When it comes time for financial documents to be corroborated, the three options available are a compilation, a review, and an audit. Each of these represents a very different degree of effort and investigation, and therefore each provides differing levels of confidence for investors and lenders. Let’s take a closer look at all three.
A compilation requires the least amount of work from an auditor, and though it is likely to cost the least of the three and take the least amount of time, it also provides the lowest level of assurance about the accuracy of the information presented. This is because in a compilation, the auditor does little more than hand over the original financial statements that were prepared internally by the company’s management, with no due diligence performed even to determine whether the information contained in the documents is accurate or true. It relies entirely on the information originally presented.
A review demands significantly more work on the part of the auditor, who is expected to determine the accuracy of the information contained in the financial documents presented to them through a series of inquiries and analytical procedures. Because some of the information contained in the financial documents presented by management has been tested, a review provides a moderate degree of assurance that the information is correct and can be trusted.
An audit requires a much greater degree of due diligence than either a compilation or a review. It represents a significant amount of time spent making sure that all of the disclosures and ending balances that are contained in the organization’s financial statements are accurate, including time spent testing internal controls, confirming the engagement and statements from third parties, and examining all source documents in order to make sure that they are representative of the true situation at hand. An audit will often include a physical inspection where appropriate, as well as other procedures that are designed to confirm or refute the information that management has presented.
Though an audit will take the most time and be the most expensive procedure, it also provides the highest level of assurance for those considering investing in an organization or lending it money.
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