The International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board has released a set of proposals to address the growing need for robust international standards for services that can be used by entities that are either not required or do not elect to be audited.

The IAASB, which operates under the auspices of the International Federation of Accountants, released for public exposure proposed International Standard on Review Engagements 2400, Engagements to Review Historical Financial Statements. The revised standard is the second IAASB proposal in recent months that addresses the growing international need for robust standards for services that can be used by entities that are either not required or do not elect to be audited.

“The financial statement review engagement is an important service in meeting evolving regulatory, market, and business reporting needs, in particular in the small- and medium-sized entity sector,” said IAASB chairman Arnold Schilder in a statement. “The proposed standard seeks to establish clear and robust requirements governing the practitioner’s performance of a review engagement, and thus serves to fulfill its purpose of enhancing users’ degree of confidence in an entity’s financial statements.”

A review of financial statements in accordance with the proposed ISRE consists primarily of making inquiries of management and others within the entity involved in financial and accounting matters, applying analytical procedures, and evaluating the sufficiency and appropriateness of evidence obtained.

The practitioner reports on whether anything has come to the practitioner’s attention that causes him or her to believe that the financial statements, taken as a whole, are not prepared in all material respects in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework. The procedures performed in a review are substantially less than those performed in an audit, and the practitioner does not express an audit opinion.

“A financial statement review is, and should be seen as, a distinct service from a financial statement audit. It is essential that users are able to clearly distinguish between the two,” said IAASB technical director James Gunn. “An important aspect of the proposed standard therefore is the form and content of the practitioner’s report. The IAASB seeks comments on whether the proposed report communicates clearly to users the work performed and the limited assurance obtained in a review engagement.”

The proposed ISRE is expected to help practitioners around the world who perform review engagements converge towards use of a globally accepted benchmark, and facilitate development of practice in jurisdictions that currently do not have national standards in this area.

To access the exposure draft or submit a comment, visit the IAASB’s Web site at www.iaasb.org/ExposureDrafts.php. Comments are due by May 20, 2011.

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