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Is This Your Situation: Deciding Between an Audit and a Review


When a third party, such as a banker, investor, creditor or buyer, asks for audited financial statements, it is not cause for alarm. What these third parties often want is assurance that the financial statements provided by your business are reasonably accurate and free of any major oversights or material errors. A review and an audit offer levels of assurance:

  • Review. This is the most common form of assurance of financial statement accuracy for small businesses. It's not an audit — it is much less extensive and provides limited assurance that your financial statements are basically in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).
  • Audit. This is what is usually thought of when the term "auditing financial statements" is mentioned. It's appropriate when you are trying to sell or merge your business, and often required when you're seeking complex or high levels of financing and credit. An audit is a substantial analysis of your financial information — a complex investigation of your financial records, including the general operating practices of your business.

A review is considered the base level of CPA assurance services. In a review engagement, your CPA is required to understand your industry, including its accounting principles and practices. An accountant obtains knowledge about you — your business and the accounting principles and practices. This identifies areas where material misstatements may arise.

In a review, a CPA performs analytical procedures and inquiries to obtain limited assurance about financial statements that are intended to provide a user with a level of comfort about their accuracy. It's substantially narrower in scope than an audit is.

Alternatively, an audit is the highest level of assurance service that a CPA performs, and it is intended to provide comfort about the accuracy of financial statements. In an audit, your CPA is required to obtain an understanding of your business's internal control and assess fraud risk.

Your CPA corroborates the amounts and disclosures included in your financial statements by obtaining audit evidence through inquiry, physical inspection, observation, third-party confirmations, examination and analytical procedures.

The CPA will issue a formal report that expresses an opinion of whether the financial statements are presented fairly in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework. CPAs are required to report to you any significant weaknesses in your system of internal controls so you can improve the way you do business.

Even if an organization obtains audited or reviewed financial statements, the CPA can never guarantee that there is no fraud or error within the organization. Both audit and review procedures sample only the information provided in the financial statements so they can provide reasonable assurance that the numbers are accurately stated, but they can never provide absolute assurance.

Audits are much more costly as well and require many hours on your part, answering questions, providing supporting documents and discussing key issues. Sometimes companies start with the review, considering it a pre-audit. When and if an audit is required, the books will already have been reviewed, organized and simplified, and the audit should include fewer questions. Therefore, your time is protected, which will mean lower audit fees.

Which service do you need? Give us a call and we'll be happy to discuss your business, your particular situation and which services are most appropriate for you.



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Kim & Lee
Kim & Lee, LLP
2305 W. 190th St. Suite 100
Torrance, CA 90504
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Our firm provides the information in this e-newsletter for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles in this e-newsletter are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided "as is," with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.
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