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Session1 Solutions

Self study questions

1.11 What does assurance mean in the financial reporting context? Who are the three
parties relevant to an assurance engagement?
An assurance engagement (or service) is defined as an engagement in which an assurance
practitioner expresses a conclusion designed to enhance the degree of confidence of the
intended users other than the responsible party about the outcome of the evaluation or
measurement of a subject matter against criteria (Framework for Assurance Engagements,
para. 10 (p.65)
In the financial reporting context assurance relates to the audit or review of an entitys
financial report.
An audit provides reasonable assurance about the true and fair nature of the financial reports,
and a review provides limited assurance. The audit contains a positive expression of opinion
(e.g. in our opinion the financial reports are in accordance with (the Act) including giving a
true and fair view), while the review contains a negative expression of opinion (e.g., we
have not become aware of any matter that makes us believe thatthe financial reports are
not in accordance with (the Act)... including giving a true and fair view..).
An auditor may also perform agreed upon procedures for a client, but these do not provide
any assurance. The client determines the nature, timing and extent of procedures and no
opinion is provided to a third-party user.
The assurance practitioner is an auditor working in public practice providing assurance on
financial reports of publicly listed companies, or other entities. Intended users are the people
for whom the assurance provider prepares their report (e.g. the shareholders). The
responsible party is the person or organisation (e.g. a company) responsible for the
preparation of the subject matter (e.g. the financial reports).
1.12 What qualities must an assurer have in order for you to feel that their statement
has high credibility?
An assurer must have the knowledge and expertise to assess the truth and fairness of the
information being presented by the preparers. Auditors of financial reports need to be trained
accountants with detailed knowledge about the complex technical accounting and disclosure
issues required to assess the choices made by the financial report preparers. When
undertaking an audit, the auditor should use professional scepticism, professional
judgement and due care.
Auditors should be independent of the client. Independent auditors have no incentives to aid
the entity in presenting their results in the best possible light. They are concerned with
ensuring that the information contained in the financial report is reliable and free from any
significant (material) misstatements (error or fraud). A user needs to believe that the auditor is
acting independently. This means that not only should auditors be independent (i.e. not have
any undue personal or financial incentive to protect the client), auditors should avoid doing
anything that would cause a reasonable person to doubt their independence.

1.14 An assurance engagement involves evaluation or measurement of subject matter

against criteria. What criteria are used in a financial report audit?
An auditor evaluates the contents of a financial report against the standards and laws that
apply to that type of financial report. Listed public companies must abide by the Corporations
Act, the Australian Accounting Standards (AASB) and the listing rules of the ASX. Certain
companies must also abide by additional specific legislation, depending on their industry or
legal status. In addition, if a company is listed in another country, foreign exchange listing
rules and laws could apply to the financial report.
Auditing standards control the way an audit is conducted, they are not the criteria against
which the financial report is evaluated.
1.17 What is an emphasis of matter paragraph? When do you think an auditor would
use it?
As defined in ASA 706.5
Emphasis of Matter paragraph means a paragraph included in the auditors report that refers
to a matter appropriately presented or disclosed in the financial report that, in the auditors
judgement, is of such importance that it is fundamental to users understanding of the
financial report.
The emphasis of matter paragraph is included in the audit report immediately after the
opinion paragraph.
An emphasis of matter paragraph draws the attention of the reader to an issue that the auditor
believes has been adequately and accurately explained in a note to the financial report. The
purpose of the paragraph is to ensure that the reader pays appropriate attention to the issue
when reading the financial report. The audit report remains unqualified and the user of the
financial report can still rely on the information contained in the financial report (ASA 706).
The emphasis of matter paragraph is not used when the entity has not disclosed the issue in
its report. The auditor can use an other matter paragraph to introduce another matter that the
auditor believes should be disclosed.
The usual circumstance which would warrant an Emphasis of Matter paragraph in the
auditors report is the existence of a significant uncertainty, the resolution of which may
materially affect the financial report.
From ASA 706:
A1. Examples of circumstances where the auditor may consider it necessary to include an
Emphasis of Matter paragraph are:
- An uncertainty relating to the future outcome of exceptional litigation or regulatory action.
- Early application (where permitted) of a new accounting standard (for example, a new
Australian Accounting Standard) that has a pervasive effect on the financial report in advance
of its effective date.
- A major catastrophe that has had, or continues to have, a significant effect on the entitys
financial position.

