Auditing

auditing, examination and statement of accounts and of other documents connected with accounts by persons who have had no part in their preparation. Systems of financial inspection have long been used, especially in connection with public accounts. In Italy the elaboration of commerce considerably increased the duties of an auditor in the late Middle Ages, but the auditing of business accounts did not become common until the 19th cent., when there were an increasing number of businesses continually growing in size and complexity. Corporate charters usually came to be granted only on condition that licensed experts conduct annual audits. Such audits are particularly useful to the owners (partners or stockholders); executives (managers, officers, and directors); creditors or prospective creditors (investors, note brokers, and commercial and investment bankers); and receivers, trustees, and creditors' committees of a business. Audits are also useful to the vendors of a firm's merchandise, the owners of patents and other recipients of profit shares or royalties, governmental regulatory bodies, and prospective donors to institutions. An audit settles certain categories of questions. It must determine whether all assets and liabilities shown are actual, and that they are properly incurred, valued, and recorded. A check must be made of the surplus, income, and capital-stock accounts, verified by the examination of the authorizations for stock issues and by comparing the amounts issued with the amounts authorized. Finally, auditing constitutes an independent check on the tendency to overstate assets and understate liabilities. The duties of auditors have even expanded into a comprehensive survey and analysis of the entire conduct of the financial and accounting branches of an enterprise. Thus the auditor needs, in addition to his knowledge of accounting, a broad understanding of business and finance. The accountant records the facts of a business; the auditor must determine whether or not such recording has been done accurately and honestly and then interpret and judge the facts, perhaps adding to his report recommendations for the future conduct of the business. In many countries, auditors are now established as a separate profession, requiring government licensing. In the United States, private audits are usually performed by certified public accountants; auditing of the federal government's accounts is conducted by Congress's Government Accountability Office (GAO). Formerly the General Accounting Office, it was established in 1921. The Internal Revenue Service periodically audits individual and corporate tax returns. The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (established 2002) registers and regulates accountants and accounting firms that act as auditors.

See H. F. Stettler, Auditing Principles (3d ed. 1970); A. W. Holmes, Auditing (7th ed. 1971); V. B. Bavishi, International Accounting and Auditing Trends (1989); T. A. Lee, ed., The Evolution of Audit Thought and Practice (1989).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Audit, Accountability, and Government
Kathryn Hollingsworth; Fidelma White.
Clarendon Press, 1999
The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification
Michael Power.
Oxford University Press, 1997
Financial Management in the Voluntary Sector: New Challenges
Paul Palmer; Adrian Randall.
Routledge, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Regulatory Framework and Audit Requirements"
Corporate Governance and Accountability: What Role for the Regulator, Director, and Auditor?
Dan A. Bavly.
Quorum Books, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "The Future for Auditors" and Chap. 13 "The Rise of the Audit Committee"
Governing the Modern Corporation: Capital Markets, Corporate Control and Economic Performance
Roy C. Smith; Ingo Walter.
Oxford University Press, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "The Auditors"
Managing Explosive Corporate Growth
Steven M. Bragg.
Wiley, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Auditing"
International Auditing Differences
Frost, Carol A.; Ramin, Kurt P.
Journal of Accountancy, Vol. 181, No. 4, April 1996
Accounting Quality, Auditing, and Corporate Governance
Imhoff, Eugene A., Jr.
Accounting Horizons, Vol. 17, Annual 2003
Sociological Perspectives on Modern Accountancy
Robin Roslender.
Routledge, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Auditing"
The Economics and Politics of Accounting: International Perspectives on Research Trends, Policy, and Practice
Christian Leuz; Dieter Pfaff; Anthony Hopwood.
Oxford University Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Section 4 "Enforcement of Accounting Standards"
The Priesthood of Industry: The Rise of the Professional Accountant in British Management
Derek Matthews; Malcolm Anderson; John Richard Edwards.
Oxford University, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Auditing" begins on p. 97
A Dictionary of Accounting
R. Hussey.
Oxford University Press, 1999 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Audit" begins on p. 33
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