- Review Engagements for SMEs: Limited Assurance, Numerous Benefits
- The Standard for Limited Assurance Review Engagements
IFAC in the News
by Phil Cowperthwaite, Member, IFAC SMP Committee
Feb 27, 2014
Article for Member Bodies
Review Engagements—A Value-Adding Client Service
Note to Editors: This article is available for IFAC member organizations to publish in their journals and/or websites. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for access and copyright information.
Professional accountants in practice are frequently looked upon as trusted business advisors. This relationship stems from their significant breadth of business experience combined with detailed knowledge of their clients’ businesses, much of which is obtained in the process of performing assurance engagements on their clients’ financial statements. Professional accountants are therefore in a unique position to add value, both in terms of enhancing the credibility of their clients’ financial statements and being able to provide them with tailored business advice.
The International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) has issued International Standard on Review Engagements (ISRE) 2400 (Revised), Engagements to Review Historical Financial Statements, which is now effective for periods ended on or after December 31, 2013. Review engagements provide a limited form of assurance on historical financial statements and may be a cost effective and value-adding alternative when an audit is not required.
Adding Cost-Effective Value to Clients
A review, consisting primarily of inquiry and analysis, is based on the professional accountant’s understanding of the entity and its environment and the applicable financial reporting framework according to which the financial statements are prepared. This understanding includes relevant industry, regulatory, and other external factors; the entity’s operations, ownership, and governance structure; how it is financed; and its accounting systems and records. The professional accountant uses this knowledge to design and perform inquiry and analytical procedures on both material items in the financial statements and on those items where material misstatements are likely to arise. In the course of the engagement, the practitioner develops a significant understanding of the client and its business, which gives him/her an excellent opportunity to offer additional value to the client through the provision of bespoke advice.
Practitioners can provide review services most efficiently by staffing a review engagement with professionals competent in assurance skills and techniques, consistently using the same staff members, and making use of technology to automate the mechanics of the engagement wherever possible. As so much of a review consists of effective communication with clients, performing a significant proportion of the work at the client’s place of business is preferable.
Adding a Meaningful Level of Assurance to Financial Statements
In accordance with ISRE 2400 (Revised), a review engagement is not just about practitioners obtaining knowledge of their clients through questions and analysis; it also requires the accountant to dig deeper and obtain additional evidence if it is determined there may be a material misstatement in the financial statements. Additional procedures are also required when further questions arise, such as if related party transactions fall outside the normal course of business, fraud or non-compliance with laws or regulations is suspected, or doubts arise regarding the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern. This additional work effort allows for the meaningful and valuable level of assurance conveyed by the review conclusion.
Under ISRE 2400 (Revised), the practitioner is required to comply with relevant ethical requirements, including those pertaining to independence in the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants’ Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (IESBA Code), or national equivalent requirements that are at least as restrictive. The review standard also requires professional accountants to exercise professional judgment and to be skeptical throughout the engagement.
Benefits for All Parties Involved
In summary, there are benefits for all parties involved in an ISRE 2400 (Revised) review engagement. Practitioners will obtain the knowledge base to enable them to add value to their clients’ businesses while expressing the assurance conclusions needed on annual financial statements. Clients and other financial statements users will have the comfort of a meaningful level of assurance provided by an objective and independent professional accountant.
A Guide to Reviews for Practitioners and IFAC Member Bodies
The newest guide from the IFAC SMP Committee, the Guide to Review Engagements, is intended to help IFAC member organizations and their members in practice, especially small- and medium-sized practices (SMPs), with the implementation of ISRE 2400 (Revised). To help practitioners develop a deeper understanding of a review engagement conducted in compliance with the standard, the guide includes illustrative examples alongside relevant extracts from the standard. It also includes practical points for practitioners’ consideration, tips on how to efficiently implement the standard, and checklists and forms that practitioners can adapt to meet the requirements and circumstances in their particular jurisdiction.
Visit the SMP area of the IFAC website at www.ifac.org/SMP to access this and other guides from the SMP Committee, learn more about the committee’s activities, and subscribe to the SMP eNews. While the guide includes relevant extracts from ISRE 2400 (Revised), the complete standard is available in the 2013 IAASB Handbook (see also the At a Glance).
Join the discussion and stay informed! Follow the SMP Committee on Twitter (@IFAC_SMP) and LinkedIn (IFAC SMP Community). Look for additional relevant resources under Audit & Assurance, coming in April 2014 to the IFAC Global Knowledge Gateway.