CPAs are regularly asked to provide a loan broker, lender or other third party with a comfort letter or verification letter on behalf of their clients. More and more types of information are being requested to be verified by various agencies, lenders, health insurance providers, etc.
A CPA may unintentionally violate professional standards by signing these requests so it is very important that you know what you’re being asked to certify, what the risks are and other options you may have.
To guide you in the right direction, here are some resources and articles on the subject.
- Financial Reporting Center’s resources including a Technical Practice Aid relating to lender comfort letters.
- Matrix outlining common requests CPAs have been receiving regarding verifications and related responses that may be appropriate, depending on whether or not the CPA has performed additional procedures to corroborate the information.
- The AICPA has developed a position paper on third-party verifications. Some lenders make requests for the CPA to provide information regarding their clients that the CPA cannot provide (e.g. solvency request). The AICPA has issued a position paper on third party verifications, outlining the requests to which CPAs can respond. The paper can help CPAs explain to requesters why a request for information might be declined.
- Article about third party verification letters, including a sample letter and alternatives provided by the AICPA Professional Liability Insurance Program.
- AICPA Insights blog on the dangers of providing certain types of letters
- Article about new types of requests CPAs are receiving (The Tax Advisor, July 2013)
- Guidance relating to Farm Service Agency income certification letters
These resources will provide you some examples of the types of requests CPAs are receiving. And as you look at what you’re being asked to “certify”, keep in mind that CPAs are prohibited from providing assurance on solvency. AT section 9101, paragraph .27 of Interpretation No. 2 states that a practitioner is precluded from giving any form of assurance on matters relating to solvency or any financial presentation of matters relating to solvency. See paragraph .25 for examples of matters relating to solvency.
The AICPA would like to know more about the types of third-party verification requests you’re receiving and we’re here to help answer your specific concerns. Please email us at email@example.com for more information.
From the AICPA Technical Hotline
The AICPA's Accounting and Auditing Technical Hotline provides members with free, high-quality technical assistance by phone concerning issues related to: accounting principles and financial reporting; auditing, attestation, compilation and review standards. The hotline is available from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern via telephone at 877-242-7212. Additionally, questions may be submitted electronically by filling out the hotline form.