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Relevant to FAU and F8

This article looks at the effect of revisions to ISA 315, Identifying and Assessing the Risks of Material Misstatements through Understanding the Entity and its Environment with respect to financial statement assertions.

These changes are as a result of the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board’s (IAASB) project entitled ‘Addressing Disclosures in the Audit of Financial Statements – which resulted in a number of Revised ISA’s and Related Conforming Amendments’, which were published in July 2015 and will therefore be relevant for ACCA exams from September 2016. This article is relevant for candidates sitting FAU and F8 exams subsequent to that date.

Addressing Disclosures in the Audit of Financial Statements – Revised ISA’s and Related Conforming Amendments (July 2015)

This article will focus on the changes made to ISA 315 as a result of the disclosures project and also provides useful guide to candidates on how to tackle questions dealing with financial statement assertions.

For details of the other ISAs affected, please refer to the IAASB publication entitled ‘Addressing Disclosures in the Audit of Financial Statements’ (see 'Related links').

ISA 315 Revised

ISA 315 (Revised) states: ‘In representing that the financial statements are in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework, management implicitly or explicitly makes assertions regarding the recognition, measurement and presentation of classes of transactions and events, account balances and disclosures’.

Consequently auditors use these assertions when considering the potential types of misstatements that may occur and when designing and performing appropriate audit procedures.

Interim and final audit tests

During the interim audit, the internal control system is documented and evaluated. This will determine the mix of tests of control and substantive tests but both will tend to focus on transactions that have occurred so far in the period.

During the final audit, the focus is on the financial statements and the assertions about assets, liabilities and equity interests. At this stage the auditor will design substantive procedures to ensure that assurance has been gained over all relevant assertions.

Changes made to ISA 315 with respect to financial statement assertions

Prior to revision the financial statement assertions were listed under three headings:

  • Assertions about classes of transactions and events for the period under audit
  • Assertions about account balances at the period end
  • Assertions about presentation and disclosure


The revision to ISA 315 effectively incorporates the assertions about presentation and disclosure into the assertions about transactions and account balances – reducing the number of headings from three to two. The aim of combining the presentation and disclosure assertions is to focus auditors on the related disclosures when addressing the underlying transactions and events and account balances.  

Transactions include sales, purchases, and wages paid during the accounting period. Account balances include all the asset, liabilities and equity interests included in the statement of financial position at the period end.

Obviously there is a link between the two because if the auditor performs tests to confirm the occurrence of sales this will also provide some assurance about the existence of receivables. Although the auditor may perform other tests specifically focussed on existence.

The assertions listed in ISA 315 (Revised) are as follows (the changes made to the ISA are underlined):

Assertions about classes of transactions and events and related disclosures for the period under audit

(i) Occurrence – the transactions and events that have been recorded or disclosed, have occurred, and such transactions and events pertain to the entity.

(ii) Completeness – all transactions and events that should have been recorded have been recorded and all related disclosures that should have been included in the financial statements have been included.

(iii) Accuracy – amounts and other data relating to recorded transactions and events have been recorded appropriately, and related disclosures have been appropriately measured and described.

(iv) Cut–off – transactions and events have been recorded in the correct accounting period.

(v) Classification – transactions and events have been recorded in the proper accounts.

(vi) Presentation – transactions and events are appropriately aggregated or disaggregated and clearly described, and related disclosures are relevant and understandable in the context of the requirements of the applicable financial reporting framework.


Assertions about account balances and related disclosures at the period end

(i) Existence – assets, liabilities and equity interests exist.

(ii) Rights and obligations – the entity holds or controls the rights to assets, and liabilities are the obligations of the entity.

(iii) Completeness – all assets, liabilities and equity interests that should have been recorded have been recorded and all related disclosures that should have been included in the financial statements have been included.

(iv) Accuracy, valuation and allocation – assets, liabilities and equity interests have been included in the financial statements at appropriate amounts and any resulting valuation or allocation adjustments have been appropriately recorded and related disclosures have been appropriately measured and described.

(v) Classification – assets, liabilities and equity interests have been recorded in the proper accounts.

