Aleksandra (Ally) Zimmerman

Senior Economic Research Fellow (2019-2020)

Aleksandra (Ally) Zimmerman, Ph.D., CPA (OH), CMA is an Assistant Professor of Accounting at Florida State University. She earned her Ph.D. in management (accounting) from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, in May 2016. She also earned her BSBA (Accounting) from John Carroll University and MSA from Kent State University. Prior to her doctoral program, she worked full time for three and half years in public accounting for the regional public accounting firm HW&Co., CPAs and Advisors in Ohio. She has expertise in external auditing of for-profit and nonprofit organizations, employee benefit plans, and A-133 Single Audits. During her fellowship and as a visiting scholar, Dr. Zimmerman used confidential PCAOB data to conduct several research projects on the use of specialists and experts by the six largest global network audit firms.

First, Dr. Zimmerman collaborated with Joon-Suk Lee, former PCAOB Senior Research Fellow Miguel Minutti-Meza (University of Miami), and Derek Barr-Pulliam (University of Louisville) on a project on the use of non-accounting and non-audit specialists such as valuation, actuarial, and other specialists. Specifically, the project focuses on how and when auditors use in-house specialists and how this impacts audit quality. This project informs and supports the PCAOB's implementation and possibly a future post-implementation review of the recently adopted amendments to the standards on using the work of specialists. Using PCAOB inspections data from 2016-2018 prior to the implementation of the new standards, we find that, consistent with prior survey and interview research, greater use of specialists on audits is associated with a higher likelihood of inspection findings related to complex estimates, which likely reflects collaboration and coordination issues between the core audit team and specialists. The latest version of the study can be found on the PCAOB’s website and SSRN.

Second, Dr. Zimmerman collaborated with Andrew Bauer (University of Waterloo), former PCAOB Senior Research Fellow Miguel Minutti-Meza (University of Miami), and Saad Siddiqui (Villanova University) on a project investigating how auditors’ use of tax experts to help with audit planning and fieldwork impacts tax-related financial reporting quality. Overall, we find that greater use of tax specialists is associated with more conservative tax estimates (uncertain tax positions and valuation allowance for bad debt). However, we also find that greater use of tax experts is not always a seamless solution when client tax complexity is high. Involving specialists and tax experts earlier in the audit process helps improve audit quality. The latest version of the study can be found on the PCAOB’s website and SSRN.

Third, Dr. Zimmerman is also currently collaborating with former PCAOB Senior Research Fellows Matthew Sherwood (University of Massachusetts Amherst) and Miguel Minutti-Meza (University of Miami) on a project investigating the determinants and consequences of auditors’ use of national office consultations. The project complements the other studies on specialists and tax experts in that it examines why and how auditors use of accounting and auditing experts typically housed in large firms’ national offices.