AI 23: Departures from Unqualified Opinions and Other Reporting Circumstances: Auditing Interpretations of AS 3105

The auditor should be aware of and consider auditing interpretations applicable to his or her audit. If the auditor does not apply the auditing guidance included in an applicable auditing interpretation, the auditor should be prepared to explain how he or she complied with the provisions of the auditing standard addressed by such auditing guidance.

View AS 3105, Departures from Unqualified Opinions and Other Reporting Circumstances

Summary Table of Contents

1. Report of an Outside Inventory-Taking Firm as an Alternative Procedure for Observing Inventories

.01        Question—Paragraph .07 of AS 3105, Departures from Unqualified Opinions and Other Reporting Circumstances, states that "Common restrictions on the scope of the audit include those applying to the observation of physical inventories and the confirmation of accounts receivable by direct communication with debtors. . . ." A footnote to that paragraph states: "Circumstances such as the timing of the work may make it impossible for the auditor to accomplish these procedures. In this case, if the auditor is able to satisfy himself or herself as to inventories or accounts receivable by applying alternative procedures, there is no significant limitation on the scope of the work, and the report need not include reference to the omission of the procedures or to the use of alternative procedures." Outside firms of nonaccountants specializing in the taking of physical inventories are used at times by some companies, such as retail stores, hospitals, and automobile dealers, to count, list, price and subsequently compute the total dollar amount of inventory on hand at the date of the physical count. Would obtaining the report of an outside inventory-taking firm be an acceptable alternative procedure to the independent auditor's own observation of physical inventories?

.02        Interpretation—Sufficient appropriate evidential matter for inventories is discussed in paragraphs .09-.12 of AS 2510, Auditing Inventories. AS 2510.09 states that ". . . it is ordinarily necessary for the independent auditor to be present at the time of count and, by suitable observation, tests, and inquiries, satisfy himself respecting the effectiveness of the methods of inventory-taking and the measure of reliance which may be placed upon the client's representations about the quantities and physical condition of the inventories."

.03        AS 2510.10 and .11 discusses two variations of that procedure when the client has well-kept perpetual records that are checked periodically by comparisons with physical counts or when the client uses statistical sampling to determine inventories. In such instances, the auditor may vary the timing and extent of his observation of physical counts, but he "must be present to observe such counts as he deems necessary and must satisfy himself as to the effectiveness of the counting procedures used."

.04        AS 2510.12 deals with circumstances in which the auditor has not satisfied himself or herself as to inventories in the possession of the client through procedures described in AS 2510.09-.11. In those circumstances, the general requirement for satisfactory alternative procedures is that ". . . tests of the accounting records alone will not be sufficient for him to become satisfied as to quantities; it will always be necessary for the auditor to make, or observe, some physical counts of the inventory and apply appropriate tests of intervening transactions."

.05        The fact that the inventory is counted by an outside inventory firm of nonaccountants is not, by itself, a satisfactory substitute for the auditor's own observation or taking of some physical counts. The auditor's concern, in this respect, is to satisfy himself as to the effectiveness of the counting procedures used. If the client engages an outside inventory firm to take the physical inventory, the auditor's primary concern would be to evaluate the effectiveness of the procedures used by the outside firm and his auditing procedures would be applied accordingly.

.06        Thus, the auditor would examine the outside firm's program, observe its procedures and controls, make or observe some physical counts of the inventory, recompute calculations of the submitted inventory on a test basis and apply appropriate tests to the intervening transactions. The independent auditor ordinarily may reduce the extent of the work on the physical count of inventory because of the work of an outside inventory firm, but any restriction on the auditor's judgment concerning the extent of his or her contact with the inventory would be a scope restriction.

[2.] Reporting on Comparative Financial Statements of Nonprofit Organizations

[.07-.10]        [Paragraphs deleted.]

[3.] Reporting on Loss Contingencies

[.11-.14]        [Paragraphs deleted.]

