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AT Section

STATEMENTS ON STANDARDS FOR ATTESTATION ENGAGEMENTS

ATTESTATION STANDARDS

Introduction

The accompanying "attestation standards" provide guidance and establish a broad framework for a variety of attest services increasingly demanded of the accounting profession. The standards and related interpretive commentary are designed to provide professional guidelines that will enhance both consistency and quality in the performance of such services.

For years, attest services generally were limited to expressing a positive opinion on historical financial statements on the basis of an audit in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards (GAAS). However, certified public accountants increasingly have been requested to provide, and have been providing, assurance on representations other than historical financial statements and in forms other than the positive opinion. In responding to these needs, certified public accountants have been able to generally apply the basic concepts underlying GAAS to these attest services. As the range of attest services has grown, however, it has become increasingly difficult to do so.

Consequently, the main objective of adopting these attestation standards and the related interpretive commentary is to provide a general framework for and set reasonable boundaries around the attest function. As such, the standards and commentary (a) provide useful and necessary guidance to certified public accountants engaged to perform new and evolving attest services and (b) guide AICPA standard-setting bodies in establishing, if deemed necessary, interpretive standards for such services.

The attestation standards are a natural extension of the ten generally accepted auditing standards. Like the auditing standards, the attestation standards deal with the need for technical competence, independence in mental attitude, due professional care, adequate planning and supervision, sufficient evidence, and appropriate reporting; however, they are much broader in scope. (The eleven attestation standards are listed below.) Such standards apply to a growing array of attest services. These services include, for example, reports on descriptions of systems of internal control; on descriptions of computer software; on compliance with statutory, regulatory, and contractual requirements; on investment performance statistics; and on information supplementary to financial statements. Thus, the standards have been developed to be responsive to a changing environment and the demands of society.

These attestation standards apply only to attest services rendered by a certified public accountant in the practice of public accounting—that is, a practitioner as defined in footnote 1 of paragraph .01.

The attestation standards do not supersede any of the existing standards in Statements on Auditing Standards (SASs), Statements on Standards for Accounting and Review Services (SSARSs), and Statement on Standards for Accountants' Services on Prospective Financial Information. Therefore, the practitioner who is engaged to perform an engagement subject to these existing standards should follow such standards.

Attestation Standards

General Standards

  1. The engagement shall be performed by a practitioner having adequate technical training and proficiency in the attest function.
  2. The engagement shall be performed by a practitioner having adequate knowledge of the subject matter.
  3. The practitioner shall perform the engagement only if he or she has reason to believe that the subject matter is capable of evaluation against criteria that are suitable and available to users.
  4. In all matters relating to the engagement, an independence in mental attitude shall be maintained by the practitioner.
  5. Due professional care shall be exercised in the planning and performance of the engagement.

Standards of Fieldwork

  1. The work shall be adequately planned and assistants, if any, shall be properly supervised.
  2. Sufficient evidence shall be obtained to provide a reasonable basis for the conclusion that is expressed in the report.

Standards of Reporting

  1. The report shall identify the subject matter or the assertion being reported on and state the character of the engagement.
  2. The report shall state the practitioner’s conclusion about the subject matter or the assertion in relation to the criteria against which the subject matter was evaluated.
  3. The report shall state all of the practitioner’s significant reservations about the engagement, the subject matter, and, if applicable, the assertion related thereto.
  4. The report shall state that the use of the report is restricted to specified parties under the following circumstances:
    • When the criteria used to evaluate the subject matter are determined by the practitioner to be appropriate only for a limited number of parties who either participated in their establishment or can be presumed to have an adequate understanding of the criteria
    • When the criteria used to evaluate the subject matter are available only to specified parties
    • When reporting on subject matter and a written assertion has not been provided by the responsible party
    • When the report is on an attest engagement to apply agreed-upon procedures to the subject matter.

[As amended, effective for attest reports issued on or after June 30, 1999, by Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements No. 9. As amended, effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after June 1, 2001, by Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements No. 10.]

Copyright © 2001, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Inc.