A Look at the ASB’s New Audit Report
Recently, the AICPA Auditing Standards Board issued a suite of standards that effect the Auditor’s Report. It places the auditor’s opinion at the front of the audit report and strengthens the transparency of the auditor’s opinion, clarifies responsibilities, and otherwise strengthens the audit process.
Some of the notable changes include:
- Moving the opinion closer to the top.
- Adding a statement regarding auditor independence.
- Enhancing the focus on both management and the auditor responsibilities related to an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern.
- Incorporating a description of reasonable assurance and materiality.
- Including language which describes other required auditor communications.
Example of the New Auditor Report
While the content of an organization’s report letter will vary due to specific circumstances, an example of the new report letter is shown below.
Opinion [The opinion paragraph has moved to the beginning of the report.]
We have audited the financial statements of ABC Company, which comprise the balance sheets as of December 31, 20X1 and 20X0, and the related statements of income, changes in stockholders’ equity, and cash flows for the years then ended, and the related notes to the financial statements.
In our opinion, the accompanying financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of ABC Company as of December 31, 20X1 and 20X0, and the results of its operations and its cash flows for the years then ended in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.
Basis for Opinion [With the opinion up front, the basis logically follows next.]
We conducted our audits in accordance with auditing standards generally accepted in the United States of America (GAAS). Our responsibilities under those standards are further described in the Auditor’s Responsibilities for the Audit of the Financial Statements section of our report. We are required to be independent of ABC Company and to meet our other ethical responsibilities, in accordance with the relevant ethical requirements relating to our audits. We believe that the audit evidence we have obtained is sufficient and appropriate to provide a basis for our audit opinion.
Key Audit Matters [This optional segment is based upon the clients request to include, is new and is reported after the Basis for Opinion.]
Key audit matters [KAM] are those matters that were communicated with those charged with governance and that, in our professional judgment, were of most significance in our audit of the financial statements for the current period. These matters were addressed in the context of our audit of the financial statements as a whole, and in forming our opinion thereon, and we do not provide a separate opinion on these matters.
[Description of each key audit matter in accordance with section AU-C 701]
Responsibilities of Management for the Financial Statements [This section is essentially the same but specifically mentions ability to continue as a going concern.]
Management is responsible for the preparation and fair presentation of the financial statements in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America, and for the design, implementation, and maintenance of internal control relevant to the preparation and fair presentation of financial statements that are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error.
In preparing the financial statements, management is required to evaluate whether there are conditions or events, considered in the aggregate, that raise substantial doubt about ABC Company’s ability to continue as a going concern for [insert the time period set by the applicable financial reporting framework].
Auditor’s Responsibilities for the Audit of the Financial Statements [This section is essentially the same but specifically mentions the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern.]
Our objectives are to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements as a whole are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error, and to issue an auditor’s report that includes our opinion. Reasonable assurance is a high level of assurance, but not absolute assurance, and therefore is not a guarantee that an audit conducted in accordance with Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS) will always detect a material misstatement when it exists. The risk of not detecting a material misstatement resulting from fraud is higher than for one resulting from error, as fraud may involve collusion, forgery, intentional omissions, misrepresentations, or the override of internal control. Misstatements are considered material if, individually or in the aggregate, they could reasonably be expected to influence the economic decisions of users made on the basis of these financial statements.
In performing an audit in accordance with GAAS, we:
- Exercise professional judgment and maintain professional skepticism throughout the audit.
- Identify and assess the risks of material misstatement of the financial statements, whether due to fraud or error, and design and perform audit procedures responsive to those risks. Such procedures include examining, on a test basis, evidence regarding the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements.
- Obtain an understanding of internal control relevant to the audit in order to design audit procedures that are appropriate in the circumstances, but not for the purpose of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of ABC Company’s internal control. Accordingly, no such opinion is expressed. (In circumstances in which the auditor also has a responsibility to express an opinion on the effectiveness of internal control in conjunction with the audit of the financial statements, omit the following: “but not for the purpose of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of ABC Company’s internal control. Accordingly, no such opinion is expressed.)”
- Evaluate the appropriateness of accounting policies used and the reasonableness of significant accounting estimates made by management, as well as evaluate the overall presentation of the financial statements.
- Conclude whether, in our judgment, there are conditions or events, considered in the aggregate, that raise substantial doubt about ABC Company’s ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time.
We are required to communicate with those charged with governance regarding, among other matters, the planned scope and timing of the audit, significant audit findings, and certain internal control—related matters that we identified during the audit.
[Signature of the auditor’s firm]
[City and state where the auditor’s report is issued]
[Date of the auditor’s report]
Since 1974, our trusted advisors have partnered with nonprofit organizations to navigate every step of the financial journey. At Dugan & Lopatka, our CPAs and consultants are always on the cutting edge of changes in the nonprofit sector. We understand the challenges you face—the special accounting, auditing and reporting requirements of your organization—and we use our deep expertise to deliver exceptional service tailored to your needs.