agency has updated the page to include a link to the guide to completing academy trusts' 2015 to 2016 budget forecast returns. The online form academy trusts must use to submit the return will be published in June.
  11. The Education Funding Agency (EFA) has updated the guide to financial returns to include reference to the March 2015 accounts return, which academy trusts in scope must submit to EFA by 31 May 2015.
  12. Links added to newly-published March accounts return and Deloitte validation tests
  13. First published.