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					Unit 7 guidance notes

Preparing reports and returns

(May 2008)

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This unit consists of three elements.
1. Element 7.1 is concerned with the preparation of reports for internal use. The reports in question
    are those that assist managers in evaluating and controlling organisational performance.
2. Element 7.2 is concerned with reporting to external bodies. The information may be required in
    accordance with industry regulation, or in pursuit of grant finance, or simply to facilitate information
    gathering by bodies such as trade associations, or for inter firm comparison.
3. Element 7.3 is concerned with the preparation of periodic VAT returns for submission to customs
    and excise.

How do the 2003 standards differ from the 2000 standards?
Apart from stylistic changes, the new standards are almost the same for this unit as they were
previously. The one slight technical change is in item 13 of the knowledge and understanding, where
the words ‘using spreadsheets’ have been added to ‘tabulation of accounting and other quantitative

Guidance on element 7.1 – prepare periodic
performance reports
Performance criteria
A. Information derived from different units of the organisation is consolidated into the appropriate
B. Information derived from different information systems within the organisation is correctly
C. When comparing results over time, an appropriate method that allows for changing price levels is
D. Transactions between separate units of the organisation are accounted for in accordance with the
   organisation’s procedures.
E. Ratios and performance indicators are accurately calculated in accordance with the organisation’s
F. Reports are prepared in the appropriate form and presented to management within required

There is a point that needs emphasising regarding ratio formulas. It is essential that students are not
taught that a single formula is the correct one to use when calculating a ratio. The concepts underlying
the ratios need to be understood - for example, the return on capital employed. It must also be
understood that both return and capital employed can be measured in different ways, and the different
ratios thus calculated may be used for different purposes at different times. Specific ratios are quoted
for the first time in the range statement.

Guidance on element 7.2 – prepare reports and returns
for outside agencies
Performance criteria
A. Relevant information is identified, collated and presented in accordance with the conventions and
   definitions used by outside agencies.
B. Calculations of ratios and performance indicators are accurate.
C. Authorisation for the despatch of completed reports and returns is sought from the appropriate
D. Reports and returns are presented in accordance with outside agencies’ requirements and
In element 7.2, there is a performance criterion ‘authorisation for the despatch of completed reports
and returns is sought from the appropriate person’. In practice, of course, it is an important part of the
Accounting Technician’s task to observe defined authorisation procedures in this area as in others.
Skills testing should incorporate this requirement in the tasks to be performed.

Guidance on element 7.3 – prepare VAT returns
Performance criteria
A. VAT returns are correctly completed using data from the appropriate recording systems and are
   submitted within the statutory time limits.
B. Relevant inputs and outputs are correctly identified and calculated.
C. Submissions are made in accordance with current legislation.
D. Guidance is sought from the VAT office when required, in a professional manner.

Range statement
The performance criterion ‘guidance is sought from the VAT office when required, in a professional
manner’ is reinforced by the knowledge and understanding for this element ‘an understanding of the
basis of the relationship between the organisation and the VAT office’. Students should understand
that it is advisable to seek written clarification of doubtful issues, and this is likely to feature as a task
in AAT simulations for the unit.

Under knowledge and understanding for element 7.3 ‘special schemes: annual accounting, cash
accounting, bad debt relief’, students are expected to show a broad understanding of the issues. In
each case, the emphasis is on testing the ability to deal with practical procedures; exact knowledge of
the detailed rules relating to eligibility for these schemes is less important. Similarly, students do not
need to know the VAT rules for imports and exports in detail but should know that exports are normally
zero rated.

Assessment strategy
The unit will be assessed entirely by means of a skills test.

Skills tests are a means of collecting evidence of student’s ability to carry out practical activities and to
operate effectively in the conditions of the workplace to the standards required. Evidence may be
collected at the students place of work or at an approved assessment centre by means of simulations
of workplace activity, or by a combination of these methods.

If the approved assessment centre is a workplace, students may be observed carrying out accounting
activities as part of their normal work routine. Students should collect documentary evidence of the
work they have done, or contributed to, in an accounting portfolio. Evidence collected in a portfolio can
be assessed in addition to observed performance or where it is not possible to assess by observation.

