Providing Additional Auditor Reporting for Clients
This article was written and originally published by CPA British Columbia and has been republished by CPA Newfoundland and Labrador with amendments and permission.
We understand there is a trend by various third parties, including regulators, to request additional reporting on certain items or matters, in addition to the traditional services that you offer. This highlights that CPAs, as trusted independent professionals, are well positioned to provide clients and third parties with services outside of the traditional offerings of audit, review, and compilation engagements. We expect the requests for audits, reports, certification, or some form of “comfort” will only increase.
Third-party requests often use terminology (such as “certify,” “agree,” “provide comfort,” “affirm,” or “examine”) that does not clearly align with the terminology in the CPA Canada Handbook. In some cases, the terminology is used without clear guidance on what is expected within the engagement. For example, these requests might call for procedures such as “confirm reporting is in accordance with agreement/ regulation” or “examine in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards.”
Since the adoption of the Canadian Auditing Standards in 2010, continued evolvement in Canadian assurance standards has provided the flexibility that you need to report on a significant array of financial and non-financial information.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AUDITORS
When such requests are received, it is your responsibility to ensure the reporting and the work performed, including documentation, are compliant with the requirements of the appropriate CPA Canada Handbook – Assurance standards. You should consider how you will report when a request is received to sign a form or document which includes the unusual terminology noted above.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, we understand that a significant portion of the third parties who request additional information are government agencies or other regulators. The reports issued will differ based on the type of information and level of assurance each third party is requesting.
If you are asked to sign any unusual third-party reports or you are unsure which standard(s) could apply to a special reporting engagement, consider the special reporting options outlined below or reach out to CPA NL.
SPECIAL REPORTING CONSIDERATIONS
You may be asked by clients or third parties to perform special reporting engagements outside of their standard practice. As there are many different types of special reporting engagements with varying assurance levels, confusion sometimes exists concerning who the client is, what standards are appropriate for the engagement, the nature of the reporting requirements, and your responsibilities. Before accepting such engagements, you may want to consider the following:
Understand the Engagement Request
You need to fully understand the scope of the engagement, who your client is, and to whom they will be reporting. Sometimes the requests can be unclear, and confusion may arise if the requirements are not fully understood. Third parties may not have sufficient knowledge of the CPA Canada Handbook and the various standards. Often, they rely on you, the practitioner, to use professional judgement when interpreting the request and applying the correct standards.
If the third party provides guidance, it may be outdated (e.g., they may reference an outdated report or use incorrect terminology in their request). Consequently, you should perform your due diligence to apply the correct standards. If a request is unclear, you may need to go back to the third party or the client to obtain further information to clarify the request. You should have a clear understanding of the request, the subject matter you are asked to report on, and the level of assurance requested.
Competency and Licence Required to Perform the Engagement
Once you have a clear understanding of the engagement, you should consider the subject matter being reported on and assess your professional competency in the area. You should also ensure that you have the required public accounting licence to perform the engagement. Many of these engagements may ask you to provide assurance level services in which case a public accounting licence will be required. Whether you need an audit or review level licence will depend on the nature of the engagement. If you are unsure whether you hold the appropriate licence to complete the engagement, please reach out to CPA NL.
Determine Which Standards Are Applicable to the Engagement
The next step is determining which professional standards are to be used for the engagement. It is important to exercise professional judgment and to ensure that you are using an updated version of the CPA Canada Handbook to reach a conclusion in light of the facts and circumstances of the engagement.
CPA Canada has developed a Roadmap to the CPA Canada Assurance Handbook Tool to assist you. The Roadmap is an interactive tool used to help identify which professional standards to use when providing services. The Roadmap should be used along with the Guide for Practitioners: Roadmap to the CPA Canada Handbook – Assurance tool. The Guide is meant to assist you in using the Roadmap as it includes instructions and other guidance.
Determine the Assurance Level Required
You may be asked to provide various levels of assurance, ranging from no assurance to limited assurance (review) to reasonable assurance (audit). The Roadmap and Guide referenced above provide definitions of the various levels of assurance.
Accept or Decline the Engagement
Finally, before proceeding with the engagement, you should take a step back and ensure the following:
- you fully understand the engagement;
- you have both the technical competencies and the relevant experience required to perform the engagement;
- you hold an appropriate public accounting licence; and
- you have determined the relevant professional standards to be applied.
CPA Canada has published some relevant resources that may be helpful in working through these options: