Tag Archives for " Review Engagements "

peer reviewers focus on independence
Aug 05

Independence in Attest Engagements

By Charles Hall | Auditing , Preparation, Compilation & Review

Independence in attest engagements in critical. 

Peer reviewers continue to focus on independence documentation. Today I’ll provide you with examples of what peer reviewers are looking for and guidance to keep you out of hot water.

independence in attest engagements

Documentation of Nonattest Services

Peer reviews focus upon nonattest services provided to attest clients. How do we know? Well, see the peer review checklist question below (for an attest engagement).

nonattest services

The big “no-no” is to assume management responsibilities and then perform an attest service. Why? Performing management responsibilities impairs your independence. 

Preparing Financial Statements

Below is another question from the peer review checklists. Notice the first item below: Accepting responsibility for the preparation and fair presentation of the client’s financial statements. The client (not the auditor) must assume responsibility for the financial statements

nonattest services

If the client can’t–or is unwilling to–assume responsibility for the financial statements, then we are not independent, and we cannot perform an audit or a review. This assumption of responsibility does not mean the client has the ability to create financial statements, but it does mean that:

  • that the client will oversee the nonattest service,
  • the client will evaluate the adequacy and results of the nonattest service, and
  • the client will accept responsibility for the nonattest service

If we prepare financial statements and perform an audit, review, or compilation, we have performed a nonattest service and an attest service. Why is this important? Because if we perform a nonattest service and an attest service for the same client, we must assess our independence. And if we are not independent, then we can’t perform an audit or review engagement. (It is permissible to perform the compilation engagement when independence is impaired, but the accountant must say–in the compilation report–that he is not independent.)

Other Peer Review Questions

The peer review checklists also ask for:

  • The name and title of the client personnel overseeing the nonattest service and
  • A description of the accountant’s “assessment and factors leading to your satisfaction that the client personnel overseeing the service had sufficient skills, knowledge and experience.”

Independence

Separate Form to Document Independence

So do we need a separate form in our file to document independence?

It certainly would not hurt, and I suggest that you do. PPC and CCH offer such forms (and I am sure other work paper providers do the same). These forms provide a place to document all nonattest services and to assess and document our client’s ability to assume responsibility for the nonattest services.

The PPC and CCH forms also address the cumulative effect of performing multiple nonattest services. The AICPA has stated that the performance of multiple nonattest services can impair independence. So you should document your consideration of whether the cumulative nonattest services create a problem. Peer review checklists ask if we documented this consideration.

Additionally, if significant threats are present, the accountant should document the safeguard(s) used to mitigate the risk. This documentation is particularly crucial in Yellow Book engagements. The PPC and CCH independence forms will assist you with this documentation. Below are peer review checklist questions:

Independence

Alignment in Independence Documentation

We should–in the engagement letter–specify the nonattest services and the responsibilities of management. If you are performing an audit or a review engagement, add additional language to the representation letter regarding the nonattest services performed and the client’s responsibility for those services.

So I am suggesting you document the nonattest services in three places:

  • Engagement letter,
  • Independence form, and
  • Representation letter (when relevant)

And when you do, please make sure the nonattest services listed in each document are the same. 

Nonattest Services and Independence

Here’s a video that explains nonattest services and how to document your independence in regard to them.

going concern
Mar 27

Going Concern in Compilation and Review Engagements

By Charles Hall | Preparation, Compilation & Review

Do you need to concern yourself with going concern in compilation and review engagements? Yes, if the financial statements are prepared in accordance with the FASB Codification. But is going concern relevant to special purpose frameworks such as the cash basis or tax basis financial statements. Yes, going concern is in play even with special purpose frameworks. This post provides an overview of what you need to know about going concern as it relates to compilation and review engagements.

going concern in compilation and review engagements

A while back I wrote a post about ASU 2014-15, Disclosure of Uncertainties about an Entity’s Ability to Continue as a Going Concern, which was effective for years ending after December 15, 2016. This standard requires companies to include certain disclosures when substantial doubt is present. So, we know that financial statements prepared in accordance with GAAP must include these disclosures. Otherwise, there is a GAAP departure. And in an audit, we modify our opinion when there is a departure.

Going Concern in Compilation Engagements

But what about financial statements subject to a compilation engagement, especially when substantially all disclosures are omitted? Is it permissible for the CPA to ignore the going concern standard since it just requires disclosures? Yes, but be careful. Ask yourself whether the financial statements would be misleading (without the going concern disclosure). If they are misleading, then include a selected disclosure regarding going concern. Also, consider adding an emphasis-of-matter paragraph (regarding going concern) to your compilation report.

Consider the following scenario. Your client (who has significant going concern issues) takes your compilation report (which has no emphasis of a matter paragraph) and their financial statements (that has no disclosures) to a local bank. It’s obvious that the company is not doing well. But the bank makes a large loan anyway, and later, the company defaults on the loan. Then the bank files suit against you (the CPA) asserting that you issued the compilation report without the emphasis-of-matter paragraph and that you knew the financial statements had no going concern disclosure. The bank says the financial statements were misleading.

While the emphasis-of-matter paragraph is not required, consider adding one anyway.

Going Concern in Review Engagements

Since review engagements require full disclosure, going concern disclosures are not optional when substantial doubt exists in GAAP financial statements. They must be provided. If they are not, a GAAP departure exists.

So what going concern procedures should you perform in a review engagement?

