No. S 25
Accountants Act
(CHAPTER 2)
Accountants (Public Accountants) (Amendment)
Rules 2015
In exercise of the powers conferred by section 64 of the Accountants Act, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, with the approval of the Minister for Finance, hereby makes the following Rules:
Citation and commencement
1.   These Rules may be cited as the Accountants (Public Accountants) (Amendment) Rules 2015 and shall come into operation on 1 July 2015.
Deletion and substitution of Fourth Schedule
2.  The Fourth Schedule to the Accountants (Public Accountants) Rules (R 1) is deleted and the following Schedule substituted therefor:
FOURTH SCHEDULE
Rule 9(1)
Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for Public Accountants and Accounting Entities

Contents

___________________________________________________________
010
SCOPE
PART A: GENERAL APPLICATION OF THE CODE
100
Introduction and Fundamental Principles
110
Integrity
120
Objectivity
130
Professional Competence and Due Care
140
Confidentiality
150
Professional Behaviour
PART B: APPLICATION GUIDANCE
200
Introduction
210
Professional Appointment
220
Conflicts of Interest
230
Second Opinions
240
Fees and Other Types of Remuneration
250
Marketing Public Accountancy Services
260
Gifts and Hospitality
270
Custody of Clients Assets
280
Objectivity — All Services
290
Independence — Audit and Review Engagements
291
Independence ― Other Assurance Engagements
 
DEFINITIONS
SCOPE
 
SG010.1
This Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for Public Accountants and Accounting Entities (Code) establishes ethical requirements for public accountants, accounting firms, accounting corporations and accounting LLPs. Compliance with this Code is mandatory for all public accountants, accounting firms, accounting corporations and accounting LLPs and failure to observe the Code may result in disciplinary action.
SG010.2
This Code applies to the provision of public accountancy services by public accountants, accounting firms, accounting corporations and accounting LLPs. Under the Accountants Act (Chapter 2), public accountancy services means the audit and reporting on financial statements and the doing of such other acts that are required by any written law to be done by a public accountant. For non‑public accountancy services, public accountants should refer to the code of ethics of their professional body.
 
PART A: GENERAL APPLICATION OF THE CODE
Section 100
Introduction and Fundamental Principles
Section 110
Integrity
Section 120
Objectivity
Section 130
Professional Competence and Due Care
Section 140
Confidentiality
Section 150
Professional Behaviour
 
Section 100
Introduction and Fundamental Principles
 
 
100.1
A distinguishing mark of the accountancy profession is its acceptance of the responsibility to act in the public interest. Therefore, a public accountant’s responsibility is not exclusively to satisfy the needs of an individual client. In acting in the public interest, a public accountant shall observe and comply with this Code. If a public accountant is prohibited from complying with certain parts of this Code by law or regulation, the public accountant shall comply with all other parts of this Code.
100.2
This Code contains two parts. Part A establishes the fundamental principles of professional ethics for public accountants and provides a conceptual framework that public accountants shall apply to —
 
(a)Identify threats to compliance with the fundamental principles;
 
(b)Evaluate the significance of the threats identified; and
 
(c)Apply safeguards, when necessary, to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. Safeguards are necessary when the public accountant determines that the threats are not at a level at which a reasonable and informed third party would be likely to conclude, weighing all the specific facts and circumstances available to the public accountant at that time, that compliance with the fundamental principles is not compromised.
 
A public accountant shall use professional judgment in applying this conceptual framework.
100.3
Part B describes how the conceptual framework applies in certain situations. They provide examples of safeguards that may be appropriate to address threats to compliance with the fundamental principles. They also describe situations where safeguards are not available to address the threats, and consequently, the circumstance or relationship creating the threats shall be avoided.
100.4
The use of the word “shall” in this Code imposes a requirement on the public accountant or firm to comply with the specific provision in which “shall” has been used. Compliance is required unless an exception is permitted by this Code.
Fundamental Principles
100.5
A public accountant shall comply with the following fundamental principles:
 
(a)Integrity – to be straightforward and honest in all professional and business relationships;
 
(b)Objectivity – to not allow bias, conflict of interest or undue influence of others to override professional or business judgments;
 
(c)Professional Competence and Due Care – to maintain professional knowledge and skill at the level required to ensure that a client receives competent professional services based on current developments in practice, legislation and techniques and act diligently and in accordance with applicable technical and professional standards;
 
(d)Confidentiality – to respect the confidentiality of information acquired as a result of professional and business relationships and, therefore, not disclose any such information to third parties without proper and specific authority, unless there is a legal or professional right or duty to disclose, nor use the information for the personal advantage of the public accountant or third parties;
 
(e)Professional Behaviour – to comply with relevant laws and regulations and avoid any action that discredits the profession.
 
Each of these fundamental principles is discussed in more detail in Sections 110 – 150.
Conceptual Framework Approach
100.6
The circumstances in which public accountants operate may create specific threats to compliance with the fundamental principles. It is impossible to define every situation that creates threats to compliance with the fundamental principles and specify the appropriate action. In addition, the nature of engagements and work assignments may differ and, consequently, different threats may be created, requiring the application of different safeguards. Therefore, this Code establishes a conceptual framework that requires a public accountant to identify, evaluate, and address threats to compliance with the fundamental principles. The conceptual framework approach assists public accountants in complying with the ethical requirements of this Code and meeting their responsibility to act in the public interest. It accommodates many variations in circumstances that create threats to compliance with the fundamental principles and can deter a public accountant from concluding that a situation is permitted if it is not specifically prohibited.
100.7
When a public accountant identifies threats to compliance with the fundamental principles and, based on an evaluation of those threats, determines that they are not at an acceptable level, the public accountant shall determine whether appropriate safeguards are available and can be applied to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. In making that determination, the public accountant shall exercise professional judgment and take into account whether a reasonable and informed third party, weighing all the specific facts and circumstances available to the public accountant at the time, would be likely to conclude that the threats would be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by the application of the safeguards, such that compliance with the fundamental principles is not compromised.
100.8
A public accountant shall evaluate any threats to compliance with the fundamental principles when the public accountant knows, or could reasonably be expected to know, of circumstances or relationships that may compromise compliance with the fundamental principles.
100.9
A public accountant shall take qualitative as well as quantitative factors into account when evaluating the significance of a threat. When applying the conceptual framework, a public accountant may encounter situations in which threats cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level, either because the threat is too significant or because appropriate safeguards are not available or cannot be applied. In such situations, the public accountant shall decline or discontinue the specific professional service involved or, when necessary, resign from the engagement.
100.10
Sections 290 and 291 contain provisions with which a public accountant shall comply if the public accountant identifies a breach of an independence provision of the Code. If a public accountant identifies a breach of any other provision of this Code, the public accountant shall evaluate the significance of the breach and its impact on the public accountant’s ability to comply with the fundamental principles. The public accountant shall take whatever actions that may be available, as soon as possible, to satisfactorily address the consequences of the breach. The public accountant shall determine whether to report the breach, for example, to those who may have been affected by the breach, a member body, relevant regulator or oversight authority.
100.11
When a public accountant encounters unusual circumstances in which the application of a specific requirement of the Code would result in a disproportionate outcome or an outcome that may not be in the public interest, it is recommended that the public accountant consult with a member body or the relevant regulator.
Threats and Safeguards
100.12
Threats may be created by a broad range of relationships and circumstances. When a relationship or circumstance creates a threat, such a threat could compromise, or could be perceived to compromise, a public accountant’s compliance with the fundamental principles. A circumstance or relationship may create more than one threat, and a threat may affect compliance with more than one fundamental principle. Threats fall into one or more of the following categories:
 
(a)Self‑interest threat – the threat that a financial or other interest will inappropriately influence the public accountant’s judgment or behaviour;
 
(b)Self‑review threat – the threat that a public accountant will not appropriately evaluate the results of a previous judgment made or service performed by the public accountant, or by another individual within the public accountant’s firm, on which the public accountant will rely when forming a judgment as part of providing a current service;
 
(c)Advocacy threat – the threat that a public accountant will promote a client’s position to the point that the public accountant’s objectivity is compromised;
 
(d)Familiarity threat – the threat that due to a long or close relationship with a client, a public accountant will be too sympathetic to their interests or too accepting of their work;
 
(e)Intimidation threat – the threat that a public accountant will be deterred from acting objectively because of actual or perceived pressures, including attempts to exercise undue influence over the public accountant.
 
