The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board adopted a new auditor reporting standard that will make the auditor’s report more relevant to investors by requiring more information about the audit.
The standard includes the communication of critical audit matters (CAMs), which will inform investors and other financial statement users of matters arising from the audit that required especially challenging, subjective, or complex auditor judgment, and how the auditor responded to those matters.
Details of the New Standard
The final standard retains the pass/fail opinion of the existing auditor’s report but makes significant changes to the auditor’s report.
Critical audit matters
The new standard requires the auditor to communicate in the auditor’s report any critical audit matters arising from the current period’s audit of the financial statements, or state that the auditor determined that there were no critical audit matters.
A CAM is defined as a matter that was communicated or required to be communicated to the audit committee and that:
1. relates to accounts or disclosures that are material to the financial statements, and,
2. involved especially challenging, subjective, or complex auditor judgment.
When determining whether a matter involved especially challenging, subjective, or complex auditor judgment, the auditor takes into account certain factors, including the auditor’s assessment of the risks of material misstatement.
The communication of each CAM in the auditor’s report includes:
1. identification of the CAM;
2. description of the principal considerations that led the auditor to determine that the matter was a CAM;
3. description of how the CAM was addressed in the audit; and,
4. reference to the relevant financial statement accounts or disclosures.
Additional Improvements to the Auditor’s Report
The final standard also includes a number of other improvements to the auditor’s report that are primarily intended to clarify the auditor’s role and responsibilities related to the audit, provide additional information about the auditor, and make the auditor’s report easier to read:
– Auditor tenure — The auditor’s report will include a statement disclosing the year in which the auditor began serving consecutively as the company’s auditor;
– Independence — The auditor’s report also will include a statement that the auditor is required to be independent;Enhancements to basic elements — Certain standardized language in the auditor’s report has been changed, including adding the phrase, “whether due to error or fraud,” when describing the auditor’s responsibility under PCAOB standards to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatements
– Standardized form of the auditor’s report — The opinion will appear in the first section of the auditor’s report. Section titles have been added to guide the reader; and,
– Addressees — The auditor’s report will be addressed to the company’s shareholders and board of directors or equivalents (additional addressees also are permitted).
The Board intends to monitor the results of implementation, including consideration of any unintended consequences.
The final standard applies to audits conducted under PCAOB standards. Communication of CAMs is not required for audits of brokers and dealers; investment companies other than business development companies; employee stock purchase, savings, and similar plans; and emerging growth companies.
The Board is adopting a phased approach to the effective dates for the new requirements to provide accounting firms, companies, and audit committees more time to prepare for implementation of the critical audit matter requirements, which are expected to require more effort to implement than the additional improvements to the auditor’s report. Subject to approval by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the final standard and amendments will take effect as follows:
All provisions other than those related to critical audit matters will take effect for audits for fiscal years ending on or after December 15, 2017; and,
Provisions related to critical audit matters will take effect for audits for fiscal years ending on or after June 30, 2019, for large accelerated filers; and for fiscal years ending on or after December 15, 2020, for all other companies to which the requirements apply.
Auditors may elect to comply before the effective date, at any point after SEC approval of the final standard, pending SEC consideration.
In 2008, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession issued its final report recommending, among other things, that the PCAOB “consider improvements to the auditor’s standard reporting model.”
In 2010 and 2011, PCAOB staff conducted outreach to investors, auditors, preparers of financial statements, audit committee members, and other interested parties to seek their views on potential changes to the auditor’s report.
In March 2011, the staff presented its findings to the Board at an open meeting.
In June 2011, the Board issued a concept release to seek public comment on potential changes to the auditor’s reporting model. The Board received 155 comment letters.
In September 2011, the Board held a public meeting to obtain insight from a diverse group of investors and other financial statement users, preparers of financial statements, audit committee members, and auditors on the alternatives presented in the concept release.
In August 2013, the Board proposed for public comment the auditor reporting standard that would have required auditors to include a discussion of critical audit matters specific to the audit. The Board received 248 comment letters.
In April 2014, the Board held a public meeting to discuss the proposed standard and comments received and obtain further input on the 2013 proposal.
In May 2016, the Board reproposed for public comment the auditor reporting standard. The Board received 88 comment letters.
Documents associated with the auditor’s reporting standard-setting project can be found on the PCAOB website under Docket 034.
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