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Have You Taken a Look at The New Clarified Attestation Standards?


ClarityIf you currently perform attest engagements—or expect to next year—you’ll want to check out the new standard sooner rather than later.

Like other standards released under the AICPA’s clarity project, Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements No. 18 (SSAE No. 18), Attestation Standards: Clarification and Recodification, released last month, incorporates drafting conventions that make the standard easier to read, understand and apply. The new standard differs from SSAE No. 17.  

SSAE No. 18 introduces a “Common Concepts” section that applies to all attestation engagements. Additionally, the standard includes sections containing incremental requirements and guidance for the three levels of service in the attestation standards. These are: Examinations (reasonable assurance), Reviews (limited assurance) and Agreed-Upon Procedures. SSAE No. 18 also contains sections with incremental requirements and guidance for four specific subject matter areas, including Prospective Financial Information, Pro Forma Financial Information, Compliance with Laws and Regulations, and Controls at Service Organizations.

In addition to the structural changes listed above, you will want to take note of the following new requirements including:

  • The requirement to assess the risks of material misstatement of the subject matter in an examination engagement. The idea is to improve the link between those risks and the nature, timing and extent of the procedures you perform to address those risks.
  • The requirement to request a written assertion from the responsible party in all attestation engagements. An assertion is a statement about whether the subject matter is measured or evaluated in accordance with the criteria. If the responsible party refuses to provide a written assertion in an examination or review, you are required to withdraw from the engagement, except when the engaging party is not the responsible party, in which case, only the engaging party is permitted to use the report.
  • Certain requirements adopted from the auditing standards, such as the requirement to obtain a written engagement letter from the engaging party and the requirement to request written representations from the responsible party. The AICPA’s Auditing Standards Board added these requirements because it believes that a service that results in a level of assurance similar to that in an audit or review of historical financial statements should have similar requirements.

Keep in mind that SSAE No. 18 supersedes and restructures the attestation standards and is effective for reports dated on or after May 1, 2017. For more information about SSAE No. 18 and related resources visit the AICPA Attest Clarity Website, www.aicpa.org/attestclarity. Additionally, you may be interested in watching this video, providing an overview of the new standard.

 

Given these changes, you should find the standard easier to read, understand and apply. What makes the attestation standards so unique is that they provide a framework for performing engagements that meet growing and evolving client needs.

Judith Sherinsky, Senior Technical Manager- Audit & Attest Standards, American Institute of CPAs.

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