The use of audit analytics can help during the planning and review stages of the audit. But analytics can have an even bigger impact when these procedures are used to supplement substantive testing during fieldwork.
Definition of “analytics”
Auditors use analytical procedures to evaluate financial information by assessing relationships among financial and nonfinancial data. Examples of analytical tests include:
- Trend analysis,
- Ratio analysis,
- Reasonableness testing, and
- Regression analysis.
Significant fluctuations or relationships that are materially inconsistent with other relevant information or that differ from expected values require additional investigation.
Auditors generally follow this four-step process when performing analytical procedures:
1. Form an independent expectation. The auditor develops an expectation of an account balance or financial relationship. Expectations are based on the auditor’s understanding of the company and its industry. Examples of data used to develop expectations include prior-period information (adjusted for expected changes), management’s budgets or forecasts, and ratios published in trade journals.
2. Identify differences between expected and reported amounts. The auditor must compare his or her expectation with the amount recorded in the company’s accounting system. Then, any difference is compared to the auditor’s threshold for analytical testing. If the difference is less than the threshold, the auditor generally accepts the recorded amount without further investigation and the analytical procedure is complete. If not, the auditor moves to the next step.
3. Investigate the reason. The auditor brainstorms all possible causes and then determines the most probable cause(s) for the discrepancy. Sometimes, the analytical test or the data itself is problematic, and the auditor needs to apply additional analytical procedures with more precise data. Other times, the discrepancy has a “plausible” explanation, usually related to unusual transactions or events, or accounting or business changes.
4. Evaluate differences. The auditor evaluates the likelihood of material misstatement and then determines the nature and extent of any additional auditing procedures. Plausible explanations require corroborating audit evidence.
For differences that are due to misstatement (rather than a plausible explanation), the auditor must decide whether the misstatement is material (individually or in the aggregate). Material misstatements typically require adjustments to the amounts reported and may also necessitate additional audit procedures to determine the scope of a misstatement.
A win-win for everyone
Done right, analytical procedures can help make your audit less time-consuming, less expensive and more effective at detecting errors and omissions. Analytics also may be easier to perform remotely than traditional, manual audit testing procedures — a major upside during the COVID-19 pandemic. To avoid surprises in the coming audit season, notify us about any major changes to your operations, accounting methods or market conditions that occurred during the reporting period.
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