Archival Evidence on the Audit Process: Determinants and Consequences of Interim Effort
Posted: 11 Dec 2020
Date Written: July 8, 2020
Using proprietary data from a global accounting firm, we investigate the determinants of auditors’ interim effort as well as the impact of interim effort on audit quality, client disclosure timeliness, audit hours, and audit fees. Public statements from accounting firms and regulators suggest various benefits from accelerating auditor effort, but these claims remain largely untested. We find that interim effort is higher for large, complex clients that require integrated audits of both financial statements and internal control over financial reporting. With respect to consequences, we find that allocating relatively more work to the interim period is associated with a reduced likelihood of late 10-K filings, decreased total audit hours, and higher fees. Although increasing interim period effort is not, on average, associated with a reduced likelihood of misstatement, we do find that current period material weaknesses are less likely with greater interim work. Thus, greater interim effort appears to facilitate the remediation of internal control deficiencies before year-end. We also show that the benefits of increased interim period effort allocation are much stronger – including improved audit quality – when manager and partner interim involvement is high. Overall, our study provides important new insights on audit production and highlights benefits of reduced hours for auditors, earlier identification of control deficiencies for clients, and more timely financial reports for investors.
Keywords: Audit hours, interim testing, audit quality, timely filings, audit fees
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