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AU Section 341A

The Auditor's Consideration of an Entity's Ability to Continue as a Going Concern

(Supersedes section 340)
Source: SAS No. 59; SAS No. 64; SAS No. 77.
See section 9341A for interpretations of this section.
Effective for audits of financial statements for periods beginning on or after January 1, 1989, unless otherwise indicated.

.01

This section provides guidance to the auditor in conducting an audit of financial statements in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards with respect to evaluating whether there is substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern. fn 1, fn 2 Continuation of an entity as a going concern is assumed in financial reporting in the absence of significant information to the contrary. Ordinarily, information that significantly contradicts the going concern assumption relates to the entity's inability to continue to meet its obligations as they become due without substantial disposition of assets outside the ordinary course of business, restructuring of debt, externally forced revisions of its operations, or similar actions.

The Auditor's Responsibility

.02

The auditor has a responsibility to evaluate whether there is substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time, not to exceed one year beyond the date of the financial statements being audited (hereinafter referred to as a reasonable period of time). The auditor's evaluation is based on his knowledge of relevant conditions and events that exist at or have occurred prior to the completion of fieldwork. Information about such conditions or events is obtained from the application of auditing procedures planned and performed to achieve audit objectives that are related to management's assertions embodied in the financial statements being audited, as described in section 326, Evidential Matter.

.03

The auditor should evaluate whether there is substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time in the following manner:

  1. The auditor considers whether the results of his procedures performed in planning, gathering evidential matter relative to the various audit objectives, and completing the audit identify conditions and events that, when considered in the aggregate, indicate there could be substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time. It may be necessary to obtain additional information about such conditions and events, as well as the appropriate evidential matter to support information that mitigates the auditor's doubt.
  2. If the auditor believes there is substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time, he should (1) obtain information about management's plans that are intended to mitigate the effect of such conditions or events, and (2) assess the likelihood that such plans can be effectively implemented.
  3. After the auditor has evaluated management's plans, he concludes whether he has substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time. If the auditor concludes there is substantial doubt, he should (1) consider the adequacy of disclosure about the entity's possible inability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time, and (2) include an explanatory paragraph (following the opinion paragraph) in his audit report to reflect his conclusion. If the auditor concludes that substantial doubt does not exist, he should consider the need for disclosure.

.04

The auditor is not responsible for predicting future conditions or events. The fact that the entity may cease to exist as a going concern subsequent to receiving a report from the auditor that does not refer to substantial doubt, even within one year following the date of the financial statements, does not, in itself, indicate inadequate performance by the auditor. Accordingly, the absence of reference to substantial doubt in an auditor's report should not be viewed as providing assurance as to an entity's ability to continue as a going concern.

Audit Procedures

.05

It is not necessary to design audit procedures solely to identify conditions and events that, when considered in the aggregate, indicate there could be substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time. The results of auditing procedures designed and performed to achieve other audit objectives should be sufficient for that purpose. The following are examples of procedures that may identify such conditions and events:

  • Analytical procedures
  • Review of subsequent events
  • Review of compliance with the terms of debt and loan agreements
  • Reading of minutes of meetings of stockholders, board of directors, and important committees of the board
  • Inquiry of an entity's legal counsel about litigation, claims, and assessments
  • Confirmation with related and third parties of the details of arrangements to provide or maintain financial support

Consideration of Conditions and Events

.06

In performing audit procedures such as those presented in paragraph .05, the auditor may identify information about certain conditions or events that, when considered in the aggregate, indicate there could be substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time. The significance of such conditions and events will depend on the circumstances, and some may have significance only when viewed in conjunction with others. The following are examples of such conditions and events:

  • Negative trends—for example, recurring operating losses, working capital deficiencies, negative cash flows from operating activities, adverse key financial ratios
  • Other indications of possible financial difficulties—for example, default on loan or similar agreements, arrearages in dividends, denial of usual trade credit from suppliers, restructuring of debt, noncompliance with statutory capital requirements, need to seek new sources or methods of financing or to dispose of substantial assets
  • Internal matters—for example, work stoppages or other labor difficulties, substantial dependence on the success of a particular project, uneconomic long-term commitments, need to significantly revise operations
  • External matters that have occurred—for example, legal proceedings, legislation, or similar matters that might jeopardize an entity's ability to operate; loss of a key franchise, license, or patent; loss of a principal customer or supplier; uninsured or underinsured catastrophe such as a drought, earthquake, or flood