In regard to going concern when the financial reporting framework includes going concern requirements (e.g. GAAP), AR-C 90.65 states:

If the applicable financial reporting framework includes requirements for management to evaluate the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time in preparing financial statements, the accountant should perform review procedures related to the following: 

    1. Whether the going concern basis of accounting is appropriate
    2. Management’s evaluation of whether there are conditions or events that raised substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern
    3. If there are conditions or events that raised substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern, management’s plans to mitigate those matters
    4. The adequacy of the related disclosures in the financial statements

In regard to going concern when the applicable financial reporting framework does not address going concern (e.g., tax basis), AR-C 90.66 states:

If the applicable financial reporting framework does not include a requirement for management to evaluate the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time in preparing financial statements and conditions or events that raise substantial doubt about an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time existed at the date of the prior period financial statements (regardless of whether the substantial doubt was alleviated by the accountant’s consideration of management’s plans) or, in the course of performing review procedures on the current period financial statements, the accountant becomes aware of conditions or events that raise substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern, the accountant should do the following: 

    1. Inquire of management whether the going concern basis of accounting is appropriate.
    2. Inquire of management about its plans for dealing with the adverse effects of the conditions and events. 
    3. Consider the adequacy of the disclosure about such matters in the financial statements. 

SSARS 24 does say that the nature and extent of procedures performed regarding going concern are a matter of professional judgment. If the audited entity has a history of profitable operations and access to financing, inquiry alone might be sufficient in a review engagement.

Going Concern Paragraph in a Review Report

If the accountant concludes that substantial doubt will remain for a reasonable period of time, an emphasis-of-matter paragraph is required in the review report. (Some reporting frameworks specify a “reasonable period of time.” For GAAP, it is one year from the date the financial statements are issued or are available to be issued.)

AR-C 90.A123 provides the following example of a going concern paragraph in a review engagement when (1) substantial doubt exists for a reasonable period of time, (2) management’s plans don’t alleviate the substantial doubt, and (3) the reporting framework requires a note disclosure.

Emphasis of Matter

The accompanying financial statements have been prepared assuming that the Company will continue as a going concern. As discussed in Note X to the financial statements, the Company has suffered recurring losses from operations, has a net capital deficiency, and has stated that substantial doubt exists about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. Management’s evaluation of the events and conditions and management’s plans regarding these matters are also described in Note X. The financial statements do not include any adjustments that might result from the outcome of this uncertainty. Our conclusion is not modified with respect to this matter. 
 
Representation Letter in Review Engagements
 
Be sure to update your representation letter when performing review engagements. SSARS 24 tweaked some language in the letter and added additional wording such as the following:
 
  • Management has disclosed to the accountant all information relevant to use of the going concern assumption in the financial statements.

Special Purpose Frameworks and Going Concern

While the cash, modified cash, or tax bases of accounting do not address going concern, accountants still need to consider the effects of negative financial conditions and trends. Why? When using a special purpose framework (like the tax basis), the accountant should follow the guidance in GAAP. No, that doesn’t mean your disclosures are just like GAAP, but it does mean they are similar to GAAP.

Since GAAP tells the financial statement preparer to consider whether substantial doubt exists, then persons creating cash basis, modified cash basis or tax basis financial statements should do the same. If substantial doubt is present, going concern disclosures are necessary. 

So, what is substantial doubt? The FASB Codification defines it this way:

Substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern is considered to exist when aggregate conditions and events indicate that it is probable that the entity will be unable to meet obligations when due within one year of the date that the financial statements are issued or are available to be issued.

If substantial doubt is present and going concern disclosures are not included in full disclosure compilations or reviews, then modify your accountant’s report (for the departure). 

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.

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

(You can horizontally scroll the table below.)

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.

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 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.

YouTube player

Comparison of Preparing Financial Statements and Compilations

ConsiderationPreparing Financial StatementsCompilations
When does the standard apply?
Accountant engaged to prepare financial statements
Accountant engaged to perform a compilation of financial statements
Is a compilation report issued?NoYes
Can notes to the financial statements be omitted?
YesYes
Where is the omission of notes disclosed?On each financial statement pageIn the compilation report
Can the financial statements go to users other management?
YesYes
Considered an assurance service?
NoNo
Considered an attest service?
No Yes
Is the accountant required to determine if he or she is independent of the client?
NoYes
If the accountant is not independent, is that fact required to be disclosed?
No Yes, in the compilation report
Is a signed engagement letter required?
YesYes
Management is responsible for financial statements?YesYes
Minimum documentation
1. Engagement letter

2. Financial statements
1. Engagement letter

2.Financial statements

3. Compilation report
Procedures1. Prepare the financial statements based on the information provided

2. Deficiencies in the information provided to the accountant should be communicated to management, and the inaccuracy or incompleteness of such information should be corrected
1. Read the financial statements

2. Consider whether the financial statements appear appropriate in form and free from obvious material misstatements

3. If management-supplied information is not complete or appears incorrect, the accountant should request additional or corrected information

4. If requested or corrected information is not received or if the financial statements are not corrected, the accountant should consider withdrawing
Is the accountant required to make inquiries or perform other procedures to verify, corroborate, or review information supplied?NoNo
Subject to Peer Review?Only if firm is required to have a peer reviewYes
Where are material departures from the financial reporting framework disclosed?Face of the financial statements or in notes to financial statementsCompilation report

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