Where the approved assessment centre is a college or training organisation, skills testing will be by
means of a combination of the following:
 documentary evidence of activities carried out at the workplace, collected by the student in an
   accounting portfolio
 realistic simulations of workplace activities. These simulations may take the form of case studies
   and in tray exercises and involve the use of primary documents and reference sources
 projects and assignments designed to assess the Standards of Competence.

Students who are unable to provide workplace evidence will be able to complete the assessment
requirements by the alternative methods listed above.

The AAT has developed a bank of simulations to cover the performance criteria for students who are
unable to provide workplace evidence. These simulations should not be used in isolation, but as part
of an assessment strategy.
Approved assessment centres may devise their own simulations once an example has been approved
for use by the AAT.

Possible assessment methods
The AAT recognises the paramount value of workplace evidence and believes that, where possible,
evidence should be collected in the workplace. It appreciates that this is not a practical prospect for
some students. Equally, where workplace evidence can be gathered, it may not cover all

The AAT regards performance evidence from simulations, case studies, projects and assignments as
an acceptable substitute for performance at work, if they are based on the standards and, as far as
possible, on workplace practice.

There are a number of methods of assessing accounting competence. The list below is not exhaustive,
nor is it prescriptive. Some indication is given on the suitability of each method for assessing particular
aspects of accounting competence, such as analysing information, giving advice or dealing with

Some methods have limited applicability, but others are capable of being expanded to provide
challenging tests of competence.

Performance of an accounting task either in the workplace or by simulation
For example, preparing and processing documents, posting entries, making adjustments, balancing,
calculating, analysing information, etc by manual or computerised processes. This is a suitable
method of assessing basic task competence. Adding supplementary oral questioning may help to
draw out underpinning knowledge and understanding and highlight the student’s ability to deal with
contingencies and unexpected occurrences. The AAT maintains a bank of simulations that aim, as far
as possible; to cover the majority of performance criteria but that will require some supplementary
questioning. Approved assessment centres may devise their own simulations once an example has
been approved for use by the AAT.

General case studies
These are broader than simulations. They include more background information about the system and
business environment, etc. This is a suitable method for assessing the student’s ability to analyse a
system and suggest ways of modifying it, etc. It could take the form of a written report, with or without
the addition of oral or written questions.

Accounting problems/cases
For example, a list of balances that require adjustments and the preparation of final accounts. This is a
suitable method for assessing a student’s understanding of the general principles of accounting as
applied to a particular area or topic.

Preparation of flowcharts/diagrams
To illustrate an actual (or simulated) accounting procedure. This is a suitable method for
demonstrating an understanding of the logic behind a procedure, of controls, and of relationships
between departments and procedures. Questions on the flow chart or diagram can provide evidence
of underpinning knowledge and understanding.

Interpretation of accounting information
The information may be from an actual or simulated situation. The assessment could include non
financial information and written or oral questioning. This is a suitable method for assessing
interpretative competence.

Preparation of written reports on an actual or simulated situation
This is a suitable method for assessing written communication skills.

Analysis of critical incidents, problems encountered and achievements
Reflective analysis can provide evidence of whether an individual is competent or not yet competent.
This is a suitable method for assessing a student’s ability to handle contingencies.
Listing of likely errors
The preparation of a list of the main types of errors likely to occur in an actual or simulated procedure.
This is a suitable method for assessing the range of contingencies likely to be encountered. Oral or
written questioning would be a useful supplement to the list.

Outlining the organisation’s policies, guidelines and regulations
This is a suitable method for assessing performance criteria relating to these aspects of competence.
It also provides evidence of competence in researching information.

Objective tests and short answer questions
These are suitable methods for assessing specific knowledge.

In tray exercises
This is a suitable method for assessing the student’s task management ability as well as technical

Supervisors’ reports
This is a suitable method for assessing general job competence, personal effectiveness, reliability,
accuracy and time management. Reports need to be related specifically to the Standards of

Analysis of work logbooks/diaries
This is a suitable method for assessing personal effectiveness, time management, etc. It may usefully
be supplemented with oral questioning.

