Category Archives for "Preparation, Compilation & Review"

AR-C 90 review engagements
Sep 14

AR-C 90: Definitive Guide to Review Engagements

By Charles Hall | Preparation, Compilation & Review

Review engagements provide limited assurance using AR-C 90, Review of Financial Statements. And these engagements can be done with much less effort than audits.

So, what are the requirements of a review engagement? When might a review be preferable to an audit? Must the CPA be independent? Can the CPA prepare the financial statements and perform the review engagement? Can a special purpose reporting framework be used? Who might desire a review report (rather than an audit or a compilation report)?

I'll answer these questions below, but, first here's a quick video introduction to the post.

Review Engagement Guidance

The guidance for reviews can be found in AR-C 90, Review of Financial Statements. AR-C 90 is part of  the AICPA's Statements on Standards for Accounting and Reporting Services (SSARS)..

Though this article is long, it's not intended to be comprehensive. It's an overview.

Applicability of AR-C 90

You should perform a review engagement when engaged to do so. If your client asks for this service and you accept, you are engaged.

A review engagement letter should be prepared and signed by the accountant or the accountant’s firm and management or those charged with governance. See engagement letter guidance below.

AR-C 90 Objectives

The objective of the accountant in a review engagement is to provide limited assurance regarding the financial statements. Other historical information such as supplementary information can also be included.

So how does an accountant perform a review engagement? Primarily with inquiries and analytics.

How does the limited assurance in a review engagement compare with compilations and audits?

In a compilation engagement, no assurance is provided. What procedures are employed in a compilation? Primarily, the accountant reads the financial statements for appropriateness. Why perform a compilation rather than a review? Economy and cost. Since procedures are minimal, it's easier to perform a compilation and less costly to the client.

In an audit, the accountant provides a high level of assurance. The accountant performs procedures beyond inquires and analytics such as confirmations. Audit risk assessment and planning requirements are much more rigorous than that of a review. While audits provide a higher level of assurance, they are more time-consuming. Consequently, the additional time raises the cost for the client. This is why reviews are sometimes performed rather than an audit.

Prior to performing a review engagement, make sure all stakeholders will accept this product. Some lenders might require an audit.

Review Reports

A review report is always required in a review engagement.

The standard review report states that no material modifications are necessary for the financial statements to be in accordance with the reporting framework. (See a sample review report below.)

If material misstatements are identified and relate to specific amounts in the financial statements, you will issue a review report with a basis for qualified conclusion paragraph and you'll have a qualified conclusion. See Exhibit C, illustration 5 in AR-C 90 for a sample review report with a departure from GAAP.  If the effects of the departure are determined, they are disclosed in the report. If not known, the paragraph states that the effects have not been determined.  

If misstatements are material and pervasive, an adverse conclusion is appropriate. The review report will also have a basis for adverse conclusion paragraph. See Exhibit C, illustration 7 in AR-C 90 for a sample review report with an adverse conclusion.

Review Financial Statements

The accountant prepares financial statements as directed by management or those charged with governance. The financials should be prepared using an acceptable reporting framework including any of the following:

All of the above bases of accounting, with the exception of GAAP, are referred to as special purpose frameworks. When such a framework is used, a description is required and can be included in:

  • The financial statement titles
  • The notes to the financial statements, or
  • Otherwise on the face of the financial statements

The financial statement should disclose how the special purpose framework differs from generally accepted accounting principles. If, for example, a company uses accelerated depreciation in tax-basis statements, the financial statements should disclose how this method differs from straight-line (the usual GAAP method). 

The review report language changes when a company uses a special purpose reporting framework. See Exhibit C, illustration 3 in AR-90 for a tax-basis review report. 

Which Financial Statements?

Management specifies the financial statements to be prepared. Normally a company desires a balance sheet, an income statement, and a cash flow statement. The accountant can, however, issue just one financial statement (e.g., income statement). 

Who prepares the financial statements? The company or the CPA firm can prepare them.

Can the cash flow statement be omitted? GAAP requires a cash flow statement when a statement of financial condition and an income statement are included. Compilation standards allow for the omission of the GAAP cash flow statement if the omission is noted in the compilation report. Not so in a review engagement. The cash flow statement must be included when GAAP is used.

But is the cash flow statement required when the tax-basis of accounting is used? No, the cash flow statement can be omitted when the financial statements are tax-basis.

Disclosures in Reviewed Financial Statements

What about disclosures? Are they required in a review engagement?

In compilation engagements, disclosures can be omitted. Not so in a review engagement. Full disclosure is required, regardless of the reporting framework.

References to Review Report and Notes

Should a reference to the review report and the notes be included at the bottom of each financial statement page? While not required by the SSARS, it is acceptable to add a reference such as:

  • See Accountant’s Report and accompanying notes
  • See Accountant’s Review Report and accompanying notes, or
  • See Independent Accountant’s Review Report and accompanying notes

Review Engagement Documentation Requirements

The accountant should prepare and retain the following documentation:

  • Engagement letter
  • A copy of the reviewed financial statements 
  • Accountant’s review report 
  • Communications with management and those charged with governance about significant matters arising during the engagement
  • Communications with other accountants that reviewed or audited financial statements of significant components 
  • Emphasis-of-matter or other-matter paragraph communications with management or others
  • The representation letter (see Exhibit B of AR-C 90 for sample wording)
  • Information about how any inconsistencies were addressed when the accountant identified information that was inconsistent with the accountant's findings regarding significant matters affecting the financial statements

The review documentation should be sufficient to enable an experienced accountant, having no previous connection to the engagement to understand:

  • the nature, timing, and extent of the review procedures,
  • the evidence obtained and the accountant's conclusions based on that evidence
  • significant matters and the related conclusions and judgments

Review Engagement Letter

AR-C 80

While it is possible for the accountant to perform only a review and not prepare the financial statements, most review engagement letters will state that the following will be performed by the accountant:

  1. Preparation of the financial statements (a nonattest service)
  2. A review engagement (an attest service)

Since a nonattest service and an attest service are being provided, the accountant will add language to the engagement letter describing the client’s responsibility for the nonattest service. 

See illustrative engagement letters in Exhibit A of AR-C 90.

AICPA independence standards require the accountant to consider whether he is independent when the CPA performs an attest service (e.g., review) and a nonattest service (e.g., preparation of financial statements) for the same client. If management does not possess the skill, knowledge, and experience to oversee the preparation of the financial statements and accept responsibility, the accountant may not be independent.

So, must the accountant be independent? Yes, independence is required in review engagements.

AR-C 90 Review Procedures

The accountant should:

  1. Make inquiries,
  2. Perform analytical procedures, and
  3. Perform other procedures, as appropriate

Direct your procedures to areas with increased risks of material misstatement. An understanding of the entity and the industry in which the entity operates will better enable you to identify potential misstatements.

1. Review Inquiries

AR-90.29 provides a series of inquiries that should be made of management and others. Those questions include matters such as fraud, subsequent events, related party transactions, and litigation. Additionally, once you create your analytical procedures, you may have questions regarding unexpected changes.

The accountant should remain alert for related party transactions outside the normal business course. Inquiries should be made about such transactions. 

2. Review Analytical Procedures

Apply analytical procedures to the numbers. What kind? Well, that depends. What numbers are most important? What numbers are most likely to be misstated? What types of analytics illuminate the client's business? Consideration of such factors will lead you to the right analytics.

Here are examples:

  • Comparing the current year's financial statement numbers with the prior year
  • Comparing the current year trial balance numbers with the prior year
  • Ratios such as debt/equity or current assets/current liabilities or depreciation/total depreciable assets
  • Computing numbers with nonfinancial information such as the number of units sold times the average price 
  • Comparing quarterly revenues by location

As you can see, judgment is required. Moreover, you need to develop expectations before computing the numbers. AR-C 90 says that the expectations should enable you to identify material misstatements. So the expectations have to be precise enough to yield that result. 

Here are the five steps I use:

  1. Develop expectations
  2. Compute the numbers
  3. See if the numbers align with expectations
  4. Follow up with additional inquiries if expectations are not met
  5. Develop a conclusion

I find that many accountants fail to document their expectations. Or if expectations are documented, a second problem occurs: The numbers don't align with the expectation and there's no documented follow-up. If the numbers don't align with expectations, make sure you determine why.

Expectations

How do we develop expectations?

It is helpful to discuss current operations with management before computing your numbers. You want to know, for example, if sales rose during the year or if there were reductions in the workforce. The conversation informs your expectations.

Also, if you've previously worked with the client, you are familiar with their profit margins or debt levels. This prior knowledge informs your expectations.

Finally, you might also read the minutes (if there are any) before computing your numbers.

3. Other Review Procedures

AR-C 90 states that procedures include inquiry, analytics, and other procedures. The third element--other procedures-- is a general category that encompasses reading the financial statements and responding to risks. You might, for example, identify potential misstatements as you perform analytical procedures. If revenues are up 25% but you expected them to be stable, you'll perform additional procedures to see why.

Interestingly (at least to me), AR-C 90.A45 states that you can perform audit procedures in a review engagement. Though your review engagement letter states you are not performing an audit, your review file can include audit procedures. Why would the AICPA provide this latitude? To give you the ability to reach beyond your typical review procedures (inquiry and analytics). You need a basis for the limited assurance you are providing. And in some situations, you may need audit procedures to get you there.

Materiality in Review Engagements

AR-C 90 requires accountants to determine and use materiality. This makes sense given the review report says the following:

Those standards require us to perform procedures to obtain limited assurance as a basis for reporting whether we are aware of any material modifications that should be made to the financial statements for them to be in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

You can't know what a "material modification" is without knowing what materiality is. So, the accountant should use materiality in the planning and conduct of the review engagement. AR-C 90 says the determination of materiality is a matter of professional judgment. 

Review Representation Letter

AR-C 90
 
 
 
 

A signed representation letter is required in all review engagements.

The date of the representation letter will agree with the date of the review report. In no event should the date of the representation letter precede the date of the review report. (The accountant is not required to have physical possession of the letter on the date of the review report. But the accountant should have the signed letter before releasing the financial statements.)

Provide the draft of the financial statements to the client promptly so they can review them and assume responsibility. Thereafter, the client can sign the representation letter.

Additionally, the representation letter should cover all financial statements and all periods in the report.

Exhibit B of AR-90 provides a sample representation letter.

Review Report Sample

The following is a review report sample (sometimes referred to as an accounting review report):

Independent Accountant's Review Report

[Appropriate Addressee]

I (We) have reviewed the accompanying financial statements of XYZ Company, which comprise the balance sheets as of December 31, 20X2 and 20X1, 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. A review includes primarily applying analytical procedures to management's (owners') financial data and making inquiries of company management (owners). A review is substantially less in scope than an audit, the objective of which is the expression of an opinion regarding the financial statements as a whole. Accordingly, I (we) do not express such an opinion.

Management's Responsibility for the Financial Statements

Management (Owners) is (are) responsible for the preparation and fair presentation of these financial statements in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America; this includes 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.

Accountant's Responsibility

My (Our) responsibility is to conduct the review engagements in accordance with Statements on Standards for Accounting and Review Services promulgated by the Accounting and Review Services Committee of the AICPA. Those standards require me (us) to perform procedures to obtain limited assurance as a basis for reporting whether I am (we are) aware of any material modifications that should be made to the financial statements for them to be in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. I (We) believe that the results of my (our) procedures provide a reasonable basis for my (our) conclusion.

We are required to be independent of XYZ Company and to meet our ethical responsibilities, in accordance with the relevant ethical requirements related to our reviews.

Accountant's Conclusion

Based on my (our) reviews, I am (we are) not aware of any material modifications that should be made to the accompanying financial statements in order for them to be in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

[Signature of accounting firm or accountant, as appropriate]

[Accountant's city and state]

[Date of the accountant's review report]

Exhibit C of AR-C 90 provides seven review report illustrations.

Reporting When There are Other Accountants

What are your responsibilities if you are performing the review of a consolidated entity that includes a subsidiary audited or reviewed by another accountant? 

First, obtain and read the subsidiary report.

Second, decide whether to refer to the other accountants in your review report. If reference is made, AR-C 90.122 states the accountant should clearly indicate in the accountant's review report that the accountant used the work of other accountants. The report should also include the magnitude of the portion of the financial statements audited or reviewed by the other accountants." See Illustration 6 in Appendix C of AR-C 90 for sample report language. If you refer to the other accountant, you will state that your conclusion, as it relates to the entity reviewed by the other accountants, is based solely on their report.

Third, regardless of whether you decide to refer to the other accountants, communicate with the other accountants. Determine the following:

  • That the other accountants are familiar with the relevant reporting framework and review or auditing standards, as applicable. 
  • Advise them that you are including the subsidiary's financials in the consolidation and that their report will be relied upon, and when applicable, that the other accountant's report will be referred to in your review report. 
  • Communicate the ethical requirements of the engagement, mainly independence. 
  • And finally, advise them that you are reviewing matters affecting the intercompany eliminations.

Going Concern in Review Engagements

If the reporting framework requires that management evaluate going concern (FASB has such a requirement), then you should perform going concern review procedures. Those procedures include:

  1. Determining whether the going concern basis of accounting is appropriate
  2. Reviewing management's evaluation of whether substantial doubt exists
  3. When there is substantial doubt, reviewing management's plans to mitigate the conditions
  4. Reviewing going concern disclosures

See my article about going concern in relation to FASB standards. 

If the applicable reporting framework does not require management to evaluate going concern but you become aware of conditions or events that raise substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern, do the following:

  1. Ask management if the going concern basis of accounting is appropriate
  2. Ask management about their plans to address the adverse effects of the conditions or events
  3. Review the going concern disclosures to see if they are appropriate

Other Historical Information in Review Engagements

In addition to historical financial statements, AR-C 90 may be applied to the following:

  • Specified elements, accounts, or items of a financial statement, including schedules of:
    • Rents
    • Royalties
    • Profit participation, or
    • Income tax provisions
  • Supplementary information
  • Required supplementary information
  • Tax return information

Review Engagements Conclusion

There you have it. Now you know how to perform a review engagement.

The main purpose of a review is to provide limited assurance in regard to the information. Inquiries and analytics are required. A signed representation letter is also required.

If you desire to issue financial statements without a compilation or review report, consider the use of AR-C 70, Preparation of Financial Statements.

If you desire to issue financial statements without a review report, consider using AR-C 80, Compilation Engagements.

The AICPA provides the full text of AR-C 90 online. You can download the PDF if you like. Once you download the document, you can use control-f to find particular words. I find this useful.

For additional SSARS-related articles see:

Preparation of Financial Statements
Aug 13

AR-C 70: The Definitive Guide to Preparations

By Charles Hall | Preparation, Compilation & Review

Are you aware of the option in the SSARS titled Preparation of Financial Statements (AR-C 70)? Many CPAs still believe the lowest level of service in the SSARS is a compilation, but this is not true. CPAs can and do issue financial statements without a compilation report. Today I provide an in-depth look at AR-70, Preparation of Financial Statements

Preparation of Financial Statements

Preparation of Financial Statements

Guidance

AR-C 70, Preparation of Financial Statements, is the guidance for the preparation of financial statements.

Applicability - AR-C Section 70

AR-C section 70, Preparation of Financial Statements, is applicable when a public accountant is engaged to prepare financial statements or prospective financial information.

This section can also be applied to the preparation of other historical financial information (e.g., schedule of rents).

AR-C 70 does not apply when the accountant prepares financial statements or prospective financial information: 

  • And is engaged to perform an audit, review, or compilation of financial statements
  • Solely for submission to taxing authorities
  • For inclusion in written personal financial plans
  • In conjunction with litigation services that involve pending or potential legal or regulatory proceedings, or 
  • In conjunction with business valuation services

Are there other times when AR-C 70 is not applicable? Yes. The preparation guidance does not apply when the accountant is merely assisting in the preparation of financial statements; such services are considered bookkeeping.

Examples of bookkeeping services include:

  • Preparing or proposing certain adjustments, such as those applicable to deferred income taxes or depreciation
  • Drafting financial statement notes
  • Entering general ledger transactions or processing payments in the client’s accounting software

When AR-C 70 is applicable, certain compliance actions—such as the creation of a signed engagement letter—are required. If the accountant is merely assisting with bookkeeping services, AR-C 70 is not triggered, and compliance with the standard is not necessary.

If the accountant is only entering transactions into a general ledger and making journal entries, he is merely assisting with bookkeeping. Such assistance is often provided in an online bookkeeping software such as QuickBooks. If this is the only service provided, AR-C 70 is not applicable.

If the accountant is engaged to prepare financial statements and performs any of the following, then AR-C 70 applies.

  • The accountant prepares financial statements that are provided to another accountant (another firm) for audit purposes
  • The accountant prepares financial statements separately from a tax return (e.g., the accountant might prepare a tax return that includes financial statements and then—at the client’s request—creates financial statements separately from the return)
  • The accountant uses the client’s general ledger information to prepare financial statements outside of the accounting software (e.g., the accountant places information from a Quickbooks general ledger into Excel and creates financial statements)

As you can see, the preparation standard makes a distinction between:

  • Preparing financial statements (which triggers AR-C 70) and 
  • Merely assisting (which does not trigger AR-C 70)

Are there any other situations where AR-C 70 does not apply? Yes. The AICPA’s Center for Plain English Accounting addressed this question in the following question and answer:

Q: If financial statements are prepared by the accountant as a by-product of another engagement (for example, an engagement to prepare a tax return), is the accountant required to follow section 70 of SSARS No. 21 and include any special disclaimer or “no assurance” statement on those financial statements? 

A: No. The accountant is only required to perform the preparation engagement in accordance with section 70 of SSARS No. 21 when engaged to prepare financial statements. Therefore, because the accountant was not engaged to prepare the financial statements, there is no requirement to include a statement on each page of the financial statements indicating that no assurance is provided on the financial statements.

The author requested that the AICPA define the word engaged. They responded that a client’s request for the preparation of financial statements service is the trigger for being “engaged.” In other words, a client’s request for the preparation of financial statements means we are “engaged,” provided we accept the work. Once the client makes the request, the accountant will create an engagement letter in compliance with AR-C 70.

If the client does not request the preparation of financial statements and the accountant creates the statements as a byproduct of another service (e.g., tax return), he is not subject to the requirements of AR-C 70. 

So when is AR-C 70 applicable? When a public accountant is engaged to prepare financial statements

AR-C 70 Objective

The objective of the accountant is to prepare financial statements in accordance with the chosen reporting framework.

AR-C 70 Reports 

A compilation report from the accountant is not required (and should not be provided) when preparing financial statements under AR-C 70.

Financial Statements

The accountant can prepare financial statements as directed by management or those charged with governance. The financials should be prepared using an acceptable reporting framework such as the following:

  • Cash basis
  • Tax basis
  • Regulatory basis
  • Contractual basis
  • Other basis (as long as the basis uses reasonable, logical criteria that are applied to all material items) 
  • Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)

When preparing financial statements in accordance with a special purpose framework (e.g., tax basis), the accountant is required to include a description of the financial reporting framework either on the face of the financial statements or in a note. Here’s a sample disclosure in a financial statement title: Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Equity—Tax Basis.

Management determines the financial statements to be prepared. Financial statements normally include the following:

  • Balance sheet
  • Income statement
  • Cash flow statement

The accountant can, if so directed by management, create and issue just one financial statement (e.g., income statement). 

The financial statements can be for an annual period or for a shorter or longer period. So, financial statements can be for a fiscal year, quarterly, or monthly, for example.

The accountant should also obtain an understanding of the significant accounting policies to be used in the preparation of the financial statements.

In preparing the financial statement, the accountant may need to assist management with judgements regarding amounts or disclosures. The accountant should discuss these judgments with management. Why? So management can understand and accept responsibility for the financial statements.

Documentation Requirements - AR-C 70

preparation of financial statements

The accountant should prepare and retain the following documentation:

  • Engagement letter (or contract)
  • The financial statements 

Documentation related to significant consultations or professional judgments are to be included in the engagement file. Also, if the accountant departs from a relevant presumptively mandatory requirement, he should document the justification for the departure and how the alternative procedures performed were sufficient to achieve the intent of the requirement. (The SSARSs use the word should to indicate a presumptively mandatory requirement.)

AR-C 70 Engagement Letter

Is an engagement letter required for a preparation service? Yes. Moreover, the letter should be signed by the accountant or the firm and management or those charged with governance. A verbal understanding is not sufficient. Though AR-C 70 does not specify how often the engagement letter should be updated, it is best to do so annually.  

The engagement letter should specify:

  • The objectives of the engagement
  • The responsibilities of management
  • The responsibilities of the accountant
  • The limitations of the preparation engagement
  • Identification of the applicable financial reporting framework 
  • The agreement of management that: 
    • Each page of the financial statements will include a statement that no assurance is provided, or
    • The accountant will issue a disclaimer stating that no assurance is provided
  • Whether the financial statements will:
    • Contain known departures from the applicable reporting framework, and 
    • Whether substantially all disclosures will be omitted

Preparation of Financial Statements - No Report

As noted above, no compilation report will be issued for a preparation service. The preparation service is considered a nonattest, nonassurance service, and no compilation, review, or audit procedures are required.

The accountant will do one of the following:

  1. On each financial statement page (including the related notes), indicate, at a minimum, that “no assurance is provided,” or
  2. Provide a disclaimer (see example below)

If the accountant uses the first option, wording such as the following should be included on each page of the financial statements (including the related notes):

  • No assurance is provided on these financial statements
  • These financial statements have not been subjected to an audit or review or compilation engagement, and no assurance is provided on them, or
  • ABC CPAs prepared these financial statements in accordance with professional standards of the AICPA, and no assurance is provided

Other statements can be used to communicate that no assurance is provided, but the minimum wording must include “No assurance is provided.” The “no assurance” wording is made at management’s discretion, and the accountant’s firm name is not required to be included. The wording is normally placed at the bottom of each page. If the client does not allow the accountant to include such a statement on each page of the financial statements, the accountant should:

  • Issue a disclaimer (see below)
  • Perform a compilation in accordance with AR-C 80, or
  • Withdraw from the engagement

Preparation of Financial Statements Disclaimer

If the disclaimer option is used, AR-C 70 provides the following language:

The accompanying financial statements of XYZ Company as of and for the year ended December 31, 20XX, were not subjected to an audit, review, or compilation engagement by me (us) and I (we) do not express an opinion, a conclusion, nor provide any assurance on them.

[Signature of accounting firm or accountant, as appropriate] 

[Accountant’s city and state]

[Date] 

Though not required, the disclaimer can be placed on firm letterhead. Notice that the disclaimer language above has no disclaimer title. While the standard is silent about providing a title, the accountant may add one. For example, Accountant’s Disclaimer. A salutation is not required, but may be added.

Some accountants prefer to provide a disclaimer on letterhead. Why? Any third party reader can see that the accounting firm is involved in the preparation of the statements and that no assurance is provided. 

A third party may not know that an external accountant was involved in preparing the statements if the “no assurance is provided” legend is used and the firm’s name is not included. Remember, however, it is the client’s decision as to whether the “no assurance” legend is added or a disclaimer is provided.

Independence

Preparation of financial statements is a nonattest, nonassurance service. When an accountant performs only a preparation engagement, consideration of independence is not necessary. 

If an accountant signs client checks and performs bookkeeping services, independence is not required. Moreover, if the accountant prepares financial statements for the same client, independence is not required. Signing checks, bookkeeping, and the preparation of financial statements are all nonattest services.

But what happens if the accountant prepares financial statements and issues a compilation report?

Suppose an accountant issues monthly financial statements for January through November with no compilation report (using the preparation option), but in December issues financial statements with a compilation report. Providing the monthly preparation services and the December compilation service triggers a requirement to consider independence. 

Just remember this for now: Independence is not required for preparation engagements, and there are no requirements to disclose a lack of independence in a preparation engagement.

Omission of Substantially All Disclosures

Can the accountant omit all disclosures (notes to the financial statements) in a preparation engagement? Yes. Alternatively, the accountant can provide selected disclosures or if needed, full disclosure. In short, the accountant can do any of the following:

  1. Omit all disclosures
  2. Provide selected disclosures
  3. Provide full disclosure

Regardless, the engagement letter should describe the level of disclosure to be provided in the financial statements. Also, the omission of substantially all disclosures should be communicated either on the face of the financial statements or in a selected note. There is no provision in the preparation standard to report the omission of disclosures in the accountant’s disclaimer that precedes the financial statements. 

The accountant can communicate the omission of disclosures by including wording such as the following at the bottom of each financial statement page or in a note:

  • Substantially all disclosures required by accounting principles generally accepted in the United States are not included.
  • Substantially all disclosures ordinarily included in financial statements prepared in accordance with the tax-basis of accounting are not included.

The accountant can also communicate the omission of disclosures in the title of the financial statements. For example:

ABC Company

Statement of Income

Substantially All Disclosures Omitted

December 31, 2020

Information Provided is Incomplete or Inaccurate

Deficiencies in the information provided to the accountant should be communicated to management, and the inaccuracy or incompleteness of such information should be corrected. Deficiencies in the information include insufficient records, documents, explanations, and judgments.

Reporting Known Departures from the Applicable Financial Reporting Framework

How should a departure from the applicable financial reporting framework be reported? Discuss the departure with management to see if it can be corrected. If it is not corrected, disclose the departure. How?

A departure from the applicable financial reporting framework should be disclosed either on the face of the financial statements or in a note. If it takes more than a few words to describe the departure, note disclosure may be the better option—you’ll have more room there. There is no provision in the preparation standard to disclose departures in the accountant’s disclaimer that precedes the financial statements.

AR-C 70 Other Historical or Financial Information

In addition to historical financial statements, AR-C 70 may be applied to the following:

  • Specified elements, accounts, or items of a financial statement, including schedules of:
    • Rents
    • Royalties
    • Profit participation, or
    • Income tax provisions
  • Supplementary information
  • Required supplementary information
  • Pro forma financial information

AR-C 70 Prospective Financial Information

prospective financial statements

AR-C 70 can be applied to prospective information.

Prospective financial information is defined as any financial information about the future. 

Prospective financial information can be presented as:

  • A complete set of financial statements, or
  • One or more elements, items, or accounts

If you prepare prospective financial information, the summary of significant assumptions must be included Why? It is considered essential to the user’s understanding of such information.

If you prepare a financial projection, you should not exclude:

  • The identification of hypothetical assumptions, or
  • The description of the limitations on the usefulness of the presentation

AR-C 70 references the AICPA Guide Prospective Financial Information as suitable criteria for the preparation and presentation of prospective financial information.

AR-C 70 Prescribed Forms

Is it permissible to perform a preparation of financial statement engagement with regard to prescribed forms?

Yes. There is nothing in AR-C 70 that prohibits the accountant from performing a preparation engagement with regard to prescribed forms (e.g., bank personal financial statement). However, the accountant is required to follow all of the preparation guidance. Clients may not want to add wording to the prescribed forms such as “no assurance is provided” or “substantially all disclosures are omitted.” As an alternative to adding such wording, the accountant can provide a disclaimer before the prescribed form. 

Selected notes can follow the form if needed. If this option is used, the order of the deliverable is as follows:

  • Disclaimer 
  • Prescribed form 
  • Selected notes

When a bank, credit union, regulatory or governmental agency, or other similar entity designs a prescribed form to meet its needs, there is a presumption that the required information is sufficient. What should be done if the prescribed form conflicts with the applicable basis of accounting? For example, what if the prescribed form requires all numbers to be in compliance with GAAP with the exception of receivables? Follow the form. In effect, the prescribed form is the reporting framework. Report departures from the prescribed form and its related instructions on the face of the financial statements (the form) or in a note. 

Draft Financial Statements

The client may request a draft copy of the financial statements prior to final issuance. To avoid confusion, mark statements with words like:

  • Draft Financial Statements
  • Working Draft
  • Draft - Subject to Change

Preparation of Financial Statements - A Simple Summary

  • AR-C 70 is applicable when the accountant is engaged to prepare financial statements and is not applicable when the accountant is engaged to perform a compilation or if the accountant is merely assisting with bookkeeping
  • The objective of the accountant is to prepare financial statements in accordance with the chosen reporting framework
  • The financial statements can be prepared in accordance with GAAP or a special purpose reporting framework
  • The financial statements can be distributed to third parties (and not just management)
  • The accountant must either:
    • State on each financial statement page that “no assurance is provided,” or
    • Provide a disclaimer
  • Documentation requirements include:
    • The engagement letter, and 
    • The financial statements  
  • An engagement letter must be signed by:
    • The accountant or the accountant’s firm, and
    • Management or those charged with governance
  • No report (e.g., compilation report) is attached to the financial statements
  • Consideration of independence is not required
  • Substantially all disclosures can be omitted 
  • The omission of substantially all disclosures should be:
    • Disclosed on the face of the financial statements, or
    • In a note
  • Selected disclosures can be provided 
  • Departures from the applicable financial reporting framework should be:
    • Disclosed on the face of the financial statements, or
    • In a note
  • A preparation engagement can be applied to historical financial statements and historical information (e.g., specified items of a financial statement).
  • A preparation engagement can be applied to prospective financial information. The summary of significant assumptions must be included.
  • A preparation engagement can be performed in relation to prescribed forms (e.g., bank personal financial statements)
  • Mark draft financial statements with appropriate wording (e.g., Draft Financial Statements)

Also, see my article The Definitive Guide to Compilations.

Differences in Preparation and Compilation Engagements

How do preparation engagements compare to compilations? Here's a video that explains the differences.

Audit workpapers
Jan 21

10 Steps to Better Audit Workpapers

By Charles Hall | Accounting and Auditing , Preparation, Compilation & Review

In this post, I provide ten steps to better audit workpapers. 

Have you ever been insulted by a work paper review note?

Your tickmarks look like something my six-year old created. 

Rather than providing guidance, the comment feels like an assault.

Or maybe as a reviewer you stare at a workpaper and you’re thinking, “what the heck is this?” Your stomach tightens and you say out loud, “I can’t understand this.”

There are ways to create greater audit workpaper clarity.

Audit workpapers

10 Steps to Better Audit Workpapers

Here are ten steps to make your workpapers sparkle.

  1. Timely review. The longer the in-charge waits to review work papers, the harder it is for the staff person to remember what they did and, if needed, to make corrections. Also, consider that the staff person may be reassigned to another job. Therefore, he may not be available to clear the review notes.
  2. Communicate the purpose.

a.  An unclear work paper is like a stone wall. It blocks communication.

b.  State the purpose; for example:

Purpose of Work Paper – To search for unrecorded liabilities as of December 31, 2018. Payments greater than $30,000 made from January 1, 2019, through March 5, 2019, were examined for potential inclusion in accounts payable.

Or:

Purpose of Work Paper – To provide a detail of accounts receivable that agrees with the trial balance; all amounts greater than $20,000 agreed to subsequent receipt.

If the person creating the work paper can’t state the purpose, then maybe there is none. It’s possible that the staff person is trying to copy prior year work that (also) had no purpose.

c.  All work papers should satisfy a part of the audit program (plan). No corresponding audit program step? Then the audit program should be updated to include the step—or maybe the work paper isn’t needed at all.

3.  The preparer should sign off on each workpaper  (so it’s clear who created it).

4. Audit program steps should be signed off as the work is performed (not at the end of the audit–just before review). The audit program should drive the audit process—not the prior year workpapers.

5.  Define tickmarks.

6.  Reference work papers. (If you are paperless, use electronic links.)

7.  Communicate the reason for each journal entry.

The following explanation would not be appropriate:

To adjust to actual.

A better explanation:

To reverse client-prepared journal entry 63 that was made to accrue the September 10, 2018, Carter Hardware invoice for $10,233.

8.   When in doubt, leave it out.

Far too many documents are placed in the audit file simply because the client provided them. Moreover, once the work paper makes its way into the file, auditors get “remove-a-phobia“–that dreaded sense that if the auditor removes the work paper, he may need it later.

If you place those unneeded documents in your audit file and do nothing with them, they may create potential legal issues. I can hear the attorney saying, “Mr. Hall, here is an invoice from your audit file that reflects fraud.”

Again, does the work paper have a purpose?

My suggestion for those in limbo: Place them in a “file 13” stack until you are completely done. Then–once done–destroy them. I place these documents in a recycle bin at the bottom of my file.

9.  Complete forms. Blanks should not appear in completed forms (use N/A where necessary).

10. Always be respectful in providing feedback to staff. It’s too easy to get frustrated and say or write things we shouldn’t. For instance, your audit team is more receptive to:

Consider providing additional detail for your tickmark: For instance–Agreed invoice to cleared check payee and dollar amount.

This goes over better than:

You failed to define your tickmark–again?

Last Remarks

What other ways do you make your audit workpapers sparkle? Comment below.

The AICPA provides a sample workpaper template that you may find helpful. 

You may also be interested in a related post: How to Review Financial Statements.

Also, see Audit Documentation: Peer Review Finding

SSARS 25
Jan 21

SSARS 25: Materiality and Adverse Conclusions

By Charles Hall | Accounting and Auditing , Preparation, Compilation & Review

The AICPA has issued SSARS 25. It is titled Materiality in a Review of Financial Statements and Adverse Conclusions. Below I tell you how this standard affects your future review engagements.

Materiality in Review Engagements

Until SSARS 25, there was no requirement for you to document materiality in review engagements. Some firms, like my own, decided to do so any way. Others have not. Now, there's no choice. SSARS 25 explicitly requires that we determine and use materiality.

Makes sense. The accountant's conclusion says we are not aware of any material modifications that should be made. The conclusion paragraph follows:

Accountant's Conclusion
Based on our review, we are not aware of any material modifications that should be made to the accompanying financial statements in order for them to be in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. 

It would be difficult to plan or conclude a review engagement without knowing what materiality is. SSARS 25 requires that we design and perform analytical procedures and inquiries to address all material items in the financial statements. This includes disclosures.

New Inquiry Requirements

SSARS 25 adds new inquiries of management including:

  • Material commitments, contractual obligations, or contingencies
  • Material nonmonetary transactions
  • Significant changes in the business activities or operations
  • Significant changes to the terms of contracts that materially affect the financial statements
  • Significant journal entries
  • Status of any uncorrected misstatements from the previous review engagement
  • How management determined that significant estimates are reasonable
  • Management's assessment of the entity's ability to continue as a going concern, and whether there are conditions that cast doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern

Related Party Transactions

Additionally, SSARS 25 requires that the accountant remain alert for related party transactions that were not disclosed by management. The accountant should inquire of management about transactions outside the normal course of business. You want to know if related party transactions are being used to make the financial statements look better than they really are. 

Next, you will see that the standard now permits adverse conclusions.

Adverse Conclusions in Review Engagements

In the past, adverse conclusions in a review engagement were not allowed. SSARS 25 changes this. If the financial statements are materially and pervasively misstated, you can issue an adverse conclusion.

SSARS 25 provides an illustrative accountant's review report with an adverse conclusion. (See illustration 7 on pages 85 and 86 of SSARS 25.) That example states the financial statements are not in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

Here's the adverse review report conclusion:

Adverse Conclusion
Based on my (our) review, due to the significance of the matter described in the Basis for Adverse Conclusion paragraph, the financial statements are not in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

One more thing, SSARS 25 requires a statement in the review report regarding independence.

SSARS 25

Independence in Review Reports

Independence is still required to perform a review engagement. What is different, however, is the accountant must include a statement in the review report saying he or she is independent. That phrase, to be included in the Accountant's Responsibility section of the report, reads as follows:

We are required to be independent of ABC Company and to meet our other ethical responsibilities, in accordance with the relevant ethical requirements related to our review.

See examples of the independence wording in the illustrative reports in SSARS 25. Those reports start on page 75 of the standard.

So when is SSARS 25 effective?

SSARS 25 Effective Date 

The effective date for SSARS 25 is for periods ending on or after December 15, 2021. Early implementation is permitted.

lacking independence in a compilation
Jan 07

Lacking Independence in a Compilation

By Charles Hall | Preparation, Compilation & Review

Do you lack independence in a compilation engagement? If yes, then here’s how to disclose the impairment in the compilation report.

An accountant can issue a compilation report even though independence is lacking. When independence is impaired, the Statement on Standards for Accounting and Review Services requires that the CPA modify the compilation report. The cause of the impairment (e.g., you own a portion of the business) can be disclosed in the compilation report but is not required. You can, if you prefer, simply say you are not independent; this is what most CPAs do.

lacking independence in a compilation

Lacking Independence in a Compilation – Current Year

The accountant’s compilation report can disclose a lack of independence as follows:

We are not independent with respect to ABC Company.

Just add this sentence separately at the bottom of the compilation report.

Lacking Independence in a Compilation –  Prior Year

If you were not independent in 2020 but you are independent in 2021 (and comparative statements are presented), the accountant’s report can read:

As of and for the year ended December 31, 2020, we were not independent with respect to ABC Company.

Alternatively, the report can read:

As of and for the year ended December 31, 2020, we were not independent with respect to ABC Company. We are currently independent with respect to ABC Company.

Independence in Review Engagements and Audits

CPAs must be independent to perform review engagements or audits. There are no exceptions. See the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct for guidance on independence issues. Independence rules are found in section 1.200.

Independence in Preparation of Financial Statement Engagements

CPAs can perform a Preparation of Financial Statement engagement without being independent. No independence disclosure is required since this service is a nonattest service. 

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