Consideration of Management's Plans

.07

If, after considering the identified conditions and events in the aggregate, the auditor believes there is substantial doubt about the ability of the entity to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time, he should consider management's plans for dealing with the adverse effects of the conditions and events. The auditor should obtain information about the plans and consider whether it is likely the adverse effects will be mitigated for a reasonable period of time and that such plans can be effectively implemented. The auditor's considerations relating to management plans may include the following:

  • Plans to dispose of assets
    • Restrictions on disposal of assets, such as covenants limiting such transactions in loan or similar agreements or encumbrances against assets
    • Apparent marketability of assets that management plans to sell
    • Possible direct or indirect effects of disposal of assets
  • Plans to borrow money or restructure debt
    • Availability of debt financing, including existing or committed credit arrangements, such as lines of credit or arrangements for factoring receivables or sale-leaseback of assets
    • Existing or committed arrangements to restructure or subordinate debt or to guarantee loans to the entity
    • Possible effects on management's borrowing plans of existing restrictions on additional borrowing or the sufficiency of available collateral
  • Plans to reduce or delay expenditures
    • Apparent feasibility of plans to reduce overhead or administrative expenditures, to postpone maintenance or research and development projects, or to lease rather than purchase assets
    • Possible direct or indirect effects of reduced or delayed expenditures
  • Plans to increase ownership equity
    • Apparent feasibility of plans to increase ownership equity, including existing or committed arrangements to raise additional capital
    • Existing or committed arrangements to reduce current dividend requirements or to accelerate cash distributions from affiliates or other investors

.08

When evaluating management's plans, the auditor should identify those elements that are particularly significant to overcoming the adverse effects of the conditions and events and should plan and perform auditing procedures to obtain evidential matter about them. For example, the auditor should consider the adequacy of support regarding the ability to obtain additional financing or the planned disposal of assets.

.09

When prospective financial information is particularly significant to management's plans, the auditor should request management to provide that information and should consider the adequacy of support for significant assumptions underlying that information. The auditor should give particular attention to assumptions that are—

  • Material to the prospective financial information.
  • Especially sensitive or susceptible to change.
  • Inconsistent with historical trends.

The auditor's consideration should be based on knowledge of the entity, its business, and its management and should include (a) reading of the prospective financial information and the underlying assumptions and (b) comparing prospective financial information in prior periods with actual results and comparing prospective information for the current period with results achieved to date. If the auditor becomes aware of factors, the effects of which are not reflected in such prospective financial information, he should discuss those factors with management and, if necessary, request revision of the prospective financial information.

Consideration of Financial Statement Effects

.10

When, after considering management's plans, the auditor concludes there is substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time, the auditor should consider the possible effects on the financial statements and the adequacy of the related disclosure. Some of the information that might be disclosed includes—

  • Pertinent conditions and events giving rise to the assessment of substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time.
  • The possible effects of such conditions and events.
  • Management's evaluation of the significance of those conditions and events and any mitigating factors.
  • Possible discontinuance of operations.
  • Management's plans (including relevant prospective financial information). fn 3
  • Information about the recoverability or classification of recorded asset amounts or the amounts or classification of liabilities.

.11

When, primarily because of the auditor's consideration of management's plans, he concludes that substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time is alleviated, he should consider the need for disclosure of the principal conditions and events that initially caused him to believe there was substantial doubt. The auditor's consideration of disclosure should include the possible effects of such conditions and events, and any mitigating factors, including management's plans.

Consideration of the Effects on the Auditor's Report

.12

If, after considering identified conditions and events and management's plans, the auditor concludes that substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time remains, the audit report should include an explanatory paragraph (following the opinion paragraph) to reflect that conclusion. fn 4 The auditor's conclusion about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern should be expressed through the use of the phrase "substantial doubt about its (the entity's) ability to continue as a going concern" [or similar wording that includes the terms substantial doubt and going concern] as illustrated in paragraph .13. [As amended, effective for reports issued after December 31, 1990, by Statement on Auditing Standards No. 64.]

.13

An example follows of an explanatory paragraph (following the opinion paragraph) in the auditor's report describing an uncertainty about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time. fn 5

The accompanying financial statements have been prepared assuming that the Company will continue as a going concern. As discussed in Note X to the financial statements, the Company has suffered recurring losses from operations and has a net capital deficiency that raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern. Management's plans in regard to these matters are also described in Note X. The financial statements do not include any adjustments that might result from the outcome of this uncertainty.

[As amended, effective for reports issued after December 31, 1990, by Statement on Auditing Standards No. 64.]

.14

If the auditor concludes that the entity's disclosures with respect to the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time are inadequate, a departure from generally accepted accounting principles exists. This may result in either a qualified (except for) or an adverse opinion. Reporting guidance for such situations is provided in section 508, Reports on Audited Financial Statements.

.15

Substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time that arose in the current period does not imply that a basis for such doubt existed in the prior period and, therefore, should not affect the auditor's report on the financial statements of the prior period that are presented on a comparative basis. When financial statements of one or more prior periods are presented on a comparative basis with financial statements of the current period, reporting guidance is provided in section 508.

.16

If substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time existed at the date of prior period financial statements that are presented on a comparative basis, and that doubt has been removed in the current period, the explanatory paragraph included in the auditor's report (following the opinion paragraph) on the financial statements of the prior period should not be repeated.

Effective Date

.17

This section is effective for audits of financial statements for periods beginning on or after January 1, 1989. Early application of the provisions of this section is permissible.

Footnotes (AU Section 341A — The Auditor's Consideration of an Entity's Ability to Continue as a Going Concern):

fn 1 This section does not apply to an audit of financial statements based on the assumption of liquidation (for example, when [a] an entity is in the process of liquidation, [b] the owners have decided to commence dissolution or liquidation, or [c] legal proceedings, including bankruptcy, have reached a point at which dissolution or liquidation is probable). See Auditing Interpretation, "Reporting on Financial Statements Prepared on a Liquidation Basis of Accounting" (section 9508.33-.38).

fn 2 The guidance provided in this section applies to audits of financial statements prepared either in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles or in accordance with a comprehensive basis of accounting other than generally accepted accounting principles. References in this section to generally accepted accounting principles are intended to include a comprehensive basis of accounting other than generally accepted accounting principles (excluding liquidation basis).

fn 3 It is not intended that such prospective financial information constitute prospective financial statements meeting the minimum presentation guidelines set forth in AT section 301, Financial Forecasts and Projections, nor that the inclusion of such information require any consideration beyond that normally required by generally accepted auditing standards. [Footnote revised, January 2001, to reflect conforming changes necessary due to the issuance of Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements No. 10.]

fn 4 The inclusion of an explanatory paragraph (following the opinion paragraph) in the auditor's report contemplated by this section should serve adequately to inform the users of the financial statements. Nothing in this section, however, is intended to preclude an auditor from declining to express an opinion in cases involving uncertainties. If he disclaims an opinion, the uncertainties and their possible effects on the financial statements should be disclosed in an appropriate manner (see paragraph .10), and the auditor's report should give all the substantive reasons for his disclaimer of opinion (see section 508, Reports on Audited Financial Statements).

fn 5 In a going-concern explanatory paragraph, the auditor should not use conditional language in expressing a conclusion concerning the existence of substantial doubt about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern. Examples of inappropriate wording in the explanatory paragraph would be, "If the Company continues to suffer recurring losses from operations and continues to have a net capital deficiency, there may be substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern" or "The Company has been unable to renegotiate its expiring credit agreements. Unless the Company is able to obtain financial support, there is substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern." [Footnote added, effective for reports issued after December 15, 1995, by Statement on Auditing Standards No. 77.]

Copyright © 1996, 2002, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Inc.