Research Summary 17: Audit Report Lag

Close the gap between fiscal yearend and the audit report.
BY W. ROBERT KNECHEL AND JEFF L. PAYNE

ore than ever before, today’s investors turn to accountants for timely financial information. As a result, auditors are under increasing pressure to complete and issue a company’s financial statements. Prior research showed that the value of financial statement information to investors declined the longer audit reports were delayed. Our research showed how the management of engagement hours, the mix of audit personnel on engagements and the provision of nonaudit services, all controllable by the auditor, affected audit report lag—the length of time between the end of the fiscal year and the date of the audit report.

Our sample comprised data from 226 engagements performed by an international public accounting firm. After factoring in client size, form of financing (public or private) and engagement risks, we found audit report lag, as expected, increased when actual engagement hours exceeded predicted hours. A personnel blend that consisted of more “heavy-hitters,” such as managers and partners, than audit staff reduced audit report lag, implying that experienced personnel were more resourceful than novices. We also found that audit report lag increased when engagements involved tax services, but decreased when they included consulting services. This might be because clients that had complex tax questions required more time and effort after yearend. The results also suggested a complementary relationship between consulting and audit services.

For the full text of the research paper, see Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory, Spring 2001, vol. 20, no. 1.

W. ROBERT KNECHEL, CPA, PhD, is Ernst & Young Professor of Accounting, Fisher School of Accounting, University of Florida, Gainesville. His e-mail address is knechel@notes.cba.ufl.edu . JEFF L. PAYNE, CPA, PhD, is assistant professor, School of Accounting, Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

This series is based on work published in Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory. The intent is to bridge the gap between researchers and practitioners by offering concise practice summaries of cutting-edge research in the field of auditing.

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