Auditor independence refers to the independence of the internal auditor or of the external auditor from parties that may have a financial interest in the business being audited. Independence requires integrity and an objective approach to the audit process. The concept requires the auditor to carry out his or her work freely and in an objective manner.
Independence of the internal auditor means independence from parties whose interests might be harmed by the results of an audit. Specific internal management issues are inadequate risk management, inadequate internal controls, and poor governance. The Charter of Audit and the reporting to an Audit Committee generally provides independence from management, the code of ethics of the company (and of the Internal Audit profession) helps give guidance on independence form suppliers, clients, third parties, etc.
Independence of the external auditor means independence from parties that have an interest in the results published in financial statements of an entity. The support from and relation to the Audit Committee of the client company, the contract and the contractual reference to public accounting standards/codes generally provides independence from management, the code of ethics of the Public Accountant profession) helps give guidance on independence form suppliers, clients, third parties...
Internal and external concerns are convoluted when nominally independent divisions of a firm provide auditing and consulting services. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 is a legal reaction to such problems.
This article mostly deals with the independence of the statutory auditor (commonly called external auditor). For the independence of the Internal Audit, see Chief audit executive, articles "Independent attitude" and "organisational independence", or organizational independence analysed by the IIA.
The purpose of an audit is to enhance the credibility of financial statements by providing written reasonable assurance from an independent source that they present a true and fair view in accordance with an accounting standard. This objective will not be met if users of the audit report believe that the auditor may have been influenced by other parties, more specifically company managers/directors or by conflicting interests (e.g. if the auditor owns shares in the company to be audited). In addition to technical competence, auditor independence is the most important factor in establishing the credibility of the audit opinion.
Auditor independence is commonly referred to as the cornerstone of the auditing profession since it is the foundation of the public’s trust in the accounting profession. Since 2000, a wave of high profile accounting scandals have cast the profession into the limelight, negatively affecting the public perception of auditor independence.
Read more about Auditor Independence: Types of Independence, Real Independence and Perceived Independence, Relationship With The Client, The Structure of The Accountancy Profession, Independence Regulations in The United Kingdom, Independence Regulations in The United States, Law, Regulations and The Conceptual Framework of Accounting
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