Part B of this Code explains how these categories of threats may be created for public accountants.
100.13
Safeguards are actions or other measures that may eliminate threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. They fall into two broad categories —
 
(a)Safeguards created by the profession, legislation or regulation; and
 
(b)Safeguards in the work environment.
100.14
Safeguards created by the profession, legislation or regulation include —
 
(a)Educational, training and experience requirements for entry into the profession;
 
(b)Continuing professional development requirements;
 
(c)Corporate governance regulations;
 
(d)Professional standards;
 
(e)Professional or regulatory monitoring and disciplinary procedures; and
 
(f)External review by a legally empowered third party of the reports, returns, communications or information produced by a public accountant.
100.15
Part B of this Code discusses safeguards in the work environment for public accountants.
100.16
Certain safeguards may increase the likelihood of identifying or deterring unethical behaviour. Such safeguards, which may be created by the accounting profession, legislation or regulation, include —
 
(a)Effective, well‑publicised complaint systems operated by the profession or a regulator, which enable colleagues, employers and members of the public to draw attention to unprofessional or unethical behaviour; and
 
(b)An explicitly stated duty to report breaches of ethical requirements.
Conflicts of Interest
100.17
A public accountant may be faced with a conflict of interest when undertaking a professional activity. A conflict of interest creates a threat to objectivity and may create threats to the other fundamental principles. Such threats may be created when —
 
(a)The public accountant undertakes a professional activity related to a particular matter for two or more parties whose interests with respect to that matter are in conflict; or
 
(b)The interests of the public accountant with respect to a particular matter and the interests of a party for whom the public accountant undertakes a professional activity related to that matter are in conflict.
100.18
Part B of this Code discusses conflicts of interest for public accountants.
Ethical Conflict Resolution
100.19
A public accountant may be required to resolve a conflict in complying with the fundamental principles.
100.20
When initiating either a formal or informal conflict resolution process, the following factors, either individually or together with other factors, may be relevant to the resolution process:
 
(a)Relevant facts;
 
(b)Ethical issues involved;
 
(c)Fundamental principles related to the matter in question;
 
(d)Established internal procedures;
 
(e)Alternative courses of action.
 
Having considered the relevant factors, a public accountant shall determine the appropriate course of action, weighing the consequences of each possible course of action. If the matter remains unresolved, the public accountant may wish to consult with other appropriate persons within the firm for help in obtaining resolution.
100.21
Where a matter involves a conflict with, or within, an organisation, a public accountant shall determine whether to consult with those charged with governance of the organisation, such as the board of directors or the audit committee.
100.22
It may be in the best interests of the public accountant to document the substance of the issue, the details of any discussions held, and the decisions made concerning that issue.
100.23
If a significant conflict cannot be resolved, a public accountant may consider obtaining professional advice from the relevant professional body or from legal advisors. The public accountant generally can obtain guidance on ethical issues without breaching the fundamental principle of confidentiality if the matter is discussed with the relevant professional body on an anonymous basis or with a legal advisor under the protection of legal privilege. Instances in which the public accountant may consider obtaining legal advice vary. For example, a public accountant may have encountered a fraud, the reporting of which could breach the public accountant’s responsibility to respect confidentiality. The public accountant may consider obtaining legal advice in that instance to determine whether there is a requirement to report.
100.24
If, after exhausting all relevant possibilities, the ethical conflict remains unresolved, a public accountant shall, where possible, refuse to remain associated with the matter creating the conflict. The public accountant shall determine whether, in the circumstances, it is appropriate to withdraw from the engagement team or specific assignment, or to resign altogether from the engagement or the firm.
100.25
When communicating with those charged with governance in accordance with the provisions of this Code, the public accountant or firm shall determine, having regard to the nature and importance of the particular circumstances and matter to be communicated, the appropriate person(s) within the entity’s governance structure with whom to communicate. If the public accountant or firm communicates with a subgroup of those charged with governance, for example, an audit committee or an individual, the public accountant or firm shall determine whether communication with all of those charged with governance is also necessary so that they are adequately informed.
 
Section 110
Integrity
110.1
The principle of integrity imposes an obligation on all public accountants to be straightforward and honest in all professional and business relationships. Integrity also implies fair dealing and truthfulness.
110.2
A public accountant shall not knowingly be associated with reports, returns, communications or other information where the public accountant believes that the information —
 
(a)Contains a materially false or misleading statement;
 
(b)Contains statements or information furnished recklessly; or
 
(c)Omits or obscures information required to be included where such omission or obscurity would be misleading.
 
When a public accountant becomes aware that the public accountant has been associated with such information, the public accountant shall take steps to be disassociated from that information.
110.3
A public accountant will be deemed not to be in breach of paragraph 110.2 if the public accountant provides a modified report in respect of a matter contained in paragraph 110.2.
 
Section 120
Objectivity
120.1
The principle of objectivity imposes an obligation on all public accountants not to compromise their professional or business judgment because of bias, conflict of interest or the undue influence of others.
120.2
A public accountant may be exposed to situations that may impair objectivity. It is impracticable to define and prescribe all such situations. A public accountant shall not perform a public accountancy service if a circumstance or relationship biases or unduly influences the public accountant’s professional judgment with respect to that service.
 
Section 130
Professional Competence and Due Care
130.1
The principle of professional competence and due care imposes the following obligations on all public accountants:
 
(a)To maintain professional knowledge and skill at the level required to ensure that clients receive competent professional service;
 
(b)To act diligently in accordance with applicable technical and professional standards when providing public accountancy services.
130.2
Competent professional service requires the exercise of sound judgment in applying professional knowledge and skill in the performance of such service. Professional competence may be divided into two separate phases —
 
(a)Attainment of professional competence; and
 
(b)Maintenance of professional competence.
130.3
The maintenance of professional competence requires a continuing awareness and an understanding of relevant technical, professional and business developments. Continuing professional development enables a public accountant to develop and maintain the capabilities to perform competently within the professional environment.
130.4
Diligence encompasses the responsibility to act in accordance with the requirements of an assignment, carefully, thoroughly and on a timely basis.
130.5
A public accountant shall take reasonable steps to ensure that those working under the public accountant’s authority in a professional capacity have appropriate training and supervision.
130.6
Where appropriate, a public accountant shall make clients or other users of the public accountant’s public accountancy services aware of the limitations inherent in the services.
 
Section 140
Confidentiality
140.1
The principle of confidentiality imposes an obligation on all public accountants to refrain from —
 
(a)Disclosing outside the firm confidential information acquired as a result of professional and business relationships without proper and specific authority or unless there is a legal or professional right or duty to disclose; and
 
(b)Using confidential information acquired as a result of professional and business relationships to their personal advantage or the advantage of third parties.
140.2
A public accountant shall maintain confidentiality, including in a social environment, being alert to the possibility of inadvertent disclosure, particularly to a close business associate or a close or immediate family member.
140.3
A public accountant shall maintain confidentiality of information disclosed by a prospective client.
140.4
A public accountant shall maintain confidentiality of information within the firm.
140.5
A public accountant shall take reasonable steps to ensure that staff under the public accountant’s control and persons from whom advice and assistance is obtained respect the public accountant’s duty of confidentiality.
140.6
The need to comply with the principle of confidentiality continues even after the end of relationships between a public accountant and a client. When a public accountant acquires a new client, the public accountant is entitled to use prior experience. The public accountant shall not, however, use or disclose any confidential information either acquired or received as a result of a professional or business relationship.
140.7
The following are circumstances where public accountants are or may be required to disclose confidential information or when such disclosure may be appropriate:
 
(a)Disclosure is permitted by law and is authorised by the client;
 
(b)Disclosure is required by law, for example —
 
(i)Production of documents or other provision of evidence in the course of legal proceedings; or
 
(ii)Disclosure to the appropriate public authorities of infringements of the law that come to light;
 
(c)There is a professional duty or right to disclose, when not prohibited by law —
 
(i)To comply with the quality review of a member body or professional body;
 
(ii)To respond to an inquiry or investigation by a member body or regulatory body;
 
(iii)To protect the professional interests of a public accountant in legal proceedings; or
 
(iv)To comply with technical standards and ethics requirements.
140.8
In deciding whether to disclose confidential information, relevant factors to consider include —
 
(a)Whether the interests of all parties, including third parties whose interests may be affected, could be harmed if the client consents to the disclosure of information by the public accountant;
 
(b)Whether all the relevant information is known and substantiated, to the extent it is practicable; when the situation involves unsubstantiated facts, incomplete information or unsubstantiated conclusions, professional judgment shall be used in determining the type of disclosure to be made, if any;
 
(c)The type of communication that is expected and to whom it is addressed; and
 
(d)Whether the parties to whom the communication is addressed are appropriate recipients.
 
