PCAOB Toughens Risk Assessment Audit Standards

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has adopted a set of eight auditing standards related to the auditor’s assessment of risk in an audit and response to that risk.

The auditing standards aim to enhance the effectiveness of an auditor’s assessment and response to the risks of material misstatements in financial statements. If approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission, they will go into effect for audit of fiscal periods beginning on or after Dec. 15, 2010.

The standards have been in the works for nearly two years. The PCAOB initially proposed a suite of standards on Oct. 21, 2008.  Changes were made in response to comments received by the PCAOB, and the board proposed revised standards last December. 

The new risk assessment standards address audit procedures performed throughout an audit, from the initial planning stages through the evaluation of the audit results.

“These new standards are a significant step in promoting sophisticated risk assessment in audits and minimizing the risk that the auditor will fail to detect material misstatements,” said PCAOB acting chairman Daniel L. Goelzer in a statement. “Identifying risks, and properly planning and performing the audit to address those risks, is essential to promoting investor confidence in audited financial statements.”

The new standards include the following:
•  Auditing Standard 8 (AS No. 8) – Audit Risk.  This standard discusses the auditor's consideration of audit risk in an audit of financial statements as part of an integrated audit or an audit of financial statements only. It describes the components of audit risk and the auditor's responsibilities for reducing audit risk to an appropriately low level in order to obtain reasonable assurance that the financial statements are free of material misstatement.

•  Auditing Standard 9 (AS No. 9) – Audit Planning. This standard establishes requirements regarding planning an audit, including assessing matters that are important to the audit, and establishing an appropriate audit strategy and audit plan.  

•  Auditing Standard 10 (AS No. 10) – Supervision of the Audit Engagement. This standard sets forth requirements for supervision of the audit engagement, including, in particular, supervising the work of engagement team members. It applies to the engagement partner and to other engagement team members who assist the engagement partner with supervision.

•  Auditing Standard 11 (AS No. 11) – Consideration of Materiality in Planning and Performing an Audit.  This standard describes the auditor's responsibilities for consideration of materiality in planning and performing an audit.  

•  Auditing Standard 12 (AS No. 12) – Identifying and Assessing Risks of Material Misstatement.  This standard establishes requirements regarding the process of identifying and assessing risks of material misstatement of the financial statements. The risk assessment process discussed in the standard includes information-gathering procedures to identify risks and an analysis of the identified risks.  

•  Auditing Standard 13 (AS No. 13) – The Auditor’s Responses to the Risks of Material Misstatement.  This standard establishes requirements for responding to the risks of material misstatement in financial statements through the general conduct of the audit and performing audit procedures regarding significant accounts and disclosures.

•  Auditing Standard 14 (AS No. 14) – Evaluating Audit Results. This standard establishes requirements regarding the auditor's evaluation of audit results and determination of whether the auditor has obtained sufficient appropriate audit evidence. The evaluation process set forth in this standard includes, among other things, evaluation of misstatements identified during the audit; the overall presentation of the financial statements, including disclosures; and the potential for management bias in the financial statements.

•  Auditing Standard 15 (AS No. 15) – Audit Evidence.  This standard explains what constitutes audit evidence and establishes requirements for designing and performing audit procedures to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to support the opinion expressed in the auditor's report.

The standards supersede six PCAOB interim standards and related amendments:  AU sec. 311, Planning and Supervision; AU sec. 312, Audit Risk and Materiality in Conducting an Audit; AU sec. 313, Substantive Tests Prior to the Balance Sheet Date; AU sec. 319, Consideration of Internal Control in a Financial Statement Audit; AU sec. 326, Evidential Matter; and AU sec. 431, Adequacy of Disclosure in Financial Statements.

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