[4.] Reports on Consolidated Financial Statements That Include Supplementary Consolidating Information

[.15-.20]        [Paragraphs deleted.] 

[5.] Disclosures of Subsequent Events

[.21-.24]        [Paragraphs deleted.]

[6.] The Materiality of Uncertainties

[.25-.28]        [Paragraphs deleted.]

[7.] Reporting on an Uncertainty

[.29-.32]        [Paragraphs deleted.]

8. Reporting on Financial Statements Prepared on a Liquidation Basis of Accounting

.33        Question—Footnote 6 of Statement of Position 93-3, Rescission of Accounting Principles Board Statements, states that an enterprise is not viewed as a going concern if liquidation appears imminent. How should the auditor report on financial statements that are prepared on a liquidation basis of accounting for an entity in liquidation or for which liquidation appears imminent?

.34        Answer—A liquidation basis of accounting may be considered generally accepted accounting principles for entities in liquidation or for which liquidation appears imminent. Therefore, the auditor should issue an unqualified opinion on such financial statements, provided that the liquidation basis of accounting has been properly applied, and that adequate disclosures are made in the financial statements.

.35        Typically, the financial statements of entities that adopt a liquidation basis of accounting are presented along with financial statements of a period prior to adoption of a liquidation basis that were prepared on the basis of generally accepted accounting principles for going concerns. In such circumstances, the auditor's report ordinarily should include an explanatory paragraph that states that the entity has changed the basis of accounting used to determine the amounts at which assets and liabilities are carried from the going concern basis to a liquidation basis.

.36        An example of the Opinion on the Financial Statements and the Basis for Opinion sections of an auditor's report on single year financial statements in the year of adoption of liquidation basis follows:1A

Opinion on the Financial Statements

We have audited the statement of net assets in liquidation of XYZ Company (the "Company") as of December 31, 20X2, and the related statement of changes in net assets in liquidation for the period from April 26, 20X2 to December 31, 20X2, and audited the statements of income, retained earnings, and cash flows for the period from January 1, 20X2 to April 25, 20X2, and the related notes [and schedules] (collectively referred to as the "financial statements"). In our opinion, the financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the net assets in liquidation of the Company as of December 31, 20X2, the changes in its net assets in liquidation for the period from April 26, 20X2 to December 31, 20X2, and the results of its operations and its cash flows for the period from January 1, 20X2 to April 25, 20X2, in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America applied on the bases described below.

As described in Note X to the financial statements, the stockholders of the Company approved a plan of liquidation on April 25, 20X2, and the Company commenced liquidation shortly thereafter. As a result, the Company has changed its basis of accounting for periods subsequent to April 25, 20X2 from the going-concern basis to a liquidation basis.

Basis for Opinion

These financial statements are the responsibility of the Company's management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements based on our audit. We are a public accounting firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) ("PCAOB") and are required to be independent with respect to the Company in accordance with the U.S. federal securities laws and the applicable rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the PCAOB.

We conducted our audit in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether due to error or fraud. Our audit included performing procedures to assess the risk of material misstatement of the financial statements, whether due to error or fraud, and performing procedures that respond to those risks. Such procedures included examining, on a test basis, evidence regarding the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. Our audit also included evaluating the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the financial statements. We believe that our audit provides a reasonable basis for our opinion.

An example of the Opinion on the Financial Statements and the Basis for Opinion sections of an auditor's report on comparative financial statements in the year of adoption of liquidation basis follows:1B

Opinion on the Financial Statements

We have audited the balance sheet of XYZ Company (the "Company") as of December 31, 20X1, the related statements of income, retained earnings, and cash flows for the year then ended, and the statements of income, retained earnings, and cash flows for the period from January 1, 20X2 to April 25, 20X2, and audited the statement of net assets in liquidation as of December 31, 20X2, and the related statement of changes in net assets in liquidation for the period from April 26, 20X2 to December 31, 20X2, and the related notes [and schedules] (collectively referred to as the "financial statements"). In our opinion, the financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Company as of December 31, 20X1, the results of its operations and its cash flows for the year then ended and for the period from January 1, 20X2 to April 25, 20X2, its net assets in liquidation as of December 31, 20X2, and the changes in its net assets in liquidation for the period from April 26, 20X2 to December 31, 20X2, in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America applied on the bases described below.

As described in Note X to the financial statements, the stockholders of the Company approved a plan of liquidation on April 25, 20X2, and the Company commenced liquidation shortly thereafter. As a result, the Company has changed its basis of accounting for periods subsequent to April 25, 20X2 from the going-concern basis to a liquidation basis.

Basis for Opinion

These financial statements are the responsibility of the Company's management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements based on our audits. We are a public accounting firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) ("PCAOB") and are required to be independent with respect to the Company in accordance with the U.S. federal securities laws and the applicable rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the PCAOB.

We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether due to error or fraud. Our audits included performing procedures to assess the risk of material misstatement of the financial statements, whether due to error or fraud, and performing procedures that respond to those risks. Such procedures included examining, on a test basis, evidence regarding the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. Our audits also included evaluating the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the financial statements. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.

.37        The auditor may, in subsequent years, continue to include an explanatory paragraph in his report to emphasize that the financial statements are presented on a liquidation basis of accounting.

[.38] [Paragraph deleted.]

[9.] Quantifying Departures From Generally Accepted Accounting Principles

[.39-.43]        [Paragraphs deleted.]

[10.] Updated Reports Resulting From the Retroactive Suspension of Earnings Per Share and Segment Information Disclosure Requirements

[.44-.48]        [Paragraphs deleted.]

[11.] Restating Financial Statements Reporting on by a Predecessor Auditor

[.49-.50]        [Paragraphs deleted.]

12. Reference in Auditorʹs Unqualified Report to Managementʹs Report

.51        Question—One of the basic elements of the auditor's unqualified report is a statement that the financial statements are the responsibility of the Company's management. That statement is required in the auditor's report even when a document containing the auditor's report includes a statement by management regarding its responsibility for the presentation of the financial statements. When an annual shareholders' report (or other client-prepared document that includes audited financial statements) contains a management report that states the financial statements are the responsibility of management, is it permissible for the auditor's report to include a reference to the management report?

.52        Interpretation—No. The statement about management's responsibilities for the financial statements required by AS 3101, The Auditor's Report on an Audit of Financial Statements When the Auditor Expresses an Unqualified Opinion, should not be further elaborated upon in the auditor's unqualified report or referenced to management's report. Such modifications to the auditor's unqualified report may lead users to erroneously believe that the auditor is providing assurances about representations made by management about their responsibility for financial reporting, internal controls and other matters that might be discussed in the management report.

[13.] Reference to Country of Origin in the Auditorʹs Standard Report

[.53-.55]     [Paragraphs deleted.]

14. Reporting on Audits Conducted in Accordance with the Standards of the PCAOB and in Accordance with International Standards on Auditing

.56        Question—AS 3101 requires a statement that the audit was conducted in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB. If the auditor conducts the audit in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB and in accordance with the International Standards on Auditing promulgated by the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board of the International Federation of Accountants, may the auditor so indicate in the auditor’s report?

.57        Interpretation—Yes. AS 3101 requires that the auditor indicate in the auditor’s report that the audit was conducted in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB; however, AS 3101 does not prohibit the auditor from indicating that the audit also was conducted in accordance with another set of auditing standards. If the audit also was conducted in accordance with the International Standards on Auditing, in their entirety, the auditor may so indicate in the auditor’s report. To determine whether an audit was conducted in accordance with the International Standards on Auditing, it is necessary to consider the text of the International Standards on Auditing in their entirety, including the basic principles and essential procedures together with the related guidance included in the International Standards on Auditing.

