The Assurance Research Advisory Group proposal submission window is currently closed. Grants for the 2017 cycle will be awarded to recipients by February 2018.
The Assurance Research Advisory Group will accept new proposals in summer 2018.
For more information on the Assurance Research Advisory Group, review the FAQs. Additionally, you may be interested in reviewing the 2017 Request for Proposal document. Keep in mind that the areas of interest may change.
1 Defined as entities not required to be audited in accordance with PCAOB auditing standards, including not-for-profit organizations, employee benefit plans and governmental entities.
The AICPA is interested in funding projects that address research questions with a nexus to one of the topics listed below. These topics are solicited from various AICPA and state CPA society committees and are focused on domestic private company assurance engagements. The AICPA will also consider research proposals which are unrelated to the topics below but will support the ARAG's mission.
Audit quality has been a focus in the United States and abroad for several years. The AICPA is interested in research into the factors which affect audit quality, including but not limited to research focused on:
- Utilizing data collected through a peer review questionnaire to identify meaningful correlations between firm characteristics and performance;
- The factors which have the greatest influence on quality in specialized audit segments (for example, financial institutions, employee benefit plan audits and single audits);
- The relationship between adherence to the Quality Control Standards and the firm’s performance on assurance engagements;
- The factors that motivate an auditor to perform high-quality work; and
- The role that professional skepticism plays in influencing the quality of an audit.
Risk Assessment and Response
Risk assessment is one of the most common areas of non-conformity identified through the AICPA Peer Review Program. The AICPA is interested in research addressing this area, including but not limited to research that explores:
- The auditor's assessment of the risks of material misstatement, including significant risks, fraud risks, and IT risks;
- The development of audit procedures that are responsive to the identified risks, including tests of controls, substantive analytics, and tests of details;
- How auditors select an approach to testing and what influences that decision (for example, to test management’s process for developing an estimate vs. developing an independent estimate);
- How an accountant considers risk in non-audit engagements (e.g., reviews and compilations);
- How an accountant considers risk when assurance is provided on non-financial measures (e.g., sustainability assurance engagements); and
- The relationship between a peer reviewer’s risk assessment and the outcome of the peer review, assessed through interviews of peer reviewers.
Over 17,000 firms throughout the United States perform review engagements under SSARS. A review engagement is one in which the accountant is required to design and perform procedures in order to obtain limited assurance. Limited assurance is less than the high level of assurance obtained in an audit. Some practitioners have experienced challenges in applying this definition in practice, resulting in disparity in the level of work performed in order to obtain limited assurance. The AICPA is interested in research addressing:
- The perceptions of practitioners regarding the level of work required in order to obtain limited assurance; and
- Potential approaches to reducing or eliminating disparate perceptions, if any.
Sufficiency and Appropriateness of Audit Evidence
Assessing the sufficiency and appropriateness of audit evidence is a critical issue when considering the acceptability of new audit techniques and related sources of evidence. The AICPA is interested in research that explores whether criteria can be developed for assessing the sufficiency and appropriateness of audit evidence or whether such assessments must be left to professional judgment.
The AICPA is interested in research into the concept of materiality and how it impacts the amount of evidence gathered in both audit and non-audit engagements. This includes engagements where assurance is provided on non-financial information. Relevant research may explore:
- Divergent practices in determining materiality and how they impact assurance quality;
- How an accountant considers materiality in non-audit engagements (e.g., reviews and compilations); and
- How an accountant considers materiality when assurance is provided on non-financial measures (e.g., sustainability assurance engagements).
The AICPA believes the knowledge and skills required of CPAs are evolving significantly. The AICPA is interested in research into the knowledge and skills required of CPAs today and that will be required of CPAs five years from now, including the impact technology plays in this evolution. The AICPA is especially interested in the skills required of newly licensed CPAs entering the profession. Research interests include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The changing composition of assurance engagement teams, the skills needed by CPAs serving on multi-disciplinary teams which utilize specialists (e.g., data scientists, engineers), and how these changes impact personnel hiring plans for larger and smaller firms.
- The communication skills required of CPAs today, and those expected to be required five to ten years in the future; and
- The impact technology may have on the application of professional skepticism.