Documentation requirements for a compilation under SSARS 19

SSARS 19 has specific documentation requirements for compilations and reviews. I will discuss these requirements in a series of posts.

Compilations first. Reviews later.

The overall documentation requirement is that the accountant should prepare documentation in a compilation with sufficient detail to give a clear understanding of the work performed.

Update – SSARS 19 had been replaced by SSARS 21. The entire body of knowledge has been revised. See:


Two comments on that. First, the workpapers have to have enough ‘stuff’ so that someone else can understand what was done.  There does not have to be a lot done in a compilation, but someone else has to be able to figure out what you did based on the workpapers.  This doesn’t mean you have to confirm anything or do analytical reviews or review contracts. But what you do in the comp needs to be documented.

Second comment is the use of the word should. Under the SSARS, when the word should appears, it identifies a presumptively mandatory requirement.  Unconditional and presumptively mandatory requirements are discussed here.

When the word should is used, then you have to comply with that requirement unless:

  • you have a really, really good reason not to do so,
  • you document in the workpapers why you did not comply, and
  • you show you have complied with the objective of that requirement through some other means.

That is a pretty high hurdle to clear.

SSARS 19 has a helpful comment that the documentation for a compilation can rely on documents outside of that particular engagement. The specific examples are other engagement files or quality control files. Let’s say you are doing a monthly or quarterly compilation on a tax client. You would not have to have a copy of the engagement letter in the workpapers for every compilation during the year. You could instead put the engagement letter in the first compilation engagement or even in the tax files. Likewise if you wanted to document your understanding of the industry you could do so in the first compilation engagement or the tax files instead of every compilation. If there is a calculation you have to review for every compilation, then you could update a single workpaper which is in one of your files. That workpaper would document that issue for each of the compilations during the year.

Next, the specific documentation requirements for a compilation.

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