Rules and guidance issued last year by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board have made it easier for companies to cut the time they spend on Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.

A survey of 321 internal audit professionals by Protiviti found that four out of 10 said their departments have been able to decrease the amount of time they spend on Sarbanes-Oxley compliance since Auditing Standard No. 5 and interpretive guidance were issued. The departments have been able to rebalance toward more traditional internal audit responsibilities, including regulatory compliance and strategic advice to senior management and the audit committee.

The most common rebalancing activity is to rescope workloads within the internal audit department. One in three companies report that rebalancing is underway and approximately one in five companies report having achieved it. Efforts to reduce the total population of controls, as well as the number of key controls, significantly exceeded what was planned last year.

"This is a key indicator that PCAOB AS5 and the SEC's interpretive guidance, both of which allow for such reductions, are having the impact that was intended," said Protiviti executive vice president Bob Hirth in a statement.

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