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    A Summary of Research on External Auditor Reliance on the...
    research summary posted February 16, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 01.0 Standard Setting, 01.05 Impact of SOX, 07.0 Internal Control 
    A Summary of Research on External Auditor Reliance on the Internal Audit Function
    Practical Implications:

    Regulators should draft regulations and oversee the profession in such a way that reflects an understanding of the complex environment in which practitioners are making reliance decisions. Standard setters, both domestic and international can learn from the cultural and jurisdictional nuances of different countries, which will facilitate appropriate internal audit reliance as corporations continue to have multi-national presences. Practitioners can benefit from the study by utilizing the review to improve upon their reliance decision frameworks.

    For more information on this study, please contact Chad Stefaniak.


    Bame-Aldred, C. W., D. M. Brandon, W. F. Messier, Jr., L. E. Rittenberg, and C. M. Stefaniak. 2013. A Summary of Research on External Auditor Reliance on the Internal Audit Function. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 32 (Supplement 1): 251-286

    external audit; internal audit; reliance on the internal audit function; audit judgments.
    Purpose of the Study:

    The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) requested a synthesis of existing research on the external auditor’s reliance of the internal audit function. Auditing Standard No. 5 (AS5) allows external auditors to rely on the internal audit function under certain criteria. This paper synthesizes post Sarbanes-Oxley research (2004 – 2012) that examines external auditor reliance of the internal audit function. The research reviewed pertains to:

    1. The influence of environmental factors on internal auditor reliance (i.e., Regulatory Environment and Governance and Client Management Characteristics),
    2. The impact of internal audit specific factors on reliance (i.e., Competence, Objectivity, and Work Quality),
    3. The nature and extent of the external auditor’s reliance, and
    4. The outcome effects of external auditor reliance on the internal auditor (i.e., Audit Efficiency, Fees, Financial Statement Quality, and Litigation).

    The research examined is limited and does not fully address the PCAOB’s inquiries, specifically jurisdictional limitations on internal audit reliance and overall threshold limitations on internal audit reliance. This paper identifies gaps in the research and proposes a series of research questions aimed at closing these gaps.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The review included current and proposed U.S. and international auditing standards, academic literature and selected practitioner research related to the nature of internal audit work, and the external auditor’s reliance on this work. Based on this review, the paper includes a proposed summation model and organizing framework to help capture the various factors in the reliance decision. This organizing framework is used to present the synthesis of the relevant research, identify gaps in the research and propose research questions aimed at closing these gaps. In addition, the relevant papers are summarized for ease of understanding. This summary includes the methodology, the objective of the research project, the sample (if applicable), the results of each study, and a cross-reference to the proposed research questions. 

    • The environment (i.e., the regulatory environment and governance and client characteristics) in which external auditors must make a reliance decision is complex – involving several factors that must be considered simultaneously. The evolving set of global auditing standards further complicates the reliance decision process.
    • Researchers have made some progress in understanding the influence of external auditors’ evaluations of internal auditor quality factors (i.e., competence, objectivity, and work performance); however, very little is known about how, and to what extent, external auditors are evaluating internal audit quality factors.
    • Research notes that the nature and extent of external auditors’ reliance on internal auditors is influenced by account risk, inherent risk, and internal audit sourcing (e.g., outsourced, co-sourced, or in-house). How the external auditors choose task environments (e.g., revenue recognition versus payroll) and the types of tests to rely upon within these task environments is not completely understood.
    • There are several unaddressed issues in the current research. These include:
      • Research examining the influence of continuous monitoring on the reliance decision
      • Research examining the reliance decision for integrated audits of public companies, specifically the audit of internal control over financial reporting.
      • Research examining the evolving nature of the internal audit function.
    Internal Control, Standard Setting
    Impact of SOX