What Is an Audit?

Types of Audits

External Audits

Audits performed by outside parties can be extremely helpful in removing any bias in reviewing the state of a company’s financials. Financial audits seek to identify if there are any material misstatements in the financial statements. An unqualified, or clean, auditor’s opinion provides financial statement users with confidence that the financials are both accurate and complete. External audits, therefore, allow stakeholders to make better, more informed decisions related to the company being audited.

External auditors follow a set of standards different from that of the company or organization hiring them to do the work. The biggest difference between an internal and external audit is the concept of independence of the external auditor. When audits are performed by third parties, the resulting auditor’s opinion expressed on items being audited (a company’s financials, internal controls, or a system) can be candid and honest without it affecting daily work relationships within the company.

Internal Audits

Internal auditors are employed by the company or organization for whom they are performing an audit, and the resulting audit report is given directly to management and the board of directors. Consultant auditors, while not employed internally, use the standards of the company they are auditing as opposed to a separate set of standards. These types of auditors are used when an organization doesn’t have the in-house resources to audit certain parts of their own operations.

The results of the internal audit are used to make managerial changes and improvements to internal controls. The purpose of an internal audit is to ensure compliance with laws and regulations and to help maintain accurate and timely financial reporting and data collection. It also provides a benefit to management by identifying flaws in internal control or financial reporting prior to its review by external auditors.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Audits

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also routinely performs audits to verify the accuracy of a taxpayer’s return and specific transactions. When the IRS audits a person or company, it usually carries a negative connotation and is seen as evidence of some type of wrongdoing by the taxpayer. However, being selected for an audit is not necessarily indicative of any wrongdoing.

IRS audit selection is usually made by random statistical formulas that analyze a taxpayer’s return and compare it to similar returns. A taxpayer may also be selected for an audit if they have any dealings with another person or company who was found to have tax errors on their audit.

There are three possible IRS audit outcomes available: no change to the tax return, a change that is accepted by the taxpayer, or a change that the taxpayer disagrees with. If the change is accepted, the taxpayer may owe additional taxes or penalties. If the taxpayer disagrees, there is a process to follow that may include mediation or an appeal.

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