[The following paragraphs were effective for audits of financial statements for periods beginning on or after December 15, 2002. They were deleted, effective for audits of fiscal years beginning on or after December 15, 2010. See PCAOB Release No. 2010-004
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Evaluating Audit Evidence
Assessing risks of material misstatement due to fraud throughout the audit. The auditor's assessment of the risks of material misstatement due to fraud should be ongoing throughout the audit. Conditions may be identified during fieldwork that change or support a judgment regarding the assessment of the risks, such as the following:
- Discrepancies in the accounting records, including:
- Transactions that are not recorded in a complete or timely manner or are improperly recorded as to amount, accounting period, classification, or entity policy
- Unsupported or unauthorized balances or transactions
- Last-minute adjustments that significantly affect financial results
- Evidence of employees' access to systems and records inconsistent with that necessary to perform their authorized duties
- Tips or complaints to the auditor about alleged fraud
- Conflicting or missing evidential matter, including:
- Missing documents
- Documents that appear to have been altered fn 26
- Unavailability of other than photocopied or electronically transmitted documents when documents in original form are expected to exist
- Significant unexplained items on reconciliations
- Inconsistent, vague, or implausible responses from management or employees arising from inquiries or analytical procedures (See paragraph .72.)
- Unusual discrepancies between the entity's records and confirmation replies
- Missing inventory or physical assets of significant magnitude
- Unavailable or missing electronic evidence, inconsistent with the entity's record retention practices or policies
- Inability to produce evidence of key systems development and program change testing and implementation activities for current-year system changes and deployments
- Problematic or unusual relationships between the auditor and management, including:
- Denial of access to records, facilities, certain employees, customers, vendors, or others from whom audit evidence might be sought fn 27
- Undue time pressures imposed by management to resolve complex or contentious issues
- Complaints by management about the conduct of the audit or management intimidation of audit team members, particularly in connection with the auditor's critical assessment of audit evidence or in the resolution of potential disagreements with management
- Unusual delays by the entity in providing requested information
- Unwillingness to facilitate auditor access to key electronic files for testing through the use of computer-assisted audit techniques
- Denial of access to key IT operations staff and facilities, including security, operations, and systems development personnel
- An unwillingness to add or revise disclosures in the financial statements to make them more complete and transparent
Evaluating whether analytical procedures performed as substantive tests or in the overall review stage of the audit indicate a previously unrecognized risk of material misstatement due to fraud. As discussed in paragraphs .28 through .30, the auditor should consider whether analytical procedures performed in planning the audit result in identifying any unusual or unexpected relationships that should be considered in assessing the risks of material misstatement due to fraud. The auditor also should evaluate whether analytical procedures that were performed as substantive tests or in the overall review stage of the audit (see section 329) indicate a previously unrecognized risk of material misstatement due to fraud.
If not already performed during the overall review stage of the audit, the auditor should perform analytical procedures relating to revenue, as discussed in paragraph .29, through the end of the reporting period.
Determining which particular trends and relationships may indicate a risk of material misstatement due to fraud requires professional judgment. Unusual relationships involving year-end revenue and income often are particularly relevant. These might include, for example, (a) uncharacteristically large amounts of income being reported in the last week or two of the reporting period from unusual transactions, as well as (b) income that is inconsistent with trends in cash flow from operations.
Some unusual or unexpected analytical relationships may have been identified and may indicate a risk of material misstatement due to fraud because management or employees generally are unable to manipulate certain information to create seemingly normal or expected relationships. Some examples are as follows:
- The relationship of net income to cash flows from operations may appear unusual because management recorded fictitious revenues and receivables but was unable to manipulate cash.
- Changes in inventory, accounts payable, sales, or cost of sales from the prior period to the current period may be inconsistent, indicating a possible employee theft of inventory, because the employee was unable to manipulate all of the related accounts.
- A comparison of the entity's profitability to industry trends, which management cannot manipulate, may indicate trends or differences for further consideration when identifying risks of material misstatement due to fraud.
- A comparison of bad debt write-offs to comparable industry data, which employees cannot manipulate, may provide unexplained relationships that could indicate a possible theft of cash receipts.
- An unexpected or unexplained relationship between sales volume as determined from the accounting records and production statistics maintained by operations personnel—which may be more difficult for management to manipulate—may indicate a possible misstatement of sales.
The auditor also should consider whether responses to inquiries throughout the audit about analytical relationships have been vague or implausible, or have produced evidence that is inconsistent with other evidential matter accumulated during the audit.
Evaluating the risks of material misstatement due to fraud at or near the completion of fieldwork. At or near the completion of fieldwork, the auditor should evaluate whether the accumulated results of auditing procedures and other observations (for example, conditions and analytical relationships noted in paragraphs .69 through .73) affect the assessment of the risks of material misstatement due to fraud made earlier in the audit. This evaluation primarily is a qualitative matter based on the auditor's judgment. Such an evaluation may provide further insight about the risks of material misstatement due to fraud and whether there is a need to perform additional or different audit procedures. As part of this evaluation, the auditor with final responsibility for the audit should ascertain that there has been appropriate communication with the other audit team members throughout the audit regarding information or conditions indicative of risks of material misstatement due to fraud. fn 28
Responding to misstatements that may be the result of fraud. When audit test results identify misstatements in the financial statements, the auditor should consider whether such misstatements may be indicative of fraud. fn 29 That determination affects the auditor's evaluation of materiality and the related responses necessary as a result of that evaluation. fn 30
If the auditor believes that misstatements are or may be the result of fraud, but the effect of the misstatements is not material to the financial statements, the auditor nevertheless should evaluate the implications, especially those dealing with the organizational position of the person(s) involved. For example, fraud involving misappropriations of cash from a small petty cash fund normally would be of little significance to the auditor in assessing the risk of material misstatement due to fraud because both the manner of operating the fund and its size would tend to establish a limit on the amount of potential loss, and the custodianship of such funds normally is entrusted to a nonmanagement employee. fn 31 Conversely, if the matter involves higher-level management, even though the amount itself is not material to the financial statements, it may be indicative of a more pervasive problem, for example, implications about the integrity of management. fn 32 In such circumstances, the auditor should reevaluate the assessment of the risk of material misstatement due to fraud and its resulting impact on (a) the nature, timing, and extent of the tests of balances or transactions and (b) the assessment of the effectiveness of controls if control risk was assessed below the maximum.
If the auditor believes that the misstatement is or may be the result of fraud, and either has determined that the effect could be material to the financial statements or has been unable to evaluate whether the effect is material, the auditor should:
- Attempt to obtain additional evidential matter to determine whether material fraud has occurred or is likely to have occurred, and, if so, its effect on the financial statements and the auditor's report thereon. fn 33
- Consider the implications for other aspects of the audit (see paragraph .76).
- Discuss the matter and the approach for further investigation with an appropriate level of management that is at least one level above those involved, and with senior management and the audit committee. fn 34
- If appropriate, suggest that the client consult with legal counsel.
The auditor's consideration of the risks of material misstatement and the results of audit tests may indicate such a significant risk of material misstatement due to fraud that the auditor should consider withdrawing from the engagement and communicating the reasons for withdrawal to the audit committee or others with equivalent authority and responsibility. fn 35 Whether the auditor concludes that withdrawal from the engagement is appropriate may depend on (a) the implications about the integrity of management and (b) the diligence and cooperation of management or the board of directors in investigating the circumstances and taking appropriate action. Because of the variety of circumstances that may arise, it is not possible to definitively describe when withdrawal is appropriate. fn 36 The auditor may wish to consult with legal counsel when considering withdrawal from an engagement.