Relationship With The Client
An auditor earns a living from the fee he is paid it is therefore automatic that he does not want to do anything to jeopardize this income. This reliance on clients’ fees may affect the independence of an auditor. If the auditor feels this client income is more important than their responsibilities to shareholders he may not perform the audit with the shareholder’s interests in mind. The larger the fee income the more likely the auditor is to shirk his responsibilities and perform the audit without independence. This could lead to the manipulation of figures and exploitation of accounting standards. By performing the audit without independence the shareholders’ may get misled, as the auditor is now reliant on the directors. To encourage auditors to maintain their independence they must be protected from the director’s board. If they were able to challenge statements and figures without the risk of losing their job they would be more likely to work with complete independence. Ultimately, as long as the client determines audit appointments and fees an auditor will never be able to have complete economic independence.
In most cases it is the directors that negotiate an audit contract with the auditors. This may cause problems. Audit firms on occasions quote low prices to directors to ensure repeat business, or to get new clients. By doing so the firm may not be able to perform the audit fully as they do not have enough income to pay for a thorough investigation. Cutting corners could mean the audit team would be reporting without all the evidence required which will affect the quality of the report. This would bring into question their independence.
Under what conditions an auditor is dependent on the client is an open question.
It is common for the audit firm of a company to provide extra services as well as performing the audit. Helping a company reduce its tax charges or acting as a consultant for the implementation of a new computer system, are common examples. Having this additional working relationship with the client would result in questions being asked of the independence of the audit firm. If non-audit fees are substantial in retaliation to audit fees suspicions will arise that auditing standards may be compromised. The firm would no longer be unbiased, as it would want the company to perform well so it can continue to earn the addition fee for their consultancy. This would mean the audit firm would be dependent on the directors and they would no longer be working with independence.
Read more about this topic: Auditor Independence
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