What are Assertions in Auditing?
Assertions are claims that establish whether or not financial statements are true and fairly represented in the process of auditing.
Importance of Assertions
Assertions are an important aspect of auditing. Since financial statements cannot be held to a lie detector test to determine whether they are factual or not, other methods must be used to establish the truth of the financial statements.
Assertions are defined as “a statement that is believed to be true by the speaker. “An assertion can be anything, e.g., “I assert that fundamental value investing is the best investing philosophy.”
However, it is difficult to measure whether the statement is indeed true. Similarly, with financial statements, it is difficult to determine what financial information is free from material misstatement.
There are two aspects to material misstatement. Clearly, materiality plays a large role; however, how to measure what information is true and fair or misstated is crucially important.
Assertions play a key role in determining what is true and fair when auditing financial records.
Assertions in Auditing
Assertions are characteristics that need to be tested to ensure that financial records and disclosures are correct and appropriate. If assertions are all met for relevant transactions or balances, financial statements are appropriately recorded.
The International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are a set of accounting standards issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and the IFRS Foundation aimed towards providing a common set of accounting rules that are consistent, transparent, and comparable internationally.
IFRS developed ISA315, which includes categories and examples of assertions that may be used to test financial records.
There are two types of assertions, each of which relates to different events:
1. Transaction Level Assertions
Transaction level assertions are made in relation to classes of transactions, such as revenues, expenses, dividend payments, etc.
There are five types of transaction-level assertions:
- Occurrence: Transactions that are recognized in the financial records as having occurred, i.e., did it really happen?
- Completeness: Transactions that are completed and supposed to be recorded have been recognized in the financial statements, i.e., did it include all transactions?
- Accuracy: Transactions have been accurately reflected within the financial statements at appropriate amounts, i.e., have correct prices, quantities, and calculations been used?
- Cut-off: Transactions that have been recognized in correct and relevant accounting time periods.
- Classification: Transactions have been classified properly and fairly presented in the financial statements.
2. Account Balance Assertions
Account balance assertions apply to the balance sheet items, such as assets, liabilities, and shareholders’ equity.
There are four types of account balance assertions:
- Existence: The assets, equity balances, and liabilities exist at the period ending time.
- Completeness: The assets, equity balances, and the liabilities that are completed and supposed to be recorded have been recognized in the financial statements.
- Rights and Obligations: The entity has ownership rights or the right to benefit from recognized assets on the financial statements. Liabilities recognized in the financial statements represent the actual obligations of the entity.
- Valuation: The assets, equity balances, and liabilities have been valued appropriately.
3. Presentation and Disclosure Assertions
It is the third assertion type that can fall under transaction-level assertions and account balance assertions. It relates to the presentation and disclosure of financial statements.
There are four types of presentation and disclosure assertions:
- Accuracy and Valuation: Transactions, balances, and other financial records have been disclosed accurately and at the appropriate valuations.
- Classification and Understandability: Transactions, events, balances, and other financial records have been classified properly and presented in a clear manner that promotes understandability to the users of the financial statements.
- Completeness: Transactions, events, balances, and other financial records have been disclosed completely within the financial statements.
- Occurrence: Transactions, events, balances, and other financial records have occurred and are related to the entity.
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