ASA 706 stresses that the inclusion of an Emphasis of Matter paragraph in the auditors
report does not affect the auditors opinion. An emphasis of matter can be included in an
unqualified auditors report or a qualified auditors report (see example in ASA 706,pages
740and 742).

1.22 Explain the audit expectation gap. Why do you think auditors do not give users
what they want?
The audit expectation gap occurs when there is a difference between the expectations of
assurance providers and the users of the financial reports. If a gap exists, it means that the
users beliefs do not align with what the auditors performance in the audit. . A gap usually
occurs when the users of financial reports want more than the auditor provides. The users
could be unrealistic in their views. Some examples of unrealistic expectations are:
the auditor provides complete assurance
the auditor guarantees the future viability of the entity
an unmodified audit opinion means that the accounts are completely accurate
if any fraud exists, the auditor would definitely find it
the auditor has checked every transaction.
In reality, the auditor:
provides reasonable assurance only,
does not guarantee the future viability of the entity,
provides an unmodified opinion when the auditor believes there are not material
misstatements in the financial report
does not guarantee that no fraud exists, although the auditor will take reasonable
steps to try to uncover any fraud,
tests only a sample of transactions.
Auditors do not give users what they want because the users expectations are
unreasonable. However, users expectations could be reasonable, but beyond what current
standards require. This suggests that audit standards could be improved and strengthened
in order to meet user expectations in the future.
In addition, it is possible that some auditors do not give users what they require because
the auditors are not following the standards. In these cases, the auditors are potentially
liable to be sued or face prosecution.


The self-interest, self-review and familiarity threats all arise from an

inappropriate closeness between the auditor and the client. Explain how that
closeness is likely to manifest in each case and why it is a problem for the value of
the audit.

An auditor has a self-interest problem if the outcome of the audit (and/or the success of the
company) affects the auditors (i.e. the audit firm or the auditor as an individual) financial
interests. The closeness in this case is manifested through the auditors share ownership in the
client, the client producing a very large part of the audit firms audit or other services
revenue, or the existence of loans or other financial interests between the auditor and the
client. It is a problem for the audits value because the auditor knows that a qualified audit
report could adversely affect the clients share price, or a tough audit decision (e.g. requiring
the client to write down the value of its assets) could encourage the client to seek another
auditor. These concerns could prompt the auditor to act inappropriately during the audit.
The self-review problem arises when the auditor, as part of the audit, has to test transactions
or systems that were recorded or provided by another part of the audit firm or by a previous
employee of the audit firm, or the testing is performed by a previous employee of the client.
The closeness is manifested by the fact that self-review means that there is too little
separation between the client and the auditor with respect to that part of the audit, that is, the
auditor is testing or reviewing itself. It is a problem for the audit because self-review impairs
the primary source of value of a financial report audit, that is, the independence of the auditor
from the client. The lack of independence could mean that the auditor acts inappropriately
during the audit.
Familiarity refers to a general closeness between the auditor (including the whole audit team)
and the client. The closeness in this case is manifested in a relationship that is more one of
friendship than that between independent auditor and client. The auditor could lose their
objectivity during the audit and act inappropriately.