.58        When reporting on an audit performed in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB and International Standards on Auditing, the auditor should comply with reporting standards of the PCAOB.

.59        An example of reporting on an audit conducted in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB and in accordance with International Standards on Auditing follows:

Basis for Opinion

These financial statements are the responsibility of the Company's management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on the Company's financial statements based on our audit. We are a public accounting firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) ("PCAOB") and are required to be independent with respect to the Company in accordance with the U.S. federal securities laws and the applicable rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the PCAOB.

We conducted our audit in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB and in accordance with International Standards on Auditing. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether due to error or fraud. Our audit included performing procedures to assess the risks of material misstatement of the financial statements, whether due to error or fraud, and performing procedures that respond to those risks. Such procedures included examining, on a test basis, evidence regarding the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. Our audit also included evaluating the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the financial statements. We believe that our audit provides a reasonable basis for our opinion.

15. Reporting as Successor Auditor When Prior-Period Audited Financial Statements Were Audited by a Predecessor Auditor Who Has Ceased Operations2

.60        Question—If the prior-period financial statements audited by a predecessor auditor who has ceased operations are presented for comparative purposes with current-period audited financial statements, how is the successor auditor's report affected?

.61        Interpretation—If the prior-period audited financial statements are unchanged, pursuant to AS 3105.58 the successor auditor should indicate in the Opinion on the Financial Statements section of his or her report (a) that the financial statements of the prior period were audited by another auditor, (b) the date of the predecessor auditor's report, (c) the type of report issued by the predecessor auditor, and (d) if the report was other than an auditor's unqualified report, the substantive reasons therefor. The successor auditor ordinarily also should indicate that the other auditor has ceased operations. Footnote 18 of AS 3105 indicates that the successor auditor should not name the predecessor auditor in the report. An example of the reference that would be added to the Opinion on the Financial Statements section of the successor auditor's report is presented as follows:

The financial statements of ABC Company as of December 31, 20X1, and for the year then ended were audited by other auditors who have ceased operations. Those auditors expressed an unqualified opinion on those financial statements in their report dated March 31, 20X2.

A reference to the predecessor auditor's report should be included even if the predecessor auditor's report on the prior-period financial statements is reprinted and accompanies the successor auditor's report, because reprinting does not constitute reissuance of the predecessor auditorʹs report.

.62        If the prior-period financial statements have been restated, and the entity does not file annual financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the successor auditor should follow the guidance in paragraph .61 above, indicating that the predecessor auditor reported on such financial statements before restatement.

.63        When the prior-period financial statements have been restated, the successor auditor may be engaged either to reaudit the prior-period financial statements or to audit only the restatement adjustments. If the successor auditor is engaged to audit only the restatement adjustments and applies sufficient procedures to satisfy himself or herself as to the appropriateness of the restatement adjustments, the successor auditor may report on the restatement adjustments using the guidance in AS 3105.58. (The auditor also may use the guidance on alternative language contained in paragraph .71, below.) In determining the nature, timing and extent of procedures, the successor auditor should consider that a predecessor auditor who has ceased operations cannot perform the procedures to evaluate the appropriateness of the restatement adjustments as described in AS 2905, Subsequent Discovery of Facts Existing at the Date of the Auditor's Report.

.64        If the successor auditor neither performs a reaudit of the prior-period financial statements nor audits only the restatement adjustments, the note to the financial statements describing the restatement adjustments should be marked "Unaudited." Depending on the nature and extent of the restatement adjustments, it may be appropriate for the prior-period financial statements to be marked "Unaudited."

.65        If the entity files annual financial statements with the SEC, the SEC staff has indicated (specifically with respect to Arthur Andersen LLP) that, in annual reports (on Form 10-K and to shareholders), the predecessor auditor's latest signed and dated report on the prior-period financial statements should be reprinted with a legend indicating (a) that the report is a copy of the previously issued report and (b) that the predecessor auditor has not reissued the report.3

.66        The successor auditor should refer to the predecessor auditor's report in his or her report, as described in paragraph .61 above, and, if the prior-period financial statements have been restated, indicate that the predecessor auditor reported on such financial statements before restatement.