Section 150
Professional Behaviour
150.1
The principle of professional behaviour imposes an obligation on all public accountants to comply with relevant laws and regulations and avoid any action that the public accountant knows or should know may discredit the profession. This includes actions that a reasonable and informed third party, weighing all the specific facts and circumstances available to the public accountant at that time, would be likely to conclude adversely affects the good reputation of the profession.
150.2
In marketing and promoting themselves and their work, public accountants shall not bring the profession into disrepute. Public accountants shall be honest and truthful and not —
 
(a)Make exaggerated claims for the services they are able to offer, the qualifications they possess, or experience they have gained; or
 
(b)Make disparaging references or unsubstantiated comparisons to the work of others.
 
 
 
PART B: APPLICATION GUIDANCE
Section 200
Introduction
Section 210
Professional Appointment
Section 220
Conflicts of Interest
Section 230
Second Opinions
Section 240
Fees and Other Types of Remuneration
Section 250
Marketing Public Accountancy Services
Section 260
Gifts and Hospitality
Section 270
Custody of Client Assets
Section 280
Objectivity — All Services
Section 290
Independence — Audit and Review Engagements
Section 291
Independence — Other Assurance Engagements
 
Section 200
Introduction
200.1
This Part of the Code describes how the conceptual framework contained in Part A applies in certain situations to public accountants. This Part does not describe all of the circumstances and relationships that could be encountered by a public accountant that create or may create threats to compliance with the fundamental principles. Therefore, the public accountant is encouraged to be alert for such circumstances and relationships.
200.2
A public accountant shall not knowingly engage in any business, occupation, or activity that impairs or might impair integrity, objectivity or the good reputation of the profession and as a result would be incompatible with the fundamental principles.
Threats and Safeguards
200.3
Compliance with the fundamental principles may potentially be threatened by a broad range of circumstances and relationships. The nature and significance of the threats may differ depending on whether they arise in relation to the provision of services to an audit client and whether the audit client is a public interest entity, to an assurance client that is not an audit client, or to a non‑assurance client.
 
Threats fall into one or more of the following categories:
 
(a)Self-interest;
 
(b)Self-review;
 
(c)Advocacy;
 
(d)Familiarity;
 
(e)Intimidation.
 
These threats are discussed further in Part A of this Code.
200.4
Examples of circumstances that create self‑interest threats for a public accountant include —
 
(a)A member of the assurance team having a direct financial interest in the assurance client;
 
(b)A firm having undue dependence on total fees from a client;
 
(c)A member of the assurance team having a significant close business relationship with an assurance client;
 
(d)A firm being concerned about the possibility of losing a significant client;
 
(e)A member of the audit team entering into employment negotiations with the audit client;
 
(f)A firm entering into a contingent fee arrangement relating to an assurance engagement; and
 
(g)A public accountant discovering a significant error when evaluating the results of a previous professional service performed by a member of the public accountant’s firm.
200.5
Examples of circumstances that create self‑review threats for a public accountant include —
 
(a)A firm issuing an assurance report on the effectiveness of the operation of financial systems after designing or implementing the systems;
 
(b)A firm having prepared the original data used to generate records that are the subject matter of the assurance engagement;
 
(c)A member of the assurance team being, or having recently been, a director or officer of the client;
 
(d)A member of the assurance team being, or having recently been, employed by the client in a position to exert significant influence over the subject matter of the engagement; and
 
(e)The firm performing a service for an assurance client that directly affects the subject matter information of the assurance engagement.
200.6
Examples of circumstances that create advocacy threats for a public accountant include —
 
(a)The firm promoting shares in an audit client; and
 
(b)A public accountant acting as an advocate on behalf of an audit client in litigation or disputes with third parties.
200.7
Examples of circumstances that create familiarity threats for a public accountant include —
 
(a)A member of the engagement team having a close or immediate family member who is a director or officer of the client;
 
(b)A member of the engagement team having a close or immediate family member who is an employee of the client who is in a position to exert significant influence over the subject matter of the engagement;
 
(c)A director or officer of the client or an employee in a position to exert significant influence over the subject matter of the engagement having recently served as the engagement partner;
 
(d)A public accountant accepting gifts or preferential treatment from a client, unless the value is trivial or inconsequential; and
 
(e)Senior personnel having a long association with the assurance client.
200.8
Examples of circumstances that create intimidation threats for a public accountant include —
 
(a)A firm being threatened with dismissal from a client engagement;
 
(b)An audit client indicating that it will not award a planned non‑assurance contract to the firm if the firm continues to disagree with the client’s accounting treatment for a particular transaction;
 
(c)A firm being threatened with litigation by the client;
 
(d)A firm being pressured to reduce inappropriately the extent of work performed in order to reduce fees;
 
(e)A public accountant feeling pressured to agree with the judgment of a client employee because the employee has more expertise on the matter in question; and
 
(f)A public accountant being informed by a partner of the firm that a planned promotion will not occur unless the public accountant agrees with an audit client’s inappropriate accounting treatment.
200.9
Safeguards that may eliminate or reduce threats to an acceptable level fall into two broad categories —
 
(a)Safeguards created by the profession, legislation or regulation; and
 
(b)Safeguards in the work environment.
 
Examples of safeguards created by the profession, legislation or regulation are described in paragraph 100.14 of Part A of this Code.
200.10
A public accountant shall exercise judgment to determine how best to deal with threats that are not at an acceptable level, whether by applying safeguards to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level or by terminating or declining the relevant engagement. In exercising this judgment, a public accountant shall consider whether a reasonable and informed third party, weighing all the specific facts and circumstances available to the public accountant at that time, would be likely to conclude that the threats would be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by the application of safeguards, such that compliance with the fundamental principles is not compromised. This consideration will be affected by matters such as the significance of the threat, the nature of the engagement and the structure of the firm.
200.11
In the work environment, the relevant safeguards will vary depending on the circumstances. Work environment safeguards comprise firm‑wide safeguards and engagement‑specific safeguards.
200.12
Examples of firm‑wide safeguards in the work environment include —
 
(a)Leadership of the firm that stresses the importance of compliance with the fundamental principles;
 
(b)Leadership of the firm that establishes the expectation that members of an assurance team will act in the public interest;
 
(c)Policies and procedures to implement and monitor quality control of engagements;
 
(d)Documented policies regarding the need to identify threats to compliance with the fundamental principles, evaluate the significance of those threats, and apply safeguards to eliminate or reduce the threats to an acceptable level or, when appropriate safeguards are not available or cannot be applied, terminate or decline the relevant engagement;
 
(e)Documented internal policies and procedures requiring compliance with the fundamental principles;
 
(f)Policies and procedures that will enable the identification of interests or relationships between the firm or members of engagement teams and clients;
 
(g)Policies and procedures to monitor and, if necessary, manage the reliance on revenue received from a single client;
 
(h)Using different partners and engagement teams with separate reporting lines for the provision of non‑assurance services to an assurance client;
 
(i)Policies and procedures to prohibit individuals who are not members of an engagement team from inappropriately influencing the outcome of the engagement;
 
(j)Timely communication of a firm’s policies and procedures, including any changes to them, to all partners and professional staff, and appropriate training and education on such policies and procedures;
 
(k)Designating a member of senior management to be responsible for overseeing the adequate functioning of the firm’s quality control system;
 
(l)Advising partners and professional staff of assurance clients and related entities from which independence is required;
 
(m)A disciplinary mechanism to promote compliance with policies and procedures; and
 
