If your company has gone through an audit or review before, you know the result is a critical report that will be used throughout the year to communicate with investors, lenders and other key users of your financial statements. You also know the audit process isn’t always simple and straightforward.
While there’s no way to change what needs to happen during the audit or review, there are key things you and your financial staff can do beforehand and throughout the process to help make it smoother, more efficient and less burdensome for everyone involved.
As we prepare for another financial statement season, take a moment to consider the items below that truly can make an impact.
- Schedule a planning meeting with your internal financial team and your auditors to develop timelines and expectations, and to discuss any changes in your organization during the year.
- Request a list of information from your accountants that will be required of your staff (and deadlines). Providing electronic data will allow you and your auditors to be the most efficient. Offering information in an Excel spreadsheet is best, but even a PDF is better than hard copies.
- Make sure all significant accounts have been reconciled and analyzed, any adjustments identified and all requested information prepared prior to closing the accounts.
- Ensure books are closed and the final trial balance is prepared with all adjusting entries posted prior to the audit or review start date.
- Communicate with your auditors how you prefer to handle open items, follow-up requests, etc.
- Communicate the value of your audit to your staff to educate them on why this is important. (Most auditors understand their requests are often in addition to a staff’s regular workload and appreciate the extra effort required.)
- Ensure promised schedules and sample selections are ready before or at least by the day the audit team is set to arrive.
- Schedule extra time on your calendar to be available when auditors are onsite. They will need to ask you questions and request additional information during the audit to finish the fieldwork.
- Communicate expectations as to timing of draft financials, including any meetings, or bank or other user deadlines. Also, let your audit team know as soon as possible about any potential delays.
- Throughout the process, communicate any requests you have for improvements on your auditor’s end.
- Keep your audit team in the loop throughout the year. Identify and discuss any changes, new programs and significant events with your accountants during the year or as part of the planning meeting.
- Understand the timing and review constraints of your auditors.
Regarding the last item, while meeting deadlines is an important part of the process, so is producing a quality product. Every audit team has its own quality review process, and you should be aware of what your auditors’ process entails. For example, when our team conducts an audit or review, we strive to exceed our own high standards when it comes to quality as well as those defined by the AICPA, regulators and users of the financial statements. To maintain that level of quality, we employ a rigorous process that includes multiple levels of review, from the staff and manager assigned to fieldwork through the technical partner who provides a final objective review to ensure the report is technically accurate. All significant changes made during the process must run through the entire approval process before draft documents can be released. For an in-depth process like ours, communicating realistic draft deadlines from the start is critical so the engagement can be scheduled to both meet a client’s deadlines and the robust internal quality controls of our team.
Using the “checklist” we’ve provided should help make your next audit or review experience a much less stressful one!
Contact Vince Curttright at firstname.lastname@example.org or a member of your service team to dicuss this topic further.
Cohen & Company is not rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice. Information contained in this post is considered accurate as of the date of publishing. Any action taken based on information in this blog should be taken only after a detailed review of the specific facts, circumstances and current law.