Formal written answers to questions
This is a suitable method for assessing knowledge and understanding of the general accounting
environment and its impact on particular units of competence. For example, legal understanding could
be tested by assigning the student a mini case study. This method is also useful for gathering
supplementary evidence across the required range.

Oral questioning
This method may be used in conjunction with others. It may also be used to test knowledge and
understanding across the range of competence, including organisational procedures, methods of
dealing with unusual cases, contingencies and so on.

Simulations and what they will test
The AAT maintains a bank of simulations that aim to assess most of the performance criteria. Each
simulation will be based around a single scenario containing information relevant to all three elements
of the unit. Students will need to select the items of information relevant to each task.

Although a VAT, return may be regarded as an example of ‘reports and returns for outside agencies’,
the preparation of such a return will not be regarded in itself as evidence of competence in element
7.2. Simulations will instead require students to prepare a VAT return in order to satisfy element 7.3,
while requiring a different type (or types) of return in relation to element 7.2. The types of return that
may be required in this context are indicated in the knowledge and understanding included in element

In element 7.1 the term ‘consolidate’ is used not in its technical (group accounts) sense, but in the
sense of amalgamating information, usually by simply adding up figures relating to different divisions.
Thus, there will be no question of students having to calculate minority interests, goodwill on
consolidation or any of the other special techniques associated with group accounts.

The ‘information’ that students are required to consolidate is information relating to costs and revenue
(as specified in the range statement). Typically, this will mean that students are presented with profit
and loss accounts, balance sheets or similar financial statements and are asked to consolidate them
(in the limited sense already described), and then to calculate ratios etc. To cover performance
criterion 7.1D there will invariably be transactions between the organisational units (for example, inter
divisional sales). These will always occur at cost price, so students will not have to deal with
unrealised profit.
Students will always be required to prepare a report on some aspect of the figures presented.
Completely open ended tasks will be avoided. Instead, students will be directed along reasonably
restricted lines. For example, they may be told that certain specific ratios are to be included in the
report, and/or that comment is required on specific ratios or trends, and/or they may be told that the
report is to contain a diagram of a specific type (for example, a bar chart, line graph, pie chart or

In element 7.2, students will usually be required to complete a standard form prepared by an external
agency. The form will always refer to the consolidated figures, never to the figures relating to individual
organisational units. Typical forms that might feature in a simulation include the following (but are not
limited to these):
 a loan application form to be submitted to a bank
 an interfirm comparison form to be submitted to a trade association
 a statistical collection form to be submitted to a government or other regulatory body.

To cover performance criterion 7.2A the form will invariably contain definitions of the ratios and
statistics required. Students must observe these definitions carefully, and should be advised that they
may not coincide with the definitions used in tasks relating to element 7.1. For example, the
organisation may, for its own internal purposes, calculate ROCE in a particular way, and this may be
specified in a task relating to element 7.1. In a later task, relating to element 7.2, students may be
required to calculate ROCE according to a different formula.

In element 7.3, students will invariably be required to complete a VAT return. The information they
need may come from, say, a printout of totals generated by computerised cash book, sales ledger and
purchase ledger systems. There may also be instances where actual invoices or similar documents
(for example, a proforma invoice) are presented, and students will be required to determine whether it
is appropriate to account for the related VAT.

The level of technical understanding students are required to display is specified in the knowledge and
understanding. In relation to point seven of the knowledge and understanding, students will not be
expected to know the detailed rules entitling organisations to use annual accounting or cash
accounting. However, they may be required to understand the effects of these schemes on completion
of the periodic VAT return. In addition, they should be aware of the conditions that must be satisfied
before bad debt relief may be claimed.

With regard to performance criterion 7.3D, students will typically be required to seek guidance from
the VAT office on some aspect of the organisation’s affairs. The point at issue may be something very
simple, or it may be more complicated or obscure. In the former case, the task may require them to
provide a brief explanation, as well as seeking more detailed guidance from the VAT office. In the
latter case, the student will only be required to ask for guidance in an intelligent and professional
manner, not to understand the sometimes very complex provisions of VAT law.

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