Tag Archives for " Preparation Engagements "

Preparing financial statements
Feb 27

Preparing Financial Statements: Which Standards Apply?

By Charles Hall | Preparation, Compilation & Review

Which standards apply when you prepare financial statements?

The AICPA Accounting and Review Services Committee added a section to the compilation and review standards called Preparation of Financial Statements. Since then, I’ve received several questions about which standards apply when financial statements are prepared–especially if you concurrently provide another service such as a compilation, review, or audit.

Those questions include:

  • Can an accountant perform a compilation and not prepare the financial statements?
  • Are the preparation of financial statements and the performance of a compilation engagement two separate services?
  • If an auditor prepares financial statements and audits a company, what is the relevant standard for preparing the financial statements?
  • Is the preparation of financial statements a nonattest service, though the audit is an attest service?

Preparing financial statements
Below I provide: (1) a summary of how compilations changed with the issuance of SSARS 21 and (2) a summary of how the preparation of financial statements service interplays with compilations, reviews, and audits.

The Old Compilation Standard 

Using SSARS 19, the performance of a compilation involved one service which encompassed:

  • Preparing financial statements,
  • Performing compilation procedures (e.g., reading the financials), and
  • Issuing a report

How Compilation Engagements Changed 

So, how did SSARS 21 change compilations?

If an accountant prepares the financial statements and performs a compilation engagement using SSARS 21, she is performing two services (not one). In this case, the performance of the preparation of financial statements is not subject to any formal standard (including SSARS 21).

When an accountant performs both the preparation of financial statements and a related compilation engagement, is AR-C 70, Preparation of Financial Statements, applicable?

No.

“Wait…you’re saying that a new standard called Preparation of Financial Statements was added with SSARS 21, but when the accountant prepares financial statements and performs a compilation engagement, the (SSARS 21) preparation standard is not applicable?”

Yes.

AR-C 70, Preparation of Financial Statements, states that the standard is not applicable “when an accountant prepares financial statements and is engaged to perform an audit, review, or compilation of those financial statements.” So if an accountant prepares financial statements as a part of a compilation engagement, AR-C 70 does not apply.

Why?

If AR-C 70, Preparation of Financial Statements, and AR-C 80, Compilation Engagements, were both in play, they would conflict. AR-C 70 requires the accountant to state on each financial statement page that “no assurance is provided” or to issue a disclaimer. AR-C 80 requires the issuance of a compilation report and does not allow the accountant to state that “no assurance is provided” on each financial statement page or for the accountant to issue a disclaimer.

Meaning?

When the accountant prepares financial statements and performs a related compilation, the creation of the financial statements is a nonattest service with no particular guidance–not even from SSARS 21. (Of course, the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct applies to all services.)

When a compilation engagement (an attest service) is performed and financial statements are prepared (a nonattest service), two separate services are being performed by the same accounting firm.

Financial Statement Preparation and Other Services

The table summarizes which standard is applicable when:
1. A preparation engagement is performed (alone)
2. Preparation and compilation engagements are performed for the same time period
3. Preparation and review engagements are performed for the same time period
4. Preparation and audit engagements are performed for the same time period

Preparation of Financial StatementsCompilation EngagementReview EngagementAudit EngagementStandard to Follow
YesAR-C 70 Preparation
YesYesAR-C 80 Compilation
YesYesAR-C 90 Review
YesYesAU-C Audit Sections

AR-C 70, Preparation of Financial Statements, applies only in the first example above. When the accountant performs a preparation service and a compilation, review, or audit service for the same time period, AR-C 70 is not applicable–that is, no formal standard applies to the preparation service.

In all the examples listed above, the preparation of financial statements is a nonattest service.

In examples 2, 3 and 4 (where a preparation service and an attest service are provided), your engagement letter should include language about performing nonattest services and how the client will assign someone with suitable skill, knowledge, and experience to oversee the preparation of financial statements service. Such language is only required when a nonattest and an attest service is provided.

SSARS 22 and 23

Since the above information deals with SSARS 21, you may be wondering what additional SSARS have been issued–and how those newer standards affect compilations. 

SSARS 22, Compilation of Pro Forma Financial Information was effective for compilation reports dated on or after May 1, 2017. So, what is pro forma information? It is a presentation that shows what the significant effects on historical financial information might have been had a consummated or proposed transaction (or event) occurred at an earlier date.

SSARS 23, Omnibus Statement on Standards for Accounting and Review Services, was issued in late October 2016. That standard changed supplementary information wording in compilation and review reports

The primary impact of SSARS 23 is to provide standards for the preparation and compilation of prospective financial information.

While portions of SSARS 23 were effective upon issuance (the supplementary language change), the remainder of the standard was effective for prospective financial information prepared on or after May 1, 2017, and for compilation reports dated on or after May 1, 2017, respectively.

SSARS 21
Sep 05

SSARS 21: What Have We Learned?

By Charles Hall | Preparation, Compilation & Review

SSARS 21 has been in existence since October 2014. What have we learned about this standard? 

(SSARS 22 and SSARS 23 were subsequently added, but most of the SSARS 21 guidance remains as originally issued.)

SSARS 21

Preparation of Financial Statements or Compilation Reports

Before SSARS 21, if an accountant created financial statements and submitted them to a client, he had to issue a compilation report. Now, using the Preparation of Financial Statements part of SSARS 21 (AR-C 70), an accountant can create and provide financial statements without a compilation report. Such financial statements can be provided to third parties such as banks–again with no compilation report. So, how have accountants responded to the option to provide financial statements to clients without a compilation report?

It has been my observation that many accountants continue to perform compilation engagements (rather than use the preparation option). Why? I think we are creatures of habit. We have issued compilation reports for so long that we’re comfortable doing so–and we continue to do the same. Also, as we’ll see in a minute, performing a compilation doesn’t take much additional time.

Some accountants, however, are using AR-C 70. They are issuing financial statements without a compilation report and stating that “no assurance is provided” on each page–or, as the standard allows, placing a disclaimer page in front of the financial statements.

Who Should Use the Preparation Standard?

So, who uses AR-C 70? Accountants with limited time. 

Suppose, for example, that a client wants a balance sheet and nothing else. You can create the balance sheet in Excel and put “no assurance is provided” at the bottom of the page. And you’re done–with the exception of obtaining a signed engagement letter. (Accountants should document any significant consultations or professional judgments, but usually, there are none.)

Can I Avoid the Engagement Letter?

You may be thinking, “Charles, I’m not sure I’m saving much time if I have to create an engagement letter.  Getting a signed engagement letter might even take more time than preparing the balance sheet.” Yes, that is true. So, is there a situation where the engagement letter is not required? Yes, sometimes.

Financial Statements as a Byproduct

You can provide the balance sheet to a client without obtaining an engagement letter if the statement preparation is a byproduct of another service (as long as you have not been engaged to prepare the financial statement). For example, if you’re preparing a tax return and create the balance sheet as a byproduct of the tax service, you are not required to obtain a SSARS engagement letter? Why? Because you have not been engaged to prepare the financial statement. The trigger for AR-C 70 is whether you have been engaged to prepare financial statements. 

QuickBooks Bookkeeping

The same is true if you provide bookkeeping services using QuickBooks in the Cloud. If you have not been engaged to prepare financial statements and the online software allows you to print the financial statements, you are not in the soup. That is, you are not following AR-C 70–because you have not been engaged to prepare financial statements. If your client asks you to perform bookkeeping service in a cloud-based accounting package (such as QuickBooks) and to prepare financial statements, you are engaged. Then you must follow AR-C 70 and obtain an engagement letter–and follow the other requirements of the standard.

Regardless, we need to be clear about the intended service.

Compilation Engagements

In most compilations, the accountant prepares the financial statements and performs the compilation engagement. Notice these are two different services: (1) preparing the financial statements and (2) performing the compilation. It is possible for your client to create the financial statement and for you (the accountant) to perform the compilation, though this is rare. If you do both, the preparation of financial statements is not performed using AR-C 70. So what standard should you follow for the preparation of the financial statements. There is none. You are just performing a nonattest service. Then you’ll perform the compilation engagement using AR-C 80.

So, the question at this point is whether you should prepare financial statements using AR-C 70 or create the financial statements and perform a compilation using AR-C 80. (Technically, the choice is the clients, but you are explaining the differences to them.)

Additional Time for Compilations

How much extra time does it take to perform a compilation engagement after the financial statements are created? Not much. You are only placing a compilation report on your letterhead (rather than stating that “no assurance is provided” on each page or providing a disclaimer that precedes the financial statements). 

What other procedures are required for a compilation (versus providing the financial statements under AR-C 70)? You are reading the financial statements to see if they are appropriate. And since you just created the statements, that shouldn’t take much time. 

Regardless, both AR-C 70 and AR-C 80 require signed engagement letters. So if you’ve been engaged to prepare financial statements or perform a compilation, there is no getting around the requirement for an engagement letter.

Is a Preparation or a Compilation Service Best?

So which is better? Using AR-C 70 (Preparation of Financial Statements) or AR-C 80 (Compilation Engagements)? It depends. 

Some banks desire a compilation report, so in that case, of course, you are going to–at the request of the client–perform a compilation engagement.

Also, some CPAs feel safer issuing a compilation report that spells out (in greater detail than a preparation disclaimer) what is done and what is not done. We don’t know yet whether a preparation service creates greater legal exposure than a compilation. But we will with time. After a few years of using SSARS 21, I think our insurance companies will tell us whether one service creates more exposure than another. So far, I have not seen any such studies. Why? SSARS 21 has been in use only a couple of years.

Another factor to consider is peer review. The AICPA standards do not require a peer review if you only provide financial statements using AR-C 70. But check with your state board of accountancy; some states require peer review, regardless.

For the most efficient way to issue financial statements, click here.

SSARS 23 changes preparation and compilation standards
May 17

SSARS 23 Preparations and Compilations

By Charles Hall | Preparation, Compilation & Review

SSARS 23 changes preparation and compilation engagements. The article summarizes the effects of the new standard.

The Accounting and Review Services Committee (ARSC) issued SSARS 23 in October 2016. Parts of the standard (e.g., that applying to supplementary information language in compilation and review reports) were effective immediately. Other parts (mainly regarding preparation and compilation of prospective information) are required as of May 1, 2017. This post tells you how SSARS 23 affects Preparation (AR-C 70) and Compilation (AR-C 80) engagements.

SSARS 23 changes preparation and compilation engagements

You’ll recall that ARSC issued SSARS 21 back in October 2014. It was effective for years ending December 31, 2015. A clarified version of the compilation and review standards is included in SSARS 21. SSARS 21 also provides new guidance for the preparation of financial statements. The Standard did not address prospective financial statements. Why? The AICPA was working on clarifying the Attestation Standards (SSAE 18), the place where compiled prospective financial statement guidance was (previously) housed. With the issuance of SSARS 23, the AICPA moved this guidance from the Attestation Standards to SSARS.

The primary impact of SSARS 23 is to provide standards for the preparation and compilation of prospective financial information.

How Preparation of Financial Statements (AR-C 70) Changed

The Preparation Standard (AR-C 70) now includes guidance regarding prospective financial information. SSARS 23 requires the inclusion of significant assumptions since they are essential to understanding prospective information. Therefore, accountants should not prepare prospective financial information without including a summary of significant assumptions in the notes. Also, a financial projection should not be created unless it includes:

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

One other change to AR-C 70 is the slight change to the preparation disclaimer. SSARS 23 deletes the word “accordingly.” See below:

How Compilation Engagements (AR-C 80) Changed

AR-C 80, Compilation Engagements, now applies to compilations of prospective financial information (new with SSARS 23), pro forma financial information (see SSARS 22), and other historical information (as provided for in SSARS 21). 

Another change is that accountants should report known departures from the applicable financial reporting framework in the compilation report. Prior to SSARS 23, accountants could disclose such departures in the notes without doing so in the compilation report.

Prospective Financial Information Guidance

Additionally, AR-C 70 and AR-C 80 were amended to clarify that the AICPA Guide Prospective Financial Information provides comprehensive guidance regarding prospective financial information, including suitable criteria for the preparation and presentation of such information.

supplementary information compilations and preparations
Mar 08

Supplementary Information: SSARS

By Charles Hall | Preparation, Compilation & Review

Are you wondering how to present supplementary information in compilation and preparation engagements? What supplementary information (SI) should be included? How does the accountant define his or her responsibility for SI?

Often accountants, at the request of their clients, add supplementary information to the financial statements. Such information is never required (to be in compliance with a reporting framework) but may be useful.

supplementary information compilations and preparations

You can think of financials with supplementary information in this manner:

Financial statements – Required – The jeep in the picture above

Supplementary Information – Not required – The camper

You’re not going anywhere without a vehicle (it’s required). And your camper (not required) is no good without an automobile to pull it. Kind of a silly analogy, I know, but maybe it will help you remember.

I normally add a divider page between the financial statements and supplementary information (though such as page is not required); the divider page simply says “Supplementary Information” and nothing else.

SSARS 21 defines supplementary information as follows:

Information presented outside the basic financial statements, excluding required supplementary information, that is not considered necessary for the financial statements to be fairly presented in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework.

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Preparation Enagement
Jan 12

Bookkeeping, Preparations, Compilations, and Reviews

By Charles Hall | Preparation, Compilation & Review

Today, we’ll answer various questions regarding bookkeeping, preparations, compilations, and review engagement.

Compilation Enagement

Q: Should I issue management letters for preparation, compilation, or review engagements?

A: While not required, it is advisable to provide management letters when performing SSARS services. Why? Two reasons: (1) It’s a way to add value to the engagement, and (2) it’s a way to protect yourself from potential litigation. Clients do–sometimes–sue CPAs in these so-called “lower risk” engagements. If we see control weaknesses (while performing a compilation for example), we should communicate those–even though standards don’t require it. Then, if theft occurs in that area and you are later sued regarding the fraud, you have a defense. If you don’t issue a management letter, at least send an email regarding the issues noted and retain a copy.

Q: Why obtain an engagement letter for nonattest services such as bookkeeping and tax (standards don’t require it)?

A: In all engagements, we want to state exactly what we are doing. Why? So, it is obvious what the client has hired us to do–and what they have not hired us to do. If a client says, “I told you to do my monthly bookkeeping and to file my property tax returns,” but you have no recollection of being asked to perform the latter, you need an engagement letter that specifies monthly bookkeeping (and nothing else).

Q: Should I say–in a bookkeeping engagement letter–the service is not designed to prevent fraud?

A: We should obtain a signed engagement letter for bookkeeping services, even though not required by standards. And yes, by all means, include a statement that the bookkeeping service is not designed to detect or prevent fraud.

Q: If I note fraud while performing a bookkeeping, preparation, compilation, or review engagement, should I report it to the appropriate levels of management?

A: Standards require this communication for review engagements. I would do likewise for the other services.

Q: Am I required to be independent if I perform bookkeeping and preparation services?

A: No, since both are nonattest services.

Q: If I create financial statements as a byproduct of an 1120 tax return, am I subject to AR-C 70 Preparation of Financial Statements?

A: No, you are only subject to AR-C 70 if you are engaged to prepare financial statements.

Q: If I perform bookkeeping services in a cloud-based accounting package such as QuickBooks, am I subject to AR-C 70?

A: It depends. Yes, if you are engaged to prepare financial statements. No, if you were not engaged to prepare financial statements. Who “pushes the button” to print the financial statements has no bearing on the applicability of AR-C 70.

Q: Am I required to have a signed engagement letter for all preparation, compilation and review engagements?

A: Yes.

Q: Can I act as a controller-for-hire and perform a compilation engagement?

A: Yes, but you need to state that you are not independent in the compilation report.

Q: Can I act as the controller-for-hire and perform a review engagement?

A: No. Independence is required for review engagements.

Q: If I prepare financial statements and perform a compilation, am I performing one service or are these considered two separate services?

A: They are two separate services. The preparation is a nonattest service, and the compilation is an attest engagement. Both can be specified in one engagement letter.

Here’s a video explaining the differences in preparation and compilation services.

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