Accepted by Dan Simunic. We appreciate the helpful comments of the editor (Dan Simunic) and two anonymous referees, and the comments received on earlier versions of the paper when presented at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology 1996 Summer Symposium on Accounting Research, the University of Southern California/Maastricht University 1996 International Symposium on Audit Research, and the comments of workshop participants at University of Maryland. University of Missouri-Columbia, Rutgers University-Camden, University of Strathclyde (Scotland), and Temple University. Support was provided for Jagan Krishnan by a Temple University Summer Research Fellowship.
Accounting Accruals and Auditor Reporting Conservatism*
Version of Record online: 20 APR 2010
1999 Canadian Academic Accounting Association
Contemporary Accounting Research
Volume 16, Issue 1, pages 135–165, Spring 1999
How to Cite
FRANCIS, J. R. and KRISHNAN, J. (1999), Accounting Accruals and Auditor Reporting Conservatism. Contemporary Accounting Research, 16: 135–165. doi: 10.1111/j.1911-3846.1999.tb00577.x
- Issue online: 20 APR 2010
- Version of Record online: 20 APR 2010
Accounting accruals are managers' subjective estimates of future outcomes and cannot, by definition, be objectively verified by auditors prior to occurrence. This causes audits of high-accrual firms to pose more uncertainty than audits of low-accrual firms because of potential estimation error and a greater chance that high-accrual firms have undetected asset realization and/or going concern problems that are related to the high level of accruals. One way that auditors can compensate for this risk exposure is to lower their threshold for issuing modified audit reports, an action that will increase modified reports and, therefore, lessen the likelihood of failing to issue a modified report when appropriate. We call this auditor reporting conservatism and test if high-accrual firms in the United States, are more likely to receive modified audit reports for asset realization uncertainties and going concern problems. Empirical results for a large sample of U.S. publicly listed companies support the hypothesis that auditors are more conservative, that is, more likely to issue both types of modified audit reports for high-accrual firms. Further analyses show that income-increasing accruals are somewhat more likely to result in reporting conservatism than income-decreasing accruals, and that only the Big Six group of auditors show evidence of reporting conservatism. These findings add to our understanding of the audit report formation process and the potentially important role played by accounting accruals in that process.