5 Auditor Best Practices for Busy Season

Auditor best practices

With 2020 in the rear-view mirror, auditors now find themselves in the thick of another busy season. For this reason, Accounting Today presented a webinar titled, “Auditor Best Practices for Busy Season.”

The discussion included former Wolters Kluwer’s Senior Technology Product Manager, Patrick Tokarski. Joining him were David Duckwitz, CPA and Director at RubinBrown, and Chris Geno, Assurance & Advisory manager at Saville Dodgen. This article presents 5 auditor best practices for planning your audit engagements. However, this represents a small portion of the overall tips and best practices offered in the session. View the webinar recording for much more.

Best Practice #1: Spend more time planning your audit

To start with, the old adage rings true: Failing to plan is planning to fail. While no auditor would completely skip the audit planning phase, some firms do need to spend more time. In particular, audit teams need to do more than simply filling out the planning forms. The plan must fully guide you through the engagement and not get set aside when distractions arise. Current audit standards necessitate deep thinking about each client’s situation and risks.

Another key point is firms need to determine the right team and timing to be able to execute each audit plan. What timeline should you use to complete the planning process? By what date will you need to receive information from clients? When should auditors go out to the client? What’s the deadline for preparing your audit opinion and final deliverables?

Best Practice #2: Involve the entire audit team in planning

Assess the composition of your audit team at the beginning of planning. Specifically, do you have the people with the right skills and experience to do the work? Moreover, are your experts and firm resources scheduled to be included in the situations where you will require their help? Failure to align your people and resources with your audit plan can force you to alter your approach later in the engagement.

The same people who create the plan should be the team that executes it. Accordingly, Chris Geno suggested firms should ensure everyone responsible for audit deliverables should take part in the planning conversations from the start. Not only does this approach ensure a more prepared team, but also it provides a variety of perspectives and voices in the planning process. Generally, this leads to better-developed audit plans and risk assessments. Finally, involving the whole team in planning conversations also provides a valuable learning opportunity for less experienced auditors.

Best Practice #3: Consider your need for outside experts

It is worth noting that engagement acceptance continues to be an area of focus for the AIPCA Enhancing Audit Quality Initiative. When firms perform a low volume of engagements in a certain industry or specialization, problems can occur. In fact, peer reviews reveal a pretty direct correlation between audit failures and a low volume of audit work. In some cases, it may be better to turn down an engagement that’s outside your firm’s expertise and experience. Or, you might prefer to develop the necessary in-house expertise or bring in some outside technical expertise.

In particular, David Duckwitz sees the need for specialized expertise around IT and internal controls. Within the current methodology, he advises that firms may have some clients with very complex IT structures–far beyond a few off-the-shelf business software packages. In these instances, firms may need a level of IT knowledge that surpasses that possessed by a normal financial statement auditor. It helps to be able to pull in experts in the area of IT audit in order to properly assess IT internal control risk.

Best Practice #4: Leverage technology to facilitate risk assessment

Here’s the bottom line: A good audit plan relies on good risk assessment. Further, the right audit technology can elevate your firm’s risk assessment process. CCH Axcess™ Knowledge Coach is a cloud-based audit solution for planning, risk assessment, review and team collaboration. First, it helps auditors tailor the audit based on the characteristics of the entity and engagement. Second, it directly links the identified risks with audit steps. Third, it flows information throughout workpapers where it is needed. Fourth, it continually monitors the engagement for completeness and compliance.

Best Practice #5: Avoid the “same as last year” trap

Every year, it’s important to challenge your thinking during the planning process. Specifically, you should question your testing plan. Especially if your auditors tend to use the same tests as prior years. Every firm should be looking for ways to incorporate audit data analytics into the audit for higher quality. Auditing tools are evolving quickly, so it is easier than ever to improve your firm’s analytical procedures. Consult the AICPA’s recent “Guide to Audit Data Analytics” for more information about why analytics are essential for improving audit quality. TeamMate® Analytics offers more than 150 tools specifically designed to meet the analytic needs of CPA firm auditors and accountants. 

Discover more auditor best practices for taking control of the busy season

David Duckwitz and Chris Geno shared additional audit best practices that work well at their firms to drive efficiency and quality. Further, they discussed how Wolters Kluwer audit solutions help them increase workflow efficiencies and improve client service throughout the audit process. Gather your firm’s audit partners, managers and staff together and view the recorded webinar for more ideas.


Cathy Rowe

All stories by: Cathy Rowe