(n)Published policies and procedures to encourage and empower staff to communicate to senior levels within the firm any issue relating to compliance with the fundamental principles that concerns them.
200.13
Examples of engagement‑specific safeguards in the work environment include —
 
(a)Having a professional accountant who was not involved with the non‑assurance service review the non‑assurance work performed or otherwise advise as necessary;
 
(b)Having a professional accountant who was not a member of the assurance team review the assurance work performed or otherwise advise as necessary;
 
(c)Consulting an independent third party, such as a committee of independent directors, a professional regulatory body or another professional accountant;
 
(d)Discussing ethical issues with those charged with governance of the client;
 
(e)Disclosing to those charged with governance of the client the nature of services provided and extent of fees charged;
 
(f)Involving another firm to perform or re‑perform part of the engagement; and
 
(g)Rotating senior assurance team personnel.
200.14
Depending on the nature of the engagement, a public accountant may also be able to rely on safeguards that the client has implemented. However it is not possible to rely solely on such safeguards to reduce threats to an acceptable level.
200.15
Examples of safeguards within the client’s systems and procedures include —
 
(a)The client requires persons other than management to ratify or approve the appointment of a firm to perform an engagement;
 
(b)The client has competent employees with experience and seniority to make managerial decisions;
 
(c)The client has implemented internal procedures that ensure objective choices in commissioning non‑assurance engagements; and
 
(d)The client has a corporate governance structure that provides appropriate oversight and communications regarding the firm’s services.
 
Section 210
Professional Appointment
Client Acceptance
210.1
Before accepting a new client relationship, a public accountant shall determine whether acceptance would create any threats to compliance with the fundamental principles. Potential threats to integrity or professional behaviour may be created from, for example, questionable issues associated with the client (its owners, management or activities).
210.2
Client issues that, if known, could threaten compliance with the fundamental principles include, for example, client involvement in illegal activities (such as money laundering), dishonesty or questionable financial reporting practices.
210.3
A public accountant shall evaluate the significance of any threats and apply safeguards when necessary to eliminate them or reduce them to an acceptable level.
Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)Obtaining knowledge and understanding of the client, its owners, managers and those responsible for its governance and business activities; and
 
(b)Securing the client’s commitment to improve corporate governance practices or internal controls.
210.4
Where it is not possible to reduce the threats to an acceptable level, the public accountant shall decline to enter into the client relationship.
210.5
It is recommended that a public accountant periodically reviews acceptance decisions for recurring client engagements.
Engagement Acceptance
210.6
The fundamental principle of professional competence and due care imposes an obligation on a public accountant to provide only those services that the public accountant is competent to perform. Before accepting a specific client engagement, a public accountant shall determine whether acceptance would create any threats to compliance with the fundamental principles. For example, a self‑interest threat to professional competence and due care is created if the engagement team does not possess, or cannot acquire, the competencies necessary to properly carry out the engagement.
210.7
A public accountant shall evaluate the significance of threats and apply safeguards, when necessary, to eliminate them or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)Acquiring an appropriate understanding of the nature of the client’s business, the complexity of its operations, the specific requirements of the engagement and the purpose, nature and scope of the work to be performed;
 
(b)Acquiring knowledge of relevant industries or subject matters;
 
(c)Possessing or obtaining experience with relevant regulatory or reporting requirements;
 
(d)Assigning sufficient staff with the necessary competencies;
 
(e)Using experts where necessary;
 
(f)Agreeing on a realistic time frame for the performance of the engagement; and
 
(g)Complying with quality control policies and procedures designed to provide reasonable assurance that specific engagements are accepted only when they can be performed competently.
210.8
When a public accountant intends to rely on the advice or work of an expert, the public accountant shall determine whether such reliance is warranted. Factors to consider include: reputation, expertise, resources available and applicable professional and ethical standards. Such information may be gained from prior association with the expert or from consulting others.
Changes in a Professional Appointment
210.9
A public accountant who is asked to replace another public accountant, or who is considering tendering for an engagement currently held by another public accountant, shall determine whether there are any reasons, professional or otherwise, for not accepting the engagement, such as circumstances that create threats to compliance with the fundamental principles that cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by the application of safeguards. For example, there may be a threat to professional competence and due care if a public accountant accepts the engagement before knowing all the pertinent facts.
210.10
A public accountant shall evaluate the significance of any threats. Depending on the nature of the engagement, this may require direct communication with the existing accountant to establish the facts and circumstances regarding the proposed change so that the public accountant can decide whether it would be appropriate to accept the engagement. For example, the apparent reasons for the change in appointment may not fully reflect the facts and may indicate disagreements with the existing accountant that may influence the decision to accept the appointment.
210.11
Safeguards shall be applied when necessary to eliminate any threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)When replying to requests to submit tenders, stating in the tender that, before accepting the engagement, contact with the existing accountant will be requested so that inquiries may be made as to whether there are any professional or other reasons why the appointment should not be accepted;
 
(b)Asking the existing accountant to provide known information on any facts or circumstances that, in the existing accountant’s opinion, the proposed public accountant needs to be aware of before deciding whether to accept the engagement; and
 
(c)Obtaining necessary information from other sources.
 
When the threats cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level through the application of safeguards, a public accountant shall, unless there is satisfaction as to necessary facts by other means, decline the engagement.
SG210.11A
Before accepting a nomination as auditor in a financial statement audit engagement the proposed public accountant shall, in every case, enquire from the existing accountant, if any, as to whether there is any professional or other reason for the proposed change of public accountant of which the proposed public accountant should be aware before deciding whether or not to accept the appointment and, if there are such matters, request that the existing accountant provide the proposed public accountant with all the details necessary to enable the proposed public accountant to come to a decision.
SG210.11B
The existing accountant shall, on receipt of any enquiry referred to in paragraph SG210.11A, reply to the proposed public accountant in writing within a reasonable time, advising the proposed public accountant on whether there is any professional or other reason as to why the proposed public accountant should not accept the appointment.
 
If there is any such reason or other matter which should be disclosed to the proposed public accountant, the existing accountant shall ensure that he or she has the permission of the client to give details of this information to the proposed public accountant. If —
 
(a)permission is not given by the client to the existing accountant, the existing accountant shall convey this fact to the proposed public accountant; or
 
(b)permission is given by the client to the existing accountant, the existing accountant shall —
 
(i)disclose all information required by the proposed public accountant to enable the proposed public accountant to decide whether or not to accept the appointment; and
 
(ii)discuss freely with the proposed public accountant all matters relevant to the appointment of which the proposed public accountant should be aware.
SG210.11C
If the proposed public accountant does not receive a reply from the existing accountant to his or her enquiry within a reasonable time and the proposed public accountant has no reason to believe that there are any exceptional circumstances surrounding the proposed change, the proposed public accountant shall use such other reasonable means to communicate with the existing accountant.
SG210.11D
If the proposed public accountant is unable to obtain a satisfactory outcome pursuant to paragraph SG210.11C, the proposed public accountant shall send a final letter by registered post to the existing accountant, stating that he assumes there is no professional or other reason why he should not accept the appointment and that he intends to do so. The proposed public accountant may accept the engagement if he is satisfied that there are no professional or other reasons for the proposed change after taking into account guidance set out in 210.9 to 210.14.
210.12
A public accountant may be asked to undertake work that is complementary or additional to the work of the existing accountant. Such circumstances may create threats to professional competence and due care resulting from, for example, a lack of or incomplete information. The significance of any threats shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. An example of such a safeguard is notifying the existing accountant of the proposed work, which would give the existing accountant the opportunity to provide any relevant information needed for the proper conduct of the work.
210.13
An existing accountant is bound by confidentiality. Whether that public accountant is permitted or required to discuss the affairs of a client with a proposed public accountant will depend on the nature of the engagement and on —
 
(a)Whether the client’s permission to do so has been obtained; or
 
(b)The legal or ethical requirements relating to such communications and disclosure, which may vary by jurisdiction.
 
