Should You Perform Audit Walkthroughs Annually?

Post 4 - Corroborating your understanding of controls

Audit walkthroughs, sometimes referred to as “cradle to grave” reviews of transaction cycles, are performed for significant transaction cycles and should be performed early in the audit process. The auditor starts at the beginning of a transaction cycle and walks a transaction completely through the accounting system while observing controls. Why? To see if controls exist and are in use–and ultimately, to identify risks.

audit walkthroughs

Picture from AdobeStock.com

Are Internal Control Walkthroughs Required?

How often is the auditor required to perform a walkthrough?

Answer: Once per year, if this is how you corroborate your understanding of the cycle. Walkthroughs are not required, but you do need to verify your understanding of the accounting system and related controls–and I can think of no better way.

Recently, I was asked, “If a walkthrough is not used, what else can I do?” While questionnaires can be used, there is a risk that key internal controls will be missed. What if the questionnaire doesn’t address a critical piece of the control structure? Walking a transaction through the accounting system and reviewing related controls ensures a full understanding.

AICPA Guidance Concerning Annual Walkthroughs

TIS Section 8200.12, as issued by the AICPA, states the following:

Inquiry—AU section 314 (now AU-C 315) requires the auditor to obtain an understanding of internal control. An auditor might perform walkthroughs to confirm his or her understanding of internal control. If the auditor decides to use walkthroughs to confirm his or her understanding of internal control, how often do walkthroughs need to occur?

Reply—In accordance with AU Section 314 (now AU-C 315), the auditor is required to obtain an understanding of internal control to evaluate the design of controls and to determine whether they have been implemented. To do that, performing a walkthrough would be a good practice. Accordingly, auditors might perform a walkthrough of significant accounting cycles every year [emphasis added].

Controls Documented in Prior Period

In some situations, AU-C section 315 allows the auditor to rely on audit evidence obtained in prior periods. In those situations, the auditor is required to perform audit procedures to establish the continued relevance of the audit evidence obtained in prior periods (for example, by performing a walkthrough). So, an auditor might perform walkthroughs every year to update his or her understanding. (I know the TIS says “might,” but it does appear the AICPA encourages annual walkthroughs.)

Summary Thoughts

Remember, a walkthrough is a risk assessment procedure. As such, it should be performed early in the audit–not as we are finalizing the work paper file. Identify risks and then create audit steps to respond.

Too many auditors see walkthroughs as “something we do because we have to,” rather than as procedures that inform the audit process. That’s why some auditors document walkthroughs at the end of the audit. 

Audits should be performed in the following order:

  1. Identify risk
  2. Assess risk
  3. Create an audit plan
  4. Execute the audit plan
  5. If necessary, revise the risk assessment and audit plan (if new risks are identified during step 4.)

Walkthroughs should be performed in step 1., not after step 4.

See my prior walkthrough posts:

Post 1 – Why Should Auditors Perform Audit Walkthroughs?

Post 2 – How to Identify Risks of Material Misstatements with Audit Walkthroughs

Post 3 – How to Document Audit Walkthroughs

Omission of MD&A from Governmental Financial Statements

Governments can exclude the MD&A from their financial statements

According to AU-C 730, the auditor’s report on the financial statements should include an other-matter paragraph that refers to the required supplementary information (RSI). In governmental financial statements, the management, discussion, and analysis (MD&A) is considered RSI. Though the MD&A is “required” supplementary information, governments can–strangely enough–exclude it from the financial statements.

omission of management, discussion and analysis

Picture from AdobeStock.com

Omitting the MD&A – Effect on an Audit Opinion

If the required supplementary information is omitted, the auditor should include an other-matter paragraph in the opinion such as the following:

Management has omitted the management, discussion, and analysis that accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America require to be presented to supplement the basic financial statements. Such missing information, although not a part of the basic financial statements, is required by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, who considers it to be an essential part of financial reporting for placing the basic financial statements in an appropriate operational, economic, or historical context. Our opinion on the basic financial statements is not affected by this missing information.

Notice the omission of the MD&A does not affect the opinion rendered (in other words, it does not result in a modified report).

RSI Audit Standard

AU-C 730 is the audit standard for required supplementary information. Click here for an overview of the supplementary information audit standards. The former supplementary information standards were SASs 118, 119 and 120; those standards are now–under the Clarity Standards–AU-C sections 720, 725, and 730.

Omitting the MD&A – Effect on a Compilation Report

In compilation reports, the language is as follows:

Management has omitted the management, discussion and analysis that accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America require to be presented to supplement the basic financial statements. Such missing information, although not a part of the basic financial statements, is required by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board which considers it to be an essential part of financial reporting and for placing the basic financial statements in an appropriate operational, economic, or historical context. 

