Addressing pandemic-related audit challenges

By Ken Tysiac

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about challenges for auditors the likes of which many of them have never seen.

Practitioners are working at home in unprecedented numbers as offices close and government leaders issue shelter-at-home orders. Desperate clients are trying to keep their businesses solvent, pay their employees, and avail themselves of urgently needed government assistance. And regulators are issuing a dizzying array of new proclamations.

Through all of this, auditors’ responsibility to plan and perform any audit or assurance engagement with professional skepticism remains unchanged. Auditors still have a duty to remain alert to the quality of evidence and whether that evidence is sufficient to reduce audit risk to an appropriately low level.

Auditors still are required to use professional judgment about the gathering of evidence and what that evidence indicates. And auditors need to remember that they serve the needs of users of audit reports.

A new special report by the AICPA’s Center for Plain English Accounting (CPEA) posted Wednesday discusses these and other potential challenges that auditors might face as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The report is unlocked and available to the public along with CPEA special reports issued Tuesday on sample disclosures and March 18 on financial reporting considerations related to the pandemic.

The report on auditing challenges discusses issues including:

  • Professional skepticism and audit evidence quality.
  • Financial statement issuance delays.
  • Physical inventory observation.
  • Access to client records.
  • Design, implementation, and testing of internal control.
  • Account confirmations.
  • Audit planning.
  • Fraud brainstorming and interviews.
  • Going concern assumptions and related disclosures.
  • Subsequent events.
  • Management representations.
  • Fraud risk.

The CPEA is continuing to monitor issues related to the coronavirus and will issue additional guidance as new developments arise.

Ken Tysiac ( is the JofA’s editorial director.

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