Circumstances where the public accountant is or may be required to disclose confidential information or where such disclosure may otherwise be appropriate are set out in Section 140 of Part A of this Code.
210.14
A public accountant will generally need to obtain the client’s permission, preferably in writing, to initiate discussion with an existing accountant. Once that permission is obtained, the existing accountant shall comply with relevant legal and other regulations governing such requests. Where the existing accountant provides information, it shall be provided honestly and unambiguously. If the proposed public accountant is unable to communicate with the existing accountant, the proposed public accountant shall take reasonable steps to obtain information about any possible threats by other means, such as through inquiries of third parties or background investigations of senior management or those charged with governance of the client.
 
Section 220
Conflicts of Interest
220.1
A public accountant may be faced with a conflict of interest when performing a professional service. A conflict of interest creates a threat to objectivity and may create threats to the other fundamental principles. Such threats may be created when —
 
(a)The public accountant provides a professional service related to a particular matter for two or more clients whose interests with respect to that matter are in conflict; or
 
(b)The interests of the public accountant with respect to a particular matter and the interests of the client for whom the public accountant provides a professional service related to that matter are in conflict.
 
A public accountant shall not allow a conflict of interest to compromise professional or business judgment.
 
When the professional service is an assurance service, compliance with the fundamental principle of objectivity also requires being independent of assurance clients in accordance with Sections 290 or 291 as appropriate.
220.2
Examples of situations in which conflicts of interest may arise include —
 
(a)Providing a transaction advisory service to a client seeking to acquire an audit client of the firm, where the firm has obtained confidential information during the course of the audit that may be relevant to the transaction;
 
(b)Advising two clients at the same time who are competing to acquire the same company where the advice might be relevant to the parties’ competitive positions;
 
(c)Providing services to both a vendor and a purchaser in relation to the same transaction;
 
(d)Preparing valuations of assets for two parties who are in an adversarial position with respect to the assets;
 
(e)Representing two clients regarding the same matter who are in a legal dispute with each other, such as during divorce proceedings or the dissolution of a partnership;
 
(f)Providing an assurance report for a licensor on royalties due under a license agreement when at the same time advising the licensee of the correctness of the amounts payable;
 
(g)Advising a client to invest in a business in which, for example, the spouse of the public accountant has a financial interest;
 
(h)Providing strategic advice to a client on its competitive position while having a joint venture or similar interest with a major competitor of the client;
 
(i)Advising a client on the acquisition of a business which the firm is also interested in acquiring; and
 
(j)Advising a client on the purchase of a product or service while having a royalty or commission agreement with one of the potential vendors of that product or service.
220.3
When identifying and evaluating the interests and relationships that might create a conflict of interest and implementing safeguards, when necessary, to eliminate or reduce any threat to compliance with the fundamental principles to an acceptable level, a public accountant shall exercise professional judgment and take into account whether a reasonable and informed third party, weighing all the specific facts and circumstances available to the public accountant at the time, would be likely to conclude that compliance with the fundamental principles is not compromised.
220.4
When addressing conflicts of interest, including making disclosures or sharing information within the firm or network and seeking guidance of third parties, the public accountant shall remain alert to the fundamental principle of confidentiality.
220.5
If the threat created by a conflict of interest is not at an acceptable level, the public accountant shall apply safeguards to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. If safeguards cannot reduce the threat to an acceptable level, the public accountant shall decline to perform or shall discontinue professional services that would result in the conflict of interest; or shall terminate relevant relationships or dispose of relevant interests to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level.
220.6
Before accepting a new client relationship, engagement, or business relationship, a public accountant shall take reasonable steps to identify circumstances that might create a conflict of interest, including identification of —
 
(a)The nature of the relevant interests and relationships between the parties involved; and
 
(b)The nature of the service and its implication for relevant parties.
 
The nature of the services and the relevant interests and relationships may change during the course of the engagement. This is particularly true when a public accountant is asked to conduct an engagement in a situation that may become adversarial, even though the parties who engage the public accountant may not initially be involved in a dispute. The public accountant shall remain alert to such changes for the purpose of identifying circumstances that might create a conflict of interest.
220.7
For the purpose of identifying interests and relationships that might create a conflict of interest, having an effective conflict identification process assists a public accountant to identify actual or potential conflicts of interest prior to determining whether to accept an engagement and throughout an engagement. This includes matters identified by external parties, for example clients or potential clients. The earlier an actual or potential conflict of interest is identified, the greater the likelihood of the public accountant being able to apply safeguards, when necessary, to eliminate the threat to objectivity and any threat to compliance with other fundamental principles or reduce it to an acceptable level. The process to identify actual or potential conflicts of interest will depend on such factors as —
 
(a)The nature of the professional services provided;
 
(b)The size of the firm;
 
(c)The size and nature of the client base; and
 
(d)The structure of the firm, for example, the number and geographic location of offices.
220.8
If the firm is a member of a network, conflict identification shall include any conflicts of interest that the public accountant has reason to believe may exist or might arise due to interests and relationships of a network firm. Reasonable steps to identify such interests and relationships involving a network firm will depend on factors such as the nature of the professional services provided, the clients served by the network and the geographic locations of all relevant parties.
220.9
If a conflict of interest is identified, the public accountant shall evaluate —
 
(a)The significance of relevant interests or relationships; and
 
(b)The significance of the threats created by performing the professional service or services. In general, the more direct the connection between the professional service and the matter on which the parties’ interests are in conflict, the more significant the threat to objectivity and compliance with the other fundamental principles will be.
220.10
The public accountant shall apply safeguards, when necessary, to eliminate the threats to compliance with the fundamental principles created by the conflict of interest or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of safeguards include —
 
(a)Implementing mechanisms to prevent unauthorised disclosure of confidential information when performing professional services related to a particular matter for two or more clients whose interests with respect to that matter are in conflict. Examples of such mechanism include —
 
(i)Using separate engagement teams who are provided with clear policies and procedures on maintaining confidentiality;
 
(ii)Creating separate areas of practice for specialty functions within the firm, which may act as a barrier to the passing of confidential client information from one practice area to another within a firm; and
 
(iii)Establishing policies and procedures to limit access to client files, the use of confidentiality agreements signed by employees and partners of the firm and the physical and electronic separation of confidential information;
 
(b)Regular review of the application of safeguards by a senior individual not involved with the client engagement or engagements;
 
(c)Having a professional accountant who is not involved in providing the service or otherwise affected by the conflict, review the work performed to assess whether the key judgments and conclusions are appropriate; and
 
(d)Consulting with third parties, such as a professional body, legal counsel or another professional accountant.
220.11
In addition, it is generally necessary to disclose the nature of the conflict of interest and the related safeguards, if any, to clients affected by the conflict and, when safeguards are required to reduce the threat to an acceptable level, to obtain their consent to the public accountant in performing the professional services.
 
Disclosure and consent may take different forms, for example —
 
(a)General disclosure to clients of circumstances where the public accountant, in keeping with common commercial practice, does not provide services exclusively for any one client (for example, in a particular service in a particular market sector) in order for the client to provide general consent accordingly. Such disclosure might, for example, be made in the public accountant’s standard terms and conditions for the engagement;
 
(b)Specific disclosure to affected clients of the circumstances of the particular conflict, including a detailed presentation of the situation and a comprehensive explanation of any planned safeguards and the risks involved, sufficient to enable the client to make an informed decision with respect to the matter and to provide explicit consent accordingly; and
 
(c)In certain circumstances, consent may be implied by the client’s conduct where the public accountant has sufficient evidence to conclude that clients know the circumstances at the outset and have accepted the conflict of interest if they do not raise an objection to the existence of the conflict.
 
The public accountant shall determine whether the nature and significance of the conflict of interest is such that specific disclosure and explicit consent is necessary. For this purpose, the public accountant shall exercise professional judgment in weighing the outcome of the evaluation of the circumstances that create a conflict of interest, including the parties that might be affected, the nature of the issues that might arise and the potential for the particular matter to develop in an unexpected manner.
220.12
Where a public accountant has requested explicit consent from a client and that consent has been refused by the client, the public accountant shall decline to perform or shall discontinue professional services that would result in the conflict of interest; or shall terminate relevant relationships or dispose of relevant interests to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level, such that consent can be obtained, after applying any additional safeguards if necessary.
220.13
When disclosure is verbal, or consent is verbal or implied, the public accountant is encouraged to document the nature of the circumstances giving rise to the conflict of interest, the safeguards applied to reduce the threats to an acceptable level and the consent obtained.
220.14
In certain circumstances, making specific disclosure for the purpose of obtaining explicit consent would result in a breach of confidentiality. Examples of such circumstances may include —
 
(a)Performing a transaction‑related service for a client in connection with a hostile takeover of another client of the firm; and
 
(b)Performing a forensic investigation for a client in connection with a suspected fraudulent act where the firm has confidential information obtained through having performed a professional service for another client who might be involved in the fraud.
 