How to Identify and Manage Audit Stakeholders

Identifying your audit stakeholders can assist in identifying audit risks

This is a guest post by Harry Hall. He is a Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP). He blogs at ProjectRiskCoach. You can also follow Harry on Twitter.

Some auditors perform the same procedures year after year. These individuals know the drill. Their thought is: been there; done that.

Imagine a partner or an in-charge (i.e., project manager) with this attitude. He does little analysis and makes some costly stakeholder mistakes. As the audit team starts the audit, they encounter surprises:

  • Changes in the client stakeholders – accounting personnel and management
  • Changes in accounting systems and reporting
  • Changes in business processes
  • Changes in third-party vendors
  • Changes in the client’s external stakeholders
Identifying audit stakeholders

Picture from AdobeStock.com

Furthermore, imagine the team returning to your office after the initial work is done. The team has every intention of continuing the audit; however, some members are being pulled for urgent work on a different audit.

These changes create audit risks–both the risk that the team will issue an unmodified opinion when it’s not merited and the risk that engagement profit will diminish. Given these unanticipated factors, the audit will likely take longer and cost more than planned. And here’s another potential wrinkle: Powerful, influential stakeholders may insist on new deliverables late in the project.

So how can you mitigate these risks early in your audit?

Perform a stakeholder analysis.

“Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.” – Brian Tracy

The Why and How of Auditing Payables and Expenses

Here's an overview of common payable and expense risks and how to audit them

Are you auditing payables and expenses? In this post, we’ll answer questions such as, “how should we test accounts payable?” and “should I perform fraud-related expense procedures?” We’ll also take a look at common risks and how to respond to them.

auditing payables and expenses

Picture from AdobeStock.com

Auditing Accounts Payable and Expenses — An Overview

What is a payable? It’s the amount a company owes for services rendered or goods received. Suppose the company you are auditing receives $2,000 in legal services in the last week of December, but the law firm sends the related invoice in January. The company owes $2,000 as of December 31, 2016. The services were provided, but the payment was not made until after the period-end. Consequently, the company records the $2,000 in its year-end payables. 

In determining whether payables exist, I like to ask, “if the company closed down at midnight on the last day of the month, would it have a legal obligation to pay for a service or good?” If the answer is yes, then record the payable—even if the invoice is received after the month-end. Has the service been received by month-end? Have the goods been received by month-end? If yes and the company has not paid for the service or good by month-end, then the company has a payable.

In this post, we will cover the following:

  • Primary accounts payable and expenses assertions
  • Accounts payable and expense walkthroughs
  • Directional risk for accounts payable and expenses
  • Primary risks for accounts payable and expenses
  • Common accounts payable and expenses control deficiencies
  • Risk of material misstatement for accounts payable and expenses
  • Substantive procedures for accounts payable and expenses
  • Typical accounts payable and expense work papers

The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention

Whether your government is small or large, this book provides guidance in reducing theft

Do you desire to fight fraud in governments? Or maybe you are just curious about how fraudsters get away with their wily schemes. See my book The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention. You can purchase it on Amazon as a paperback. Also, the ebook is available as a Kindle download.

Local Government Fraud Prevention

Fraud occurs in local governments in a multitude of ways, yet many cities, counties, school systems, authorities, and other public entities are ill-prepared to prevent or detect its occurrence. Why is this so? Some governments place too much reliance on annual audits as a cure-all, but clean audit opinions don’t mean that fraud is not occurring. And some governments fail to understand how vulnerable they are–until it’s too late.

Why is local government fraud so common? Many small governments don’t have a sufficient number of employees to segregate accounting duties. It is also these smaller governments that place too much trust in their accounting personnel. This combination of a lack of segregation of duties and too much trust in key employees often leads to significant losses from theft.

The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention provides several real-life stories of fraud. The stories will inform you about how local government employees steal. Then I provide you with prevention techniques to assist you in mitigating fraud risks. In one story, for example, the book shows how a single municipal employee stole over $53 million dollars, all from a city of just 16,000 citizens.

If you audit governments, you will find this book helpful in pinpointing common areas where governmental fraud occurs. The book also includes fraud audit checklists and fraud detection procedures. Whether you are an internal or external auditor, you will find fresh ideas for prevention and detection.

The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention will assist you if you are a:

1. Local government accounting employee
2. Local government elected official
3. Local government auditor
4. Local government attorney
5. Certified Public Accountant
6. Certified Fraud Examiner

Even if you don’t work with governments, you’ll find this book useful. I provide fraud prevention steps for transaction cycles such as billing and collections, payables and expenses, payroll, and capital assets.

Together we can bring down the risk of fraud and corruption in our local governments. Come join the team. We’ll all be better for it.

If you don’t desire to spend money on the book, here’s a free list of controls.

Do Loan Guarantees Create Liabilities?

Sometimes loan guarantees create liabilities

Can a loan guarantees create liabilities that go on the balance sheet of the guarantor?

Yes.

Loan Guarantees Create Liabilities

Picture from AdobeStock.com.

Recording Loan Guarantees

FASB 5 (now ASC 450) has been with us for some time. It states that a company should record a contingent liability if two things occur:

  1. The liability is subject to estimation (you can calculate it)
  2. It is probable that the liability will be paid

ASC 450 addresses these contingent liabilities.

FIN 45 (now ASC 460) was issued in the early 2000s to clarify that some loan guarantees create liabilities–even when there is no loan default. ASC 460 deals with noncontingent liabilities. And it’s the noncontingent piece that confuses everyone (including me). So let’s first take a look at noncontingent liabilities.

Noncontingent Liability

ABC Co. guarantees a $2,000,000 loan of XYZ Co. (an unrelated entity); in exchange, XYZ agrees to pay a fee of $50,000.

Should ABC Co. record a liability for the guarantee? Yes.

What’s the entry?

                                                         Dr.                 Cr.

Accounts Receivable                $50,000

Guarantee Liability                                           $50,000

The standard allows the guarantor to use the guarantee fee as a practical expedient to valuing the loan guarantee.

What if there is no guarantee fee? For instance, let’s say ABC Co. guarantees a loan for Sidewalk Safety Nonprofit, Inc. This guarantee is provided to the nonprofit free of charge. How would ABC Co. record this guarantee?

First ABC Co. would need to determine the value of the guarantee. If Sidewalk Safety’s interest rate is 8% without the guarantee, but now it’s 4%, then you can compute the differential using present value calculations. Let’s say the result is $40,000, what is the entry?

                                                                       Dr.                Cr.

Guarantee Expense (Contribution)      $40,000

Guarantee Liability                                                       $40,000

Guarantee of Related Party Debt

What if the loan guarantee is for an entity owned by the same parties? If the guarantee is on the debt of a related entity under common control, ASC 460-10-25-1 exempts the guarantor from the requirement to record the guarantee liability.

Next, we’ll see how to relieve the guarantee liability.

Guarantee Liability – In Subsequent Periods

After inception, the fair value liability (for both examples above) is taken to income as the guarantor is released from risk; the liability is to be adjusted to fair value at the period end.

ASC 460 does not provide detailed guidance as to how the guarantor’s initial liability should be measured after its initial recognition. Depending on the nature of the guarantee, the guarantor’s release from risk is recognized with an increase to earnings using one of three methods:

  1. Systematic and rational
  2. Deferring until expiration or settlement of the guarantee
  3. Remeasurement at fair value (for guarantees accounted for as derivatives)

You now know how to account for the noncontingent liability, but what if the guaranteed party defaults on the loan. Now the guarantor needs to record the loan as a liability.

Contingent Liability

For example, what if Sidewalk Safety defaults on the loan? Then ABC Co. needs to book a liability for the remaining debt. Sidewalk Safety’s default triggers ASC 450.

This is the contingent piece of the equation (for which no amount is typically recorded at the inception of the guarantee). Upon Sidewalk Safety’s default, the debt amount is subject to estimation and payment is probable. ABC Co. is on the hook for the remaining debt.

Supplementary Information Audit Opinion

You can report on supplementary information in an audit opinion or as a separate report

Are you looking for a supplementary information audit opinion example? Well, here it is.

supplementary information audit opinion

Picture from AdobeStock.com

Two Options for Reporting

You can opine on supplementary information in two ways:

  1. In the financial statement opinion or
  2. In a separate opinion that addresses just the supplementary information

Below you will see sample wording for both options.

How to Present Supplementary Information in Compilation and Preparation Engagements

Supplementary information can be added to basic financial statements

Are you wondering how to present supplementary information in compilation and preparation engagements? What supplementary information (SI) should be included? How does the accountant define his or her responsibility for SI?

Often accountants, at the request of their clients, add supplementary information to the financial statements. Such information is never required (to be in compliance with a reporting framework) but may be useful.

supplementary information: compilation and preparation engagements

Picture is courtesy of Dollar Photo

You can think of financials with supplementary information in this manner:

Financial statements – Required – The jeep in the picture above

Supplementary Information – Not required – The camper

You’re not going anywhere without a vehicle (it’s required). And your camper (not required) is no good without an automobile to pull it. Kind of a silly analogy, I know, but maybe it will help you remember.

I normally add a divider page between the financial statements and supplementary information (though such as page is not required); the divider page simply says “Supplementary Information” and nothing else.

