Special reports: An important caveat about the various requests for attestations or confirmations sent to CPAs
CPAs are often asked by various sources to provide attestations or confirmations, or to prepare reports or letters.
These requests for “special” reports are not always within the scope of Canadian Auditing Standards (CASs); however, they may fall under Other Canadian standards (OCSs) in the CPA Canada Handbook – Assurance (Handbook). It should be noted that CASs apply only to audits of historical financial information1, while OCSs can apply to various other engagements.
Sometimes requesters will provide a sample letter or report for the CPA to complete and sign, and, in many cases, these templates are produced by recognized organizations or agencies.
CPAs who are asked to sign sample letters or reports should exercise caution before agreeing to do so, since the documents may not be CAS- or OCS-compliant, even if they originate from a recognized organization or agency. CPAs should also ensure that they have the competencies to perform the engagement.
In recent years, the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (AASB) has issued new standards, which include the following:
- CSAE 3000, Attestation Engagements Other than Audits or Reviews of Historical Financial Information2
- CSAE 3001, Direct Engagements2
- CSRS 4460, Reports on Supplementary Matters Arising from an Audit or a Review Engagement
- CSOA 5000, Use of the Practitioner’s Communication or Name3
In addition to these, there are other existing standards in the Handbook that cover certain specific engagements. Given the wide scope of these standards, CPAs should determine whether any of them apply to the proposed engagement and, where appropriate, whether the report they are asked to sign complies with applicable standards.
Lastly, remember that the reporting standards set out in the Handbook sections correctly describe the nature and scope of CPAs’ involvement, as well as the level of assurance they provide, so as to avoid misunderstanding. If CPAs fail to prepare their written communication with all the proper engagement disclaimers, they increase their professional liability, since users could misunderstand the CPAs’ involvement and the level of assurance they provide (or do not provide).
Members interested in this topic are invited to consult the publications of the Technical working group on assurance reports by visiting the Expert advice and resources page on the Order’s website. They can also obtain information about training activities on the subject in the Order’s Professional Development Program.
Paul Beauvais, CPA auditor, CA
Partner, Professional Practice
Manon Hall, CPA auditor, CA
Senior Manager, Assurance
Members of the Technical working group on assurance reports
1 CAS 200 defines historical financial information as “[i]nformation expressed in financial terms in relation to a particular entity, derived primarily from that entity's accounting system, about economic events occurring in past time periods or about economic conditions or circumstances at points in time in the past.”
2 Replaces Section 5025 for engagements where the report is dated on or after June 30, 2017.
3 Replaces Section 5020. Effective as of, and applicable to a practitioner’s consent provided on or after, June 1, 2017.