ASB proposes clarifying attestation standards

BY KEN TYSIAC

The AICPA Auditing Standards Board (ASB) is proposing changes to its attestation standards as a part of its clarity project.

An exposure draft issued Wednesday would clarify and recodify certain Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAEs) in the AICPA’s Professional Standards.

The ASB has undertaken the clarity project to address concerns over the clarity, length, and complexity of its standards. A project to clarify the Statements on Auditing Standards has been substantially completed, and the ASB has begun clarifying the SSAEs.

SSAEs that provide a framework for performing and reporting on attestation engagements are the subject of the ED and will be clarified and recoded first. AT sections 20, 50, 101 and 201 would be superseded by the proposed changes.

Additional SSAEs included in subject-matter specific AT sections 301 to 801 will have changes proposed in an ED at a later date. The ASB anticipates that the proposed guidance in both EDs would take effect at the same time, and does not expect the effective date to be for reports dated before Dec. 15, 2014.

Although many of the proposed changes are not substantive, a few important changes are proposed. These include:

  • For all examination and review engagements, a practitioner would be required to obtain from the responsible party a written assertion about the measurement or evaluation of the subject matter against the applicable criteria.
  • Representation letters would be required in all examination and review engagements.
  • Practitioners would be required to obtain a more in-depth understanding of the development of the subject matter than currently is required. This change is proposed to help practitioners better identify the risks of material misstatement in an examination engagement.
  • A requirement that when the engaging or responsible party imposes restrictions that significantly limit the scope of the engagement, the practitioner should decide whether to express a qualified opinion, disclaim an opinion, or withdraw from the engagement when withdrawal is possible under applicable regulations. Currently, the practitioner’s options in those circumstances are to disclaim an opinion or withdraw from the engagement.


The ED follows the ASB’s clarity drafting conventions, which include:

  • Establishing objectives and including a definitions section for each chapter.
  • Separating requirements from application and other explanatory material.
  • Changing numbering conventions.
  • Enhancing readability with formatting such as bulleted lists.
  • Including additional considerations specific to governmental entities or smaller, less complex entities, within the application and other explanatory material.


Comments are requested by Oct. 24 and should be addressed to Sherry Hazel at shazel@aicpa.org.

Ken Tysiac ( ktysiac@aicpa.org ) is a JofA senior editor.

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