Explain the relationship between the auditor and the shareholders of the audited
company. How realistic is it to regard the shareholders as the clients of the

The audit report is addressed to the shareholders of the audited company. However, there is
very little contact between an auditor and the members. One exception is that the auditor is
required to attend the companys Annual General Meeting where there could be some
dialogue between the members and the auditor. In addition, the auditor could meet large
shareholders, for example those on the board of the directors or who work for the company.
Shareholders are responsible for the appointment and removal of the auditor, but in
practice the selection of the auditor is done by the board who then recommend the
appointment to the shareholders for their approval. It would be more realistic to regard
the board of directors as the auditors client because they are in charge of the
companys governance. The CEO or CFO will be in charge of the clients financial
reporting process and the auditor may have most contact with them and the finance
department, but they are not the client to whom the auditor reports

2.17 What are the three conditions that must be proven for an auditor to be found
negligent under tort law? Based on a review of the legal cases discussed in the
chapter, which conditions appear to be most difficult to prove?
A client may bring an action against an auditor under contract or tort law. The contract is
between the client and the auditor. Damages under a breach of contract can only be claimed
by a party to the contract.
Tort law allows any party to bring an action for negligence, provided the following three
conditions are established:
a duty of care was owed by the auditor

there was a breach of the duty of care

loss was suffered as a consequence of that breach.

Therefore, tort law allows another party to bring an action (not just a party to the contract) if
it can be shown that there was a duty of care to that party. This means that the client and other
parties could potentially bring an action for negligence. The first condition appears to be the
most difficult to prove.
For example in the HIH Royal Commission Report, it was noted that the auditor could owe a
duty of care to the client and its shareholders. The report discusses the problems facing
plaintiffs when seeking to establish that the client or shareholders had suffered a loss as a
result of the auditors negligence. To ascertain a causal relationship between the negligent act
and the loss suffered, reasonable foreseeability must be proven. This means that the auditor
must have been aware that any negligence on their part could cause a loss to the client or their
In Esanda (1997) the High Court of Australia ruled that for a third party to be able to establish
that an auditor owes them a duty of care, they would need to show the following.
The report was prepared on the basis that it would be communicated to a third party.

The report was likely to be relied upon by that third party.

The third party ran the risk of suffering a loss if the report was negligently prepared.

The judgement in the Esanda case provided some relief for auditors as it made it far more
difficult for a third party to establish that a duty of care was owed by the auditor. Today, it is
advisable that a third party take steps to establish proximity before using an audited report to
make a decision. They can request that an auditor provide them with a privity letter, which
can be used to prove that a duty of care was owed to them.
The plaintiff must also show that the auditor breached its duty of care, for example, by
conducting a poor quality audit. Mere non-compliance with auditing standards may not be
sufficient to show a breach of the duty of care. Finally, the plaintiff must establish that they
suffered loss as a result of the breach of the duty of care. For example, the plaintiff must
show that they relied on the audit report to make their investment which subsequently lost


Explain how an auditor would use auditing standards to avoid legal liability.

For a case brought by a client or another party to succeed against an auditor it must be shown
that they breached the terms of the contract and/or were negligent. An auditor will use
internal documentation to show that all duties were conducted to a reasonable standard.
Failure to follow auditing standards would imply that the work was not conducted to a
reasonable standard, but it is still possible that an auditor could be found to be negligent even
if the strict letter of the auditing standards was followed. This is because the test is not
whether or not the standards were followed, but whether it was reasonable to expect an
auditor to act in a particular way. All circumstances must be examined on a case-by-case
basis, and there could be conditions which would create a reasonable expectation that the
auditor would have performed additional procedures or acted differently in some way.
Therefore, compliance with auditing standards is generally regarded as a minimum, not a
maximum, requirement to avoid legal liability.


Explain the difference between self-interest and self-review threats. Give an

example of each.

Self-interest relates to the auditors position, or concerns. For example, the auditor is
interested in being paid fees for doing an audit. An auditor can also be concerned with the
value of any financial investment in a client. If the client fails, the auditors investment in the
client would likely lose value. The threat arises because the auditor is financial interested in
the client doing well (through their fees or investment), but as the auditor they could be
required to require the client to write-down asset values, or qualify the audit report. The
auditor is conflicted because they have a reason not to be independent and impartial. For
further examples see APES 110.200.4.