The firm shall not accept or continue an engagement under such circumstances unless the following conditions are met:
 
(i)The firm does not act in an advocacy role for one client where this requires the firm to assume an adversarial position against the other client with respect to the same matter;
 
(ii)Specific mechanisms are in place to prevent disclosure of confidential information between the engagement teams serving the two clients;
 
(iii)The firm is satisfied that a reasonable and informed third party, weighing all the specific facts and circumstances available to the public accountant at the time, would be likely to conclude that it is appropriate for the firm to accept or continue the engagement because a restriction on the firm’s ability to provide the service would produce a disproportionate adverse outcome for the clients or other relevant third parties.
 
The public accountant shall document the nature of the circumstances, including the role that the public accountant is to undertake, the specific mechanisms in place to prevent disclosure of information between the engagement teams serving the two clients and the rationale for the conclusion that it is appropriate to accept the engagement.
 
Section 230
Second Opinions
230.1
Situations where a public accountant is asked to provide a second opinion on the application of accounting, auditing, reporting or other standards or principles to specific circumstances or transactions by or on behalf of a company or an entity that is not an existing client may create threats to compliance with the fundamental principles. For example, there may be a threat to professional competence and due care in circumstances where the second opinion is not based on the same set of facts that were made available to the existing accountant or is based on inadequate evidence. The existence and significance of any threat will depend on the circumstances of the request and all the other available facts and assumptions relevant to the expression of a professional judgment.
230.2
When asked to provide such an opinion, a public accountant shall evaluate the significance of any threats and apply safeguards when necessary to eliminate them or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include seeking client permission to contact the existing accountant, describing the limitations surrounding any opinion in communications with the client and providing the existing accountant with a copy of the opinion.
230.3
If the company or entity seeking the opinion will not permit communication with the existing accountant, a public accountant shall determine whether, taking all the circumstances into account, it is appropriate to provide the opinion sought.
 
Section 240
Fees and Other Types of Remuneration
240.1
When entering into negotiations regarding public accountancy services, a public accountant may quote whatever fee is deemed appropriate. The fact that one public accountant may quote a fee lower than another is not in itself unethical. Nevertheless, there may be threats to compliance with the fundamental principles arising from the level of fees quoted. For example, a self‑interest threat to professional competence and due care is created if the fee quoted is so low that it may be difficult to perform the engagement in accordance with applicable technical and professional standards for that price.
240.2
The existence and significance of any threats created will depend on factors such as the level of fee quoted and the services to which it applies. The significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)Making the client aware of the terms of the engagement and, in particular, the basis on which fees are charged and which services are covered by the quoted fee; and
 
(b)Assigning appropriate time and qualified staff to the task.
240.3
Contingent fees are widely used for certain types of non‑assurance engagements*. They may, however, create threats to compliance with the fundamental principles in certain circumstances. They may create a self‑interest threat to objectivity. The existence and significance of such threats will depend on factors including —
 
(a)The nature of the engagement;
 
(b)The range of possible fee amounts;
 
(c)The basis for determining the fee; and
 
(d)Whether the outcome or result of the transaction is to be reviewed by an independent third party.
 
__________________
*Contingent fees for non‑assurance services provided to audit clients and other assurance clients are discussed in Sections 290 and 291 of this Code.
240.4
The significance of any such threats shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)An advance written agreement with the client as to the basis of remuneration;
 
(b)Disclosure to intended users of the work performed by the public accountant in and the basis of remuneration;
 
(c)Quality control policies and procedures; and
 
(d)Review by an independent third party of the work performed by the public accountant.
240.5
In certain circumstances, a public accountant may receive a referral fee or commission relating to a client. For example, where the public accountant does not provide the specific service required, a fee may be received for referring a continuing client to another public accountant or other expert. A public accountant may receive a commission from a third party (for example, a software vendor) in connection with the sale of goods or services to a client. Accepting such a referral fee or commission creates a self‑interest threat to objectivity and professional competence and due care.
240.6
A public accountant may also pay a referral fee to obtain a client, for example, where the client continues as a client of another public accountant but requires specialist services not offered by the existing accountant. The payment of such a referral fee also creates a self‑interest threat to objectivity and professional competence and due care.
240.7
The significance of the threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)Disclosing to the client any arrangements to pay a referral fee to another public accountant for the work referred;
 
(b)Disclosing to the client any arrangements to receive a referral fee for referring the client to another public accountant; and
 
(c)Obtaining advance agreement from the client for commission arrangements in connection with the sale by a third party of goods or services to the client.
240.8
A public accountant may purchase all or part of another firm on the basis that payments will be made to individuals formerly owning the firm or to their heirs or estates. Such payments are not regarded as commissions or referral fees for the purpose of paragraphs 240.5 to 240.7 above.
 
Section 250
Marketing Public Accountancy Services
250.1
When a public accountant solicits new work through advertising or other forms of marketing, there may be a threat to compliance with the fundamental principles. For example, a self‑interest threat to compliance with the principle of professional behaviour is created if services, achievements, or products are marketed in a way that is inconsistent with that principle.
250.2
A public accountant shall not bring the profession into disrepute when marketing public accountancy services. The public accountant shall be honest and truthful, and not —
 
(a)Make exaggerated claims for services offered, qualifications possessed, or experience gained; or
 
(b)Make disparaging references or unsubstantiated comparisons to the work of another.
 
If the public accountant is in doubt about whether a proposed form of advertising or marketing is appropriate, the public accountant shall consider consulting with the relevant professional body.
 
Section 260
Gifts and Hospitality
260.1
A public accountant, or an immediate or close family member, may be offered gifts and hospitality from a client. Such an offer may create threats to compliance with the fundamental principles. For example, a self‑interest or familiarity threat to objectivity may be created if a gift from a client is accepted; an intimidation threat to objectivity may result from the possibility of such offers being made public.
260.2
The existence and significance of any threat will depend on the nature, value, and intent of the offer. Where gifts or hospitality are offered that a reasonable and informed third party, weighing all the specific facts and circumstances, would consider trivial and inconsequential, a public accountant may conclude that the offer is made in the normal course of business without the specific intent to influence decision making or to obtain information. In such cases, the public accountant may generally conclude that any threat to compliance with the fundamental principles is at an acceptable level.
260.3
A public accountant shall evaluate the significance of any threats and apply safeguards when necessary to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. When the threats cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level through the application of safeguards, a public accountant shall not accept such an offer.
 
Section 270
Custody of Client Assets
270.1
A public accountant shall not assume custody of client monies or other assets unless permitted to do so by law and, if so, in compliance with any additional legal duties imposed on a public accountant holding such assets.
SG270.1A
A public accountant may hold non‑assurance client monies or other assets for the purpose of providing accounting‑related, corporate secretarial and regulated financial services, provided that such monies or other assets are held in accordance with this section and other relevant sections of this Code and all relevant laws and regulations relevant to the holding of and accounting for such assets.
270.2
The holding of client assets creates threats to compliance with the fundamental principles; for example, there is a self‑interest threat to professional behaviour and may be a self‑interest threat to objectivity arising from holding client assets. A public accountant entrusted with money (or other assets) belonging to others shall therefore —
 
(a)Keep such assets separately from personal or firm assets;
 
(b)Use such assets only for the purpose for which they are intended;
 
(c)At all times be ready to account for those assets and any income, dividends, or gains generated, to any persons entitled to such accounting; and
 
(d)Comply with all relevant laws and regulations relevant to the holding of and accounting for such assets.
270.3
As part of client and engagement acceptance procedures for services that may involve the holding of client assets, a public accountant shall make appropriate inquiries about the source of such assets and consider legal and regulatory obligations. For example, if the assets were derived from illegal activities, such as money laundering, a threat to compliance with the fundamental principles would be created. In such situations, the public accountant may consider seeking legal advice.
 
Section 280
Objectivity — All Services
280.1
A public accountant shall determine when providing any public accountancy service whether there are threats to compliance with the fundamental principle of objectivity resulting from having interests in, or relationships with, a client or its directors, officers or employees. For example, a familiarity threat to objectivity may be created from a family or close personal or business relationship.
280.2
A public accountant who provides an assurance service shall be independent of the assurance client. Independence of mind and in appearance is necessary to enable the public accountant to express a conclusion, and be seen to express a conclusion, without bias, conflict of interest, or undue influence of others. Sections 290 and 291 provide specific guidance on independence requirements for public accountants when performing assurance engagements.
280.3
The existence of threats to objectivity when providing any public accountancy service will depend upon the particular circumstances of the engagement and the nature of the work that the public accountant is performing.
280.4
A public accountant shall evaluate the significance of any threats and apply safeguards when necessary to eliminate them or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)Withdrawing from the engagement team;
 
(b)Supervisory procedures;
 
(c)Terminating the financial or business relationship giving rise to the threat;
 
(d)Discussing the issue with higher levels of management within the firm; and
 
(e)Discussing the issue with those charged with governance of the client.
 
If safeguards cannot eliminate or reduce the threat to an acceptable level, the public accountant shall decline or terminate the relevant engagement.
SECTION 290

INDEPENDENCE — AUDIT AND REVIEW ENGAGEMENTS

CONTENTS

___________________________________________________________

 
 
Paragraph
Structure of Section
 
290.1
A Conceptual Framework Approach to Independence
 
290.4
Networks and Network Firms
 
290.13
Public Interest Entities
 
290.25
Related Entities
 
290.27
Those Charged with Governance
 
290.28
Documentation
 
290.29
Engagement Period
 
290.30
Mergers and Acquisitions
 
290.33
Breach of a Provision of this Section
 
290.39
Application of the Conceptual Framework Approach to Independence
 
290.100
Financial Interests
 
290.102
Loans and Guarantees
 
290.117
Business Relationships
 
290.123
Family and Personal Relationships
 
290.126
Employment with an Audit Client
 
290.132
Temporary Staff Assignments
 
290.140
Recent Service with an Audit Client
 
290.141
Serving as a Director or Officer of an Audit Client
 
290.144
Long Association of Senior Personnel (Including Partner Rotation) with an Audit Client
 
290.148
Provision of Non‑assurance Services to an Audit Client
 
290.154
 Management Responsibilities
 
290.159
 Preparing Accounting Records and Financial Statements
 
290.164
 Valuation Services
 
290.172
 Taxation Services
 
290.178
 Internal Audit Services
 
290.192
 IT Systems Services
 
290.198
 Litigation Support Services
 
290.204
 Legal Services
 
290.206
 Recruiting Services
 
290.211
 Corporate Finance Services
 
290.213
Fees
 
290.217
 Fees — Relative Size
 
290.217
 Fees — Overdue
 
290.220
 Contingent Fees
 
290.221
Compensation and Evaluation Policies
 
290.225
Gifts and Hospitality
 
290.227
Actual or Threatened Litigation
 
290.228
Reports that Include a Restriction on Use and Distribution
 
290.500
Structure of Section
290.1
This section addresses the independence requirements for audit engagements and review engagements, which are assurance engagements in which a public accountant expresses a conclusion on financial statements. Such engagements comprise audit and review engagements to report on a complete set of financial statements and a single financial statement. Independence requirements for assurance engagements that are not audit or review engagements are addressed in Section 291.
290.2
In certain circumstances involving audit engagements where the audit report includes a restriction on use and distribution and provided certain conditions are met, the independence requirements in this section may be modified as provided in paragraphs 290.500 to 290.514. The modifications are not permitted in the case of an audit of financial statements required by law or regulation.
290.3
In this section, the term(s) —
 
(a)“Audit,” “audit team,” “audit engagement,” “audit client” and “audit report” includes review, review team, review engagement, review client and review report; and
 
(b)“Firm” includes network firm, except where otherwise stated.
A Conceptual Framework Approach to Independence
290.4
In the case of audit engagements, it is in the public interest and, therefore, required by this Code, that members of audit teams, firms and network firms shall be independent of audit clients.
290.5
The objective of this section is to assist firms and members of audit teams in applying the conceptual framework approach described below to achieving and maintaining independence.
290.6
Independence comprises the following:
(a)Independence of Mind
 The state of mind that permits the expression of a conclusion without being affected by influences that compromise professional judgment, thereby allowing an individual to act with integrity and exercise objectivity and professional scepticism.
 
(b)Independence in Appearance
 The avoidance of facts and circumstances that are so significant that a reasonable and informed third party would be likely to conclude, weighing all the specific facts and circumstances, that a firm’s, or a member of the audit team’s, integrity, objectivity or professional scepticism has been compromised.
290.7
The conceptual framework approach shall be applied by public accountants to —
 
(a)Identify threats to independence;
 
(b)Evaluate the significance of the threats identified; and
 
(c)Apply safeguards, when necessary, to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level.
 
When the public accountant determines that appropriate safeguards are not available or cannot be applied to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level, the public accountant shall eliminate the circumstance or relationship creating the threats or decline or terminate the audit engagement.
 
A public accountant shall use professional judgment in applying this conceptual framework.
290.8
Many different circumstances, or combinations of circumstances, may be relevant in assessing threats to independence. It is impossible to define every situation that creates threats to independence and to specify the appropriate action. Therefore, this Code establishes a conceptual framework that requires firms and members of audit teams to identify, evaluate, and address threats to independence. The conceptual framework approach assists public accountants in complying with the ethical requirements in this Code. It accommodates many variations in circumstances that create threats to independence and can deter a public accountant from concluding that a situation is permitted if it is not specifically prohibited.
290.9
Paragraphs 290.100 and onwards describe how the conceptual framework approach to independence is to be applied. These paragraphs do not address all the circumstances and relationships that create or may create threats to independence.
290.10
In deciding whether to accept or continue an engagement, or whether a particular individual may be a member of the audit team, a firm shall identify and evaluate threats to independence. If the threats are not at an acceptable level, and the decision is whether to accept an engagement or include a particular individual on the audit team, the firm shall determine whether safeguards are available to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. If the decision is whether to continue an engagement, the firm shall determine whether any existing safeguards will continue to be effective to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level or whether other safeguards will need to be applied or whether the engagement needs to be terminated. Whenever new information about a threat to independence comes to the attention of the firm during the engagement, the firm shall evaluate the significance of the threat in accordance with the conceptual framework approach.
290.11
Throughout this section, reference is made to the significance of threats to independence. In evaluating the significance of a threat, qualitative as well as quantitative factors shall be taken into account.
290.12
This section does not, in most cases, prescribe the specific responsibility of individuals within the firm for actions related to independence because responsibility may differ depending on the size, structure and organisation of a firm. The firm is required by Singapore Standards on Quality Control (SSQCs) to establish policies and procedures designed to provide it with reasonable assurance that independence is maintained when required by relevant ethical requirements. In addition, Singapore Standards on Auditing (SSAs) require the engagement partner to form a conclusion on compliance with the independence requirements that apply to the engagement.
Networks and Network Firms
290.13
If a firm is deemed to be a network firm, the firm shall be independent of the audit clients of the other firms within the network (unless otherwise stated in this Code). The independence requirements in this section that apply to a network firm apply to any entity, such as a consulting practice or professional law practice, that meets the definition of a network firm irrespective of whether the entity itself meets the definition of a firm.
290.14
To enhance their ability to provide professional services, firms frequently form larger structures with other firms and entities. Whether these larger structures create a network depends on the particular facts and circumstances and does not depend on whether the firms and entities are legally separate and distinct. For example, a larger structure may be aimed only at facilitating the referral of work, which in itself does not meet the criteria necessary to constitute a network. Alternatively, a larger structure might be such that it is aimed at co‑operation and the firms share a common brand name, a common system of quality control, or significant professional resources and consequently is deemed to be a network.
290.15
The judgment as to whether the larger structure is a network shall be made in light of whether a reasonable and informed third party would be likely to conclude, weighing all the specific facts and circumstances, that the entities are associated in such a way that a network exists. This judgment shall be applied consistently throughout the network.
290.16
Where the larger structure is aimed at co‑operation and it is clearly aimed at profit or cost sharing among the entities within the structure, it is deemed to be a network. However, the sharing of immaterial costs does not in itself create a network. In addition, if the sharing of costs is limited only to those costs related to the development of audit methodologies, manuals, or training courses, this would not in itself create a network. Further, an association between a firm and an otherwise unrelated entity to jointly provide a service or develop a product does not in itself create a network.
290.17
Where the larger structure is aimed at co‑operation and the entities within the structure share common ownership, control or management, it is deemed to be a network. This could be achieved by contract or other means.
290.18
Where the larger structure is aimed at co‑operation and the entities within the structure share common quality control policies and procedures, it is deemed to be a network. For this purpose, common quality control policies and procedures are those designed, implemented and monitored across the larger structure.
290.19
Where the larger structure is aimed at co‑operation and the entities within the structure share a common business strategy, it is deemed to be a network. Sharing a common business strategy involves an agreement by the entities to achieve common strategic objectives. An entity is not deemed to be a network firm merely because it co‑operates with another entity solely to respond jointly to a request for a proposal for the provision of a professional service.
290.20
Where the larger structure is aimed at co‑operation and the entities within the structure share the use of a common brand name, it is deemed to be a network. A common brand name includes common initials or a common name. A firm is deemed to be using a common brand name if it includes, for example, the common brand name as part of, or along with, its firm name, when a partner of the firm signs an audit report.
290.21
Even though a firm does not belong to a network and does not use a common brand name as part of its firm name, it may give the appearance that it belongs to a network if it makes reference in its stationery or promotional materials to being a member of an association of firms. Accordingly, if care is not taken in how a firm describes such memberships, a perception may be created that the firm belongs to a network.
290.22
If a firm sells a component of its practice, the sales agreement sometimes provides that, for a limited period of time, the component may continue to use the name of the firm, or an element of the name, even though it is no longer connected to the firm. In such circumstances, while the two entities may be practicing under a common name, the facts are such that they do not belong to a larger structure aimed at co‑operation and are, therefore, not network firms. Those entities shall determine how to disclose that they are not network firms when presenting themselves to outside parties.
290.23
Where the larger structure is aimed at co‑operation and the entities within the structure share a significant part of professional resources, it is deemed to be a network. Professional resources include —
 
(a)Common systems that enable firms to exchange information such as client data, billing and time records;
 
(b)Partners and staff;
 
(c)Technical departments that consult on technical or industry specific issues, transactions or events for assurance engagements;
 
(d)Audit methodology or audit manuals; and
 
(e)Training courses and facilities.
290.24
The determination of whether the professional resources shared are significant, and therefore the firms are network firms, shall be made based on the relevant facts and circumstances. Where the shared resources are limited to common audit methodology or audit manuals, with no exchange of personnel or client or market information, it is unlikely that the shared resources would be significant. The same applies to a common training endeavour. Where, however, the shared resources involve the exchange of people or information, such as where staff are drawn from a shared pool, or a common technical department is created within the larger structure to provide participating firms with technical advice that the firms are required to follow, a reasonable and informed third party is more likely to conclude that the shared resources are significant.
Public Interest Entities
290.25
Section 290 contains additional provisions that reflect the extent of public interest in certain entities. For the purpose of this section, public interest entities are —
 
(a)All listed entities; and
 
(b)Any entity —
 
(i)Defined by regulation or legislation as a public interest entity; or
 
(ii)For which the audit is required by regulation or legislation to be conducted in compliance with the same independence requirements that apply to the audit of listed entities. Such regulation may be promulgated by any relevant regulator, including an audit regulator.
SG290.25A
For the purposes of paragraph 290.25(b)(i), a public interest entity means —
 
(a)Any entity that is listed or is in the process of issuing its debt or equity instruments for trading on a securities exchange in Singapore;
 
(b)Any entity that is incorporated in Singapore and the securities of which are listed on a securities exchange outside Singapore; or
 
(c)Any financial institution.
SG290.25B
For the purposes of paragraph 290.25(b)(ii), the audit of large charities and large institutions of a public character shall be conducted in compliance with the same independence requirements that apply to the audit of listed entities.
290.26
Firms and member bodies are encouraged to determine whether to treat additional entities, or certain categories of entities, as public interest entities because they have a large number and wide range of stakeholders. Factors to be considered include —
 
(a)The nature of the business, such as the holding of assets in a fiduciary capacity for a large number of stakeholders. Examples may include financial institutions, such as banks and insurance companies, and pension funds;
 
(b)Size; and
 
(c)Number of employees.
Related Entities
290.27
In the case of an audit client that is a listed entity, references to an audit client in this section include related entities of the client (unless otherwise stated). For all other audit clients, references to an audit client in this section include related entities over which the client has direct or indirect control. When the audit team knows or has reason to believe that a relationship or circumstance involving another related entity of the client is relevant to the evaluation of the firm’s independence from the client, the audit team shall include that related entity when identifying and evaluating threats to independence and applying appropriate safeguards.
Those Charged with Governance
290.28
Even when not required by the Code, applicable auditing standards, law or regulation, regular communication is encouraged between the firm and those charged with governance of the audit client regarding relationships and other matters that might, in the firm’s opinion, reasonably bear on independence. Such communication enables those charged with governance to —
 
(a)Consider the firm’s judgments in identifying and evaluating threats to independence;
 
(b)Consider the appropriateness of safeguards applied to eliminate them or reduce them to an acceptable level; and
 
(c)Take appropriate action.
 
Such an approach can be particularly helpful with respect to intimidation and familiarity threats.
 
In complying with requirements in this section to communicate with those charged with governance, the firm shall determine, having regard to the nature and importance of the particular circumstances and matter to be communicated, the appropriate person(s) within the entity’s governance structure with whom to communicate. If the firm communicates with a subgroup of those charged with governance, for example, an audit committee or an individual, the firm shall determine whether communication with all of those charged with governance is also necessary so that they are adequately informed.
Documentation
290.29
Documentation provides evidence of the public accountant’s judgments in forming conclusions regarding compliance with independence requirements. The absence of documentation is not a determinant of whether a firm considered a particular matter or whether it is independent.
 
The public accountant shall document conclusions regarding compliance with independence requirements, and the substance of any relevant discussions that support those conclusions. Accordingly —
 
(a)When safeguards are required to reduce a threat to an acceptable level, the public accountant shall document the nature of the threat and the safeguards in place or applied that reduce the threat to an acceptable level; and
 
(b)When a threat required significant analysis to determine whether safeguards were necessary and the public accountant concluded that they were not because the threat was already at an acceptable level, the public accountant shall document the nature of the threat and the rationale for the conclusion.
Engagement Period
290.30
Independence from the audit client is required both during the engagement period and the period covered by the financial statements. The engagement period starts when the audit team begins to perform audit services. The engagement period ends when the audit report is issued. When the engagement is of a recurring nature, it ends at the later of the notification by either party that the professional relationship has terminated or the issuance of the final audit report.
290.31
When an entity becomes an audit client during or after the period covered by the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion, the firm shall determine whether any threats to independence are created by —
 
(a)Financial or business relationships with the audit client during or after the period covered by the financial statements but before accepting the audit engagement; or
 
(b)Previous services provided to the audit client.
290.32
If a non‑assurance service was provided to the audit client during or after the period covered by the financial statements but before the audit team begins to perform audit services and the service would not be permitted during the period of the audit engagement, the firm shall evaluate any threat to independence created by the service. If a threat is not at an acceptable level, the audit engagement shall only be accepted if safeguards are applied to eliminate any threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)Not including personnel who provided the non‑assurance service as members of the audit team;
 
(b)Having a professional accountant review the audit and non‑assurance work as appropriate; and
 
(c)Engaging another firm to evaluate the results of the non‑assurance service or having another firm re‑perform the non‑assurance service to the extent necessary to enable it to take responsibility for the service.
Mergers and Acquisitions
290.33
When, as a result of a merger or acquisition, an entity becomes a related entity of an audit client, the firm shall identify and evaluate previous and current interests and relationships with the related entity that, taking into account available safeguards, could affect its independence and therefore its ability to continue the audