An audit is the highest level of financial statement service a CPA can provide. The purpose of having an audit is to provide financial statement users with an opinion by the auditor on whether the financial statements are prepared in accordance with the proper financial reporting framework. An audit enhances the degree of confidence that intended users, such as lenders or investors, can place in the financial statements.
The auditor obtains reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements as a whole are free from material misstatement, and whether the misstatements are from error or fraud.
To obtain reasonable assurance, items are observed, tested, confirmed, compared, or traced based on the auditor’s judgment of their materiality and risk. After gathering appropriate evidence through this process, the auditor issues an opinion about whether the financial statements are free from material misstatement.
As an additional benefit, the auditor may become aware of some deficiencies in internal control or weaknesses in the organization’s systems and offer suggestions for improvement. Some of the more important auditing procedures include:
Ideally, auditors will provide an unqualified, or “clean,” opinion on the company’s financial statements. An unqualified opinion will contain language such as “the financial statements present fairly in all material respects,” and, “in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted (GAAP) in the United States."
If an auditor is unable to render an unqualified opinion, a qualified or adverse opinion may be issued. Some reasons opinions may be qualified include scope limitations and departures from GAAP.