(vi) Presentation – assets, liabilities and equity interests re appropriately aggregated or disaggregated and clearly described, and related disclosures are relevant and understandable in the context of the requirements of the applicable financial reporting framework.

Integration of presentation and disclosure assertions

The previous assertions about presentation and disclosure have been integrated as follows:

  • Occurrence and rights and obligations – this has been absorbed into the occurrence assertion under transactions. The reference to rights and obligations is retained in the account balance assertions.
  • Completeness – reference to disclosure has been absorbed into completeness assertions of both transactions and account balances.
  • Classification and understandability – classification remains an assertion in relation to transactions and has been added as an account balance assertion. The reference to understandability is included in the new assertion of presentation which is now included in both the transactions and account balances assertions. The presentation assertion in both has a new reference to transactions and account balances being appropriately aggregated or disaggregated.
  • Accuracy and valuationabsorbed into the transactions assertion of accuracy and the account balance assertion has been extended to accuracy, valuation and allocation.

Interpretation of assertions and appropriate audit tests

In many cases the meaning of the assertions is fairly obvious and in preparation for their FAU or F8 exam candidates are reminded of the importance to learn and be able to apply the use of assertions in the course of the audit. Particularly, candidates need to be able to identify and explain the assertions, identify which assertion is being tested by a particular audit procedure and to describe audit procedures for relevant assertions in testing a specific transaction or balance, now bearing in mind that the relevant disclosures should also be considered when deriving appropriate procedures.

Below is a summary of the assertions, a practical application of how the assertions are applied and some example audit procedures relevant to each.

Transaction assertions

Occurrence – this means that the transactions recorded or disclosed actually happened and relate to the entity. For example that a recorded sale represents goods which were ordered by valid customers and were despatched and invoiced in the period. An alternative way of putting this is that sales are genuine and are not overstated.

Relevant test – select a sample of entries from the sales account in the nominal ledger and trace to the appropriate sales invoice and supporting goods despatched notes and customer orders.

Completenessthis means that transactions that should have been recorded and disclosed have not been omitted.

Relevant test – select a sample of customer orders and check to despatch notes and sales invoices and the posting to the sales account in the nominal ledger.

Note the difference in the direction of the above test. In order to test completeness the procedure should start from the underlying documents and check to the entries in the relevant ledger to ensure none have been missed. To test for occurrence the procedures will go the other way and start with the entry in the ledger and check back to the supporting documentation to ensure the transaction actually happened.

Accuracy – this means that there have been no errors while preparing documents or in posting transactions to ledgers. The new reference to disclosures being appropriately measured and described means that the figures and explanations are not misstated.

Relevant test – calculation checks on invoices, payroll, etc, and the review of control account reconciliations are designed to provide assurance about accuracy.

Cut–offthat transactions are recorded in the correct accounting period.

Relevant test – recording last goods received notes and despatch notes at the inventory count and tracing to purchase and sales invoices to ensure that goods received before the year–end are recorded in purchases at the year end and that goods despatched are recorded in sales.

Classification transactions recorded in the appropriate accounts – for example,the purchase of raw materials has not been posted to repairs and maintenance.

Relevant test – check purchase invoices postings to nominal ledger accounts.

Presentationthis means that the descriptions and disclosures of transactions are relevant and easy to understand. There is a new reference to transactions being appropriately aggregated or disaggregated. Aggregation is the adding together of individual items. Disaggregation is the separation of an item, or an aggregated group of items, into component parts. The notes to the accounts are often used to disaggregate totals shown in the profit or loss account. Materiality needs to be considered when judgements are made about the level of aggregation and disaggregation.

Relevant test – check the total employee benefits expense is analysed in the notes to the financial statements under separate headings– ie wages and salaries, pension costs, social security contributions and taxes, etc.

Account balance assertions

Existencemeans that assets and liabilities really do exist and there has been no overstatement – for example,by the inclusion of fictitious receivables or inventory. This assertion is very closely related to the occurrence assertion for transactions.

Relevant tests – physical verification of non–current assets, circularisation of receivables, payables and the bank letter.

Rights and obligationsmeans that the entity has a legal title or controls the rights to an asset or has an obligation to repay a liability.

Relevant tests – in the case of property, deeds of title can be checked. Current assets are often checked to purchase invoices although these are primarily used to confirm cost. Long term liabilities such as loans can be checked to the relevant loan agreement.

Completenessthat there are no omissions and assets and liabilities that should be recorded and disclosed have been. In other words there has been no understatement of assets or liabilities.

Relevant tests – A review of the repairs and expenditure account can sometimes identify items that should have been capitalised and have been omitted from non–current assets. Reconciliation of payables ledger balances to suppliers’ statements is primarily designed to confirm completeness although it also gives assurance about existence.

Accuracy, valuation and allocationmeans that amounts at which assets, liabilities and equity interests are valued, recorded and disclosed are all appropriate. The reference to allocation refers to matters such as the inclusion of appropriate overhead amounts into inventory valuation.

Relevant tests – Vouching the cost of assets to purchase invoices and checking depreciation rates and calculations.

Classificationmeans that assets, liabilities and equity interests are recorded in the proper accounts.

Relevant tests – the test for transactions of checking purchase invoice postings to the appropriate accounts in the nominal ledger will be relevant again. Also that research expenditure is only classified as development expenditure if it meets the criteria specified in IAS 38.

Presentationthis means that the descriptions and disclosures of assets and liabilities are relevant and easy to understand. The points made above aggregation and disaggregation of transactions also apply to assets, liabilities and equity interests.

Relevant tests – auditors often use disclosure checklists to ensure that financial statement presentation complies with accounting standards and relevant legislation. These cover all items (transactions, assets, liabilities and equity interests) and would include for example checking that  disclosures relating to non–current assets include cost, additions, disposals, depreciation, etc.

Typical Exam Questions

Questions on assertions may often be included in the objective tests (OTs) in the F8 and FAU exams and may also appear in the longer questions where candidates may be required to demonstrate knowledge of the assertions and procedures that are linked to particular transaction or account balance assertions in more detail.

Below are some past exam questions which provide an indication, but not an exhaustive list of how assertions can be tested at FAU and F8.

 

Which of the following substantive procedures provides evidence over the COMPLETENESS of non–current assets?

A. Select a sample of assets included in the non–current asset register and physically verify them at the client premises

B. Review the repairs and maintenance expense account to identify any items of a capital nature

C. For assets disposed of, agree the sale proceeds to supporting documentation and cash book


In order to tackle a question like this, candidates are encouraged to work through each procedure and think about the objective of the auditor when they are testing for completeness and to consider whether the procedure as presented would satisfy that objective:

A. Confirms existence not completeness – the direction of the test is key here – had the test been the other way selecting sample of non–current assets in the factory and tracing to the non–current asset register that would have confirmed completeness.

B. Confirms completeness as the auditor may identify non–current assets that have not been capitalised and is therefore the correct answer.

C. Confirms the proceeds of sale so is more relevant to accuracy or valuation

As a longer question candidates may be asked to identify and apply the assertions to a specified area of the financial statements:

(i) Identify and explain FOUR financial statement assertions relevant to classes of transactions and events for the year under audit; and

(ii) For each identified assertion, describe a substantive procedure relevant to the audit of REVENUE.


In this type of question candidates should recall relevant updated assertions as specified by the ISA, and just as walked through above think about what procedures would satisfy the objective as set out by the assertion.

Conclusion

Financial statement assertions have always been an important area of the syllabus for audit examinations. The consequence of the changes in the treatment of assertions in the revised ISA 315 is that those previously linked to presentation and disclosure are now incorporated into transactions and account balances to ensure auditors pay appropriate attention to the disclosures included within the financial statements.

Candidates will have to know the new assertions and be able to explain what they mean. Audit manuals and texts explain the audit work required on each transaction cycle or account balance by linking the tests to the relevant assertions. Candidates should not simply memorise these tests but also ensure they understand the reasons why the test provides assurance about the particular assertion. In some instances, the direction of the test will be a key point to consider.

Written by a member of the FAU examining team

Last updated: 22 Jul 2016