The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight–everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.
Most small firm practitioners can offer lots of answers as to why it is difficult to profit from small audits. Ever-changing professional standards, increasing quality control requirements, using standard “one-size-fits-all” audit documentation and increasing legal liability are a few of the common answers. The problem is that knowing the answer doesn’t solve the problem!
Maybe we need to change the question to solve the problem. A better question may be, “What changes do we need to make in our audit practices to profit from small audits?” Answer this question correctly and we solve a major problem!
Here are changes in audit practices some smaller CPA firms are considering:
• Developing the technical and leadership abilities of engagement leaders is at the top of the list. Recognizing this takes time and money, small firms are making increasing investments in training and consultations to expand the knowledge resource base of their leaders and the firm. Making sure leaders are technically current in all professional standards affecting auditing engagements is a first step. Teaching leaders to pass their knowledge on to all assistants is the second.
• Designing firm policies and procedures within existing professional standards that provide reasonable assurance audited financial statements are not misstated. While we’d like to achieve absolute assurance the financial statements are not misstated, we have to assume some risk they may contain misstatements. In short, we have to give up some of our traditional approaches to audits in exchange for uniquely tailored audit strategies designed to gather the minimum amount of evidence necessary to verify relevant financial statement assertions. Gathering the minimum required evidence in the most efficient ways results in maximum profits!
• Creating proprietary audit documentation packages by eliminating or modifying documentation purchased from major publishers. Extensive audit documentation is not a substitute for the knowledge of staff personnel! We cannot afford to complete practice aids and other documentation containing everything we need to know on every engagement, particularly on small audits. Many small firms are realizing they can modify their quality control documents to permit engagement leaders to tailor documentation on every audit. Using major publisher’s practice aids for reference is the most any firm should do on small audits. When we know the requirements of professional standards, it isn’t difficult to tailor or create basic practice aids to guide small audit performance.
These are just a few of the small audit changes CPA firms must consider to increase profits. I’ve designed my Small Audit Series of live and on-demand webcasts to provide holistic solutions that will enable practitioners to make more money on small audits. You can obtain over 300 pages of instructional text materials and illustrative practice aids designed for CPE credit on the left sidebar of our website, www.cpafirmsupport.com. Don’t be left behind! Small audits can generate BIG profits!
• The healthcare party is over – now comes the (accounting) hangover [FT Alphaville]
Now that healthcare reform is behind us, the matter of sorting out the impact on corporations now falls to the accounting professionals in those companies as the first quarter winds down this week.
FT Alphaville notes that AT&T, for one, has already filed an 8-K that states that it will “take a non-cash charge of approximately $1 billion in the first quarter of 2010 to reflect the impact of this change.” The change that the company is referring to is the “Medicare Part D subsidy” which, under the new law, is no longer eligible for a write-off against a company’s taxes. The subsidy is given to companies to help to pay prescription drug benefits to its employees.
FTA cites a report by Credit Suisse that shows many companies’ (including Goodyear Tire, International Paper and The New York Times) first quarter earnings will be impacted significantly by new healthcare legislation. And it also appears that it will cause companies to take a second look at the benefits they currently provide to employees, as Ma Bell stated in its filing that it “will be evaluating prospective changes to the active and retiree health care benefits offered by the company,” as a result of the legislation.
• Why solos and small firms shouldn’t “partner” with larger CPA firms on projects [Fraud Files Blog]
Tracy Coenen recently had a large firm approach her to see if she’d be interested in helping them out with some “Fraud Risk Assessment services.”
The larger firm asked her if she would be interested in “a partner/subconsultant” arrangement. Tracy explains why this isn’t a good situation for solo practitioners like herself, “[T]he consulting firm doesn’t have the know-how necessary to provide their client with the services they need. But they’re not about to let something silly like competence stand in the way of collecting fees! They will find a way to do it.”
Tracy says that the larger firm will ask you to discount your billing rate, train their staff, and ultimately, give them the secrets to your practice, “Don’t lose money by discounting rates, training someone else’s staff for those discounted rates, and creating a competitor for yourself who uses your proprietary methodology.”
• U.K. Accounting Suits Reached 5-Year High Last Year, Study Says [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
The number of lawsuits filed in the UK against accounting firms in the past year is greater than the last five years combined according to Bloomberg. The thirteen suits filed in 2009 is more triple than the four suits filed in the previous five years. Although the number of suits is considerably smaller than the 61 suits filed after the collapse of Enron, et al. in the 2002-2003 time period, Jane Howard, a partner at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP, is quoted that it’s not clear whether things are just getting started, “What is still hard to tell is whether this sudden rise in claims will subside quickly or whether accountants will face a higher number of claims over the coming years.”