.67        SEC rules require that annual and, in some instances, other financial statements be audited. To satisfy the SEC audit requirement when the prior-period financial statements have been restated, the successor auditor may be engaged either to reaudit the prior-period financial statements or to audit only the restatement adjustments. A successor auditor who is engaged to audit only the restatement adjustments is not required to perform procedures to identify all adjustments to the financial statements that may be appropriate.4

.68        In some cases, prior-period financial statement disclosures may be revised in a manner that does not involve restating amounts in the prior-period financial statements, but rather involves the addition of disclosures. In such cases, the successor auditor may be engaged to perform audit procedures to satisfy himself or herself as to the appropriateness of the additional disclosures. Financial statements that have been revised are considered to be restated for the purposes of this Interpretation.

.69        Some revisions may be sufficiently inconsequential such that audit procedures by the successor auditor would be unnecessary and the reference to the predecessor auditor's report on the prior-period financial statements would not indicate that the predecessor auditor reported on such financial statements before restatement. For example, inconsequential revisions might include conforming editorial modifications to footnote disclosures or reclassifications made for comparative purposes in the financial statements.5

.70        When the successor auditor is engaged to audit only the restatement adjustments, the procedures performed will vary significantly depending on the nature of adjustment. In some instances, the successor auditor may determine that conducting a reaudit of the prior-period financial statements is necessary based on the nature of the restatement adjustments. Examples of restatement adjustments whose nature indicates that a reaudit ordinarily is necessary (particularly with respect to entities that file financial statements with the SEC) include, but are not limited to:

  • Corrections of an error.
  • Reflection of a change in reporting entity.
  • Retroactive accounting changes (a) with significant impact on previously reported amounts or (b) that affect previously reported net income or net assets.
  • Reporting discontinued operations.
  • Changes affecting previously reported net income or net assets.

.71        If the successor auditor is engaged to audit only the restatement adjustments and applies sufficient procedures to satisfy himself or herself as to the appropriateness of the restatement adjustments, the successor auditor may report on the restatement adjustments using the guidance in AS 3105.58. Alternatively, the successor auditor may wish to make it clear that he or she did not audit, review, or apply other procedures to the prior-period financial statements beyond the procedures applied to the restatement adjustments. Accordingly, he or she may include the following paragraph in his or her report:

As discussed above, the financial statements of ABC Company as of December 31, 20X1, and for the year then ended were audited by other auditors who have ceased operations. As described in Note X, these financial statements have been restated [revised]. We audited the adjustments described in Note X that were applied to restate [revise] the 20X1 financial statements. In our opinion, such adjustments are appropriate and have been properly applied. However, we were not engaged to audit, review, or apply any procedures to the 20X1 financial statements of the Company other than with respect to such adjustments and, accordingly, we do not express an opinion or any other form of assurance on the 20X1 financial statements taken as a whole.

.72        If the auditor wishes to identify the procedures performed in his or her report, he or she may include in his or her report a paragraph similar to the following example:

Restatement Adjustments for Changes in Segment Composition

As discussed above, the financial statements of ABC Company as of December 31, 20X1, and for the year then ended were audited by other auditors who have ceased operations. As described in Note X, the Company changed the composition of its reportable segments in 20X2, and the amounts in the 20X1 financial statements relating to reportable segments have been restated to conform to the 20X2 composition of reportable segments. We audited the adjustments that were applied to restate the disclosures for reportable segments reflected in the 20X1 financial statements. Our procedures included (a) agreeing the adjusted amounts of segment revenues, operating income and assets to the Companyʹs underlying records obtained from management, and (b) testing the mathematical accuracy of the reconciliations of segment amounts to the consolidated financial statements. In our opinion, such adjustments are appropriate and have been properly applied. However, we were not engaged to audit, review, or apply any procedures to the 20X1 financial statements of the Company other than with respect to such adjustments and, accordingly, we do not express an opinion or any other form of assurance on the 20X1 financial statements taken as a whole.

