We consider multidimensional systems of PDEs of generalized evolution form with t-derivatives of arbitrary order on the left-hand side and with the right-hand side dependent on lower order t-derivatives and arbitrary space derivatives. For such systems we find an explicit necessary condition for the existence of higher conservation laws in terms of the system's symbol. For systems that violate this condition we give an effective upper bound on the order of conservation laws. Using this result, we completely describe conservation laws for viscous transonic equations, for the Brusselator model and the Belousov–Zhabotinskii system. To achieve this, we solve over an arbitrary field the matrix equations SA = AtS and SA = −AtS for a quadratic matrix A and its transpose At, which may be of independent interest.