SSARS 21 defines supplementary information as follows:

Information presented outside the basic financial statements, excluding required supplementary information, that is not considered necessary for the financial statements to be fairly presented in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework.

The Why and How of Auditing Property

Here's an overview of how to audit property

Are you wondering about how to audit property?

Today, we’ll answer questions such as, “how should we test additions and retirements of property?” and “what should we do in regard to fair value impairments?” 

how to audit property

Picture is from AdobeStock.com

Auditing Property — An Overview

Property is sometimes referred to as plant, property, and equipment or capital assets. In this post, I’ll use the word “property.”

We will cover the following:

  • Primary property assertions
  • Property walkthroughs
  • Directional risk for property
  • Primary risks for property
  • Common property control deficiencies
  • Risk of material misstatement for property
  • Substantive procedures for property
  • Common property work papers

Solo Accountant or a Partnership: Which is Best?

Some people enjoy working by themselves, others in a partnership

We all live with fear, but accountants have their own variety. I think back on my college years and the wondering about how my life and career would unfold. And I wanted—really wanted—to see the future, but could not. 

At twenty-one, I would have given a prince’s sum for a crystal ball. But even if the seer’s tool existed, I had no money. So I ventured out, hands extended in darkness, hoping things would go well. And why did I desire to know the future? To avoid mistakes. To lessen my fear. But mistakes—not crystal balls—are how you learn.

Through the years, my career evolved blandly, though with a few jerks and screams (I had a brain tumor; shortly after that, my son has born with cystic fibrosis). But, overall, my work life has unfolded—like most—day by day.

My First Job

In the early days of my first job, I realized how little I knew, though I had a masters degree in accounting. Like a new golfer, I felt—and looked—awkward. My college professors trained me well, but I was still a duffer. I muddled my way through the first year, little realizing how much I was learning—and not understanding my firm was doing me a favor. They were paying me to learn. (You only get this perspective—later—when you are an employer.)

Solo accountant

Picture from AdobeStock.co

One year into public accounting, the lights came on. I finally hit shots like a real accountant. I finally felt normal. I finally moved more naturally. But after three years in my junior role, another firm came calling, asking me to move. They offered more money and more opportunity, so I ventured out.

My Second Job

My second job was more of an apprenticeship. My boss mentored and trained me. He allowed me to assume responsibility. I think you could say this is where I came into my own. But even though I liked my boss, we had disagreements. He promised one thing but delivered another. I found myself doing most of the work with no movement to the promised position. My boss was a good man, but at age 68, it was obvious, he had no desire to retire (though that was the agreement).

So, I left with no job. (I know. Not smart, huh?) This was quite scary, especially when you have two children and a wife at home—in other words, no other income. What did I do? I hung my shingle. 

Solo Accountant

In those years, I had my greatest joys and fears. To go from nothing to something was like climbing a mountain. And I am not the adventuresome type. In the early days, there was no cash flow—and I mean none. I recall, like a scene from a Charles Dickens’ story, nights of soup and bread. And much of the time, I had this deep sense of fear. Nevertheless, I survived and—at times—even thrived.  

The joy of owning my own firm came in the freedom to come and go as I pleased, to do what I wanted—and when I wanted. But freedom comes with baggage. Namely, overhead, unsteady cash flows, and legal exposure. Even so, the freedom to make my own decisions was a breath of fresh air. If I wanted to pursue a new strategy, I did so. If I wanted to leave work early, I left. If I wanted to buy a new computer, I bought it. No committees. No boss. No one was telling me what I could or could not do. It was nice.

But in working alone, I learned a few things about myself. I love freedom, but I hate fear. I also found that I am more productive in a group environment. Why? Accountability. Additionally, I discovered I need more wisdom than I (alone) possess. As much as I hate to admit it (call it pride), I need a group of people. 

Partnership

So, for most of my career, partnerships have been my work environment of choice. I like steady paychecks. I enjoy having answers to my questions just down the hallway.

The wisdom of partnerships is a beautiful thing. The Bible provides this word: 

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with any advisors, they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

I can’t count the times I have seen problems surface—seemingly—with no answer, but then, in a partnership meeting, ideas, disagreements, thoughts are tossed around. And in the end, there is an answer. Creative, wise, sound.

Multiple perspectives meld together to provide insight, a wisdom much greater than my own. But submission is necessary to be a part of a partnership. And I think that’s hard for most people, including me. And while I desire to do as I please, the power of the group is real. People working together often achieve what individuals cannot.   

Solo or Partnership – Which Do You Prefer?

In the end, the decision to work alone or in a group is a personal decision based on our own bents. Some people work better by themselves and want freedom more than anything. I get that. Others find success in a partnership. So which are you? One who likes to work alone or one who loves a group? What makes you the way you are?