.73        When the revision of the prior-period financial statements is limited to expansion of footnote disclosure, the phrase "restatement adjustments" may not be applicable. In such circumstances, the auditor may include in his or her report a paragraph similar to the following example:

Addition of FAS 142, paragraph 61, Disclosure

As discussed above, the financial statements of ABC Company as of December 31, 20X1, and for the year then ended were audited by other auditors who have ceased operations. As described in Note X, these financial statements have been revised to include the transitional disclosures required by Statement of Financial Accounting Standards (Statement) No. 142, Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets, which was adopted by the Company as of January 1, 20X2. Our audit procedures with respect to the disclosures in Note X with respect to 20X1 included (a) agreeing the previously reported net income to the previously issued financial statements and the adjustments to reported net income representing amortization expense (including any related tax effects) recognized in those periods related to goodwill, intangible assets that are no longer being amortized, deferred credits related to an excess over cost, equity method goodwill, and changes in amortization periods for intangible assets that will continue to be amortized as a result of initially applying Statement No. 142 (including any related tax effects) to the Companyʹs underlying records obtained from management, and (b) testing the mathematical accuracy of the reconciliation of adjusted net income to reported net income, and the related earnings-per-share amounts. In our opinion, the disclosures for 20X1 in Note X are appropriate. However, we were not engaged to audit, review, or apply any procedures to the 20X1 financial statements of the Company other than with respect to such disclosures and, accordingly, we do not express an opinion or any other form of assurance on the 20X1 financial statements taken as a whole.

.74        Question—If the prior-period financial statements audited by a predecessor auditor who has ceased operations have been subsequently restated, but the successor auditor has not yet completed an audit of current-period financial statements, can the successor auditor report on the restatement adjustments pursuant to AS 3105.58?

.75        Interpretation—No. AS 3105.58 is only applicable when the prior-period financial statements are presented for comparative purposes with current-period audited financial statements. If the prior-period financial statements have been restated, and the successor auditor is requested to report on those financial statements without also reporting on current-period audited financial statements, the successor auditor would need to reaudit the prior-period financial statements in order to report on them.

16. Effect on Auditorʹs Report of Omission of Schedule of Investments by Investment Partnerships That Are Exempt From Securities and Exchange Commission Registration Under the Investment Company Act of 1940

[.76-.84]     [Paragraphs deleted.]

Footnotes (AI 23 - Reports on Audited Financial Statements: Auditing Interpretations of AS 3101):

[1] [Footnote deleted.]

1A The auditor's report must include the same basic elements and communication of critical audit matters as would be required in an unqualified auditor's report under AS 3101, The Auditor's Report on an Audit of Financial Statements When the Auditor Expresses an Unqualified Opinion.

1B Id.

2 A firm is considered to have ceased operations when it no longer issues audit opinions either in its own name or in the name of a successor firm. A firm may cease operations with respect to public entities and still issue audit opinions with respect to non-public entities.

3 See Securities and Exchange Commission Release No. 33-8070, Requirements for Arthur Andersen LLP Auditing Clients.

4 However, a successor auditor who identifies other adjustments that may be appropriate to the prior-period financial statements, either in the course of auditing the restatement adjustments or in the audit of current-period financial statements, should consider their effect on the prior-period financial statements. See AS 2610. AS 2905 provides further guidance that may be useful to a successor auditor who either reaudits the prior-period financial statements or audits only the restatement adjustments.

5 If reclassifications result in material changes to prior-period financial statements, they should be disclosed and the successor auditor would, at a minimum, need to perform audit procedures on the related restatement adjustments.