preparation of financials

How can a football team’s position for scoring the game winning points illustrate the differences between an audit, review, compilation, and preparation?

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

(Cross-posted from my other blog, Nonprofit Update, not because CPAs need this information, but because it might be helpful for your clients. You might also be able to use this illustration as a tool to explain different service levels to your clients.)

Let’s think about a football team and how they are positioned for scoring the winning points in the last few seconds of a tied game. They could be 4th-and-goal or perhaps not yet to a position for a field goal attempt.

Let’s use that illustration to explain the services provided by your outside accountant.

A CPA can provide four levels of services if you’re looking for financial statements.

You can hire a CPA firm to provide:

  • audit,
  • review,
  • compilation, or
  • preparation service.

What is winning the game?

We all know what that is in football.

In our accounting illustration a winning score would be perfect financial statements. Every number is correct. Not just close-enough, but exactly correct. Every disclosure complies with every single requirement.  The presentation and classification are picture perfect.

That probably never happens in real life, so let’s simplify it by saying that there is nothing even close to materially incorrect in any number, presentation, or disclosure. The financial statements are as close to perfect as is humanly possible.

That is what a win looks like.


Let’s say there is under a minute left in a tied game. Our favorite football team has just completed a successful drive and is sitting on the 1 yard line on fourth down. There’s only one play left in 30 seconds and the game is over.

Likelihood of getting a touchdown and winning the game is pretty good. Right about now the odds look incredible.

New CPE requirement in California for CPAs who only perform preparation engagements

Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub before merger with Adobe Stock.

Big news from CBA if the highest level of service you provide clients is a preparation engagement.

First, if you don’t perform compilations, reviews, audits, or other services covered by peer review, you don’t need to get a peer review.

Second, there is a specific CPE requirement:  4 hours in fraud education and 8 hours in prep or A&A.

The following article from the California Board of Accountancy, quoted with permission, provides more detailed explanation.  Since it is quoted verbatim, I won’t put quotes around the entire article.



CPAs who perform preparation engagements as their highest level of service are subject to a new continuing education (CE) requirement.

2017 Risk Alerts available

Image is from AICPA. Used under Fair Use since, after all, I am promoting three of their products.
Image of Audit Risk Alert is from AICPA. Used under Fair Use since, after all, I am promoting three of their products.

The 2017 audit season is about to begin. Planning is well underway for all those 12/31 clients.

To help you get ready, the annual updates to AICPA risk alerts are available. Consider:

I read the risk alerts every year. They are great for reminding me of what I already knew and even better for pointing out what tidbits I had missed.

You might want to check them out in the lull before the rush of field work hits.

“Be Prepared – A Comprehensive Peer Review Update”

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.
Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The following article provides a superb update on recent developments in the peer review program. The article is graciously provided by the California Society of CPAs and the information described here applies in all jurisdictions across the U.S.

Because the entire article is quoted verbatim without any additional comments from me, none of the article will be placed in quotation marks.

Originally published by CalCPA ( in the October issue of California CPA magazine.

Used with written permission of the California Society of CPAs. 


Be Prepared – A Comprehensive Peer Review Update

By Linda McCrone


Peer review is a successful program that helps firms improve their quality control systems and elevate the quality of accounting and auditing engagements. The AICPA contributed the software program that tracks peer reviews and the staff that manages the program. AICPA member volunteers contribute their time to oversee the program, keep the peer review program forms current and make certain that the peer review standards remain relevant. But like any successful program, peer review must continue to evolve to keep up with events.



Dividing line between bookkeeping and preparation services

Is this bookkeeping or preparation of financial statements? Image courtesy of
Is this bookkeeping or preparation of financial statements? Image courtesy of

SSARS #21 explicitly defines bookkeeping as being outside the scope of the SSARS literature. The question becomes what is bookkeeping and what is a preparation engagement.

The AICPA has an article that can help highlight the dividing line: Bookkeeping or preparation service? That is the question.

Article suggests three ways to look at a service to help a CPA figure out whether Section 70 of SSARS #21 applies. If you are wondering, please check out the full article.

CPE courses on SSARS 21 in development

I’m in the process of writing and rewriting a series of CPE courses on compilations, reviews, and preparation services. These courses will describe the changes made from SSARS #21, which is a major rewrite of the comp and review rules. 

These courses will be a major overhaul of what I wrote three years ago for CCH.

Stay tuned for more info as the courses become available.

Here’s the courses on SSARS 19 I wrote or updated:  …

Flash update on SSARS #21

The new statement that overhauls the SSARS body of knowledge and opens up a new service called preparation was released on October 23, 2014.

Update – See also:

From the 30,000 foot level, here are just a few changes:

Newly approved SSARS will allow a new service, ‘preparation’. Will also require written & signed engagement letters.

Update – See also:

In August, the Accounting and Review Services Committee approved the clarified SSARS. This rewrites the SSARS into the same clarified format we saw with the audit literature.

The biggest change is the introduction of a new service, called preparation, which will allow a CPA to issue financial statements without providing an accountant’s report or performing procedures on the information.

In highly condensed terms, …