The steps in planning an audit include (Planning Procedures):
1. Basic discussions with the client about the nature of the engagement and the client’s business and industry are performed first, and the auditor meets the key employees, or new employees of a continuing client. The overall audit strategy or the timing of the audit may be discussed, but don’t discuss specific audit procedures.
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2. Review of audit documentation from previous audits performed by the accounting firm or a predecessor auditor (if the latter makes these audit documentation available) will assist in developing an outline of the audit program.
3. Ask about recent developments in the company such as mergers and new product lines which will cause the audit to differ from earlier years.
4. Interim financial statements are analyzed to identify accounts and transactions that differ from expectations (based on factors such as budgets or prior periods). The performance of such analytical procedures is mandatory in the planning of an audit to identify accounts that may be misstated and that deserve special emphasis in the audit program.
5. Non-audit personnel of the accounting firm who have provided services (such as tax preparation) to the client should be identified and consulted to learn more about the client.
6. Staffing for the audit should be determined and a meeting held to discuss the engagement.
7. Timing of the various audit procedures should be determined. For example, internal control testing needs to be performed early in the engagement, inventory counts need to be performed at or near the balance sheet date and the client representation letter cannot be obtained until the end of the audit fieldwork.
8. Outside assistance needs should be determined, including the use of a specialist as required (a tax practitioner or an information technology (IT) professional) and the determination of the extent of involvement of the internal auditors of the client.
9. Pronouncements on accounting principles and audit guides should be read or reviewed to assist in the development of complete audit programs fitting the unique needs of client’s business and industry.
10. Scheduling with the client is needed to coordinate activities. For example, client-prepared schedules need to be ready when the auditor is expected to examine them, and the client needs to be informed of dates when they will be prohibited from accessing bank safe deposit boxes to ensure the integrity of counts of securities held at banks.
The mnemonic BRAINSTOPS reminds you that an auditor’s brain stops if they don’t plan out the audit carefully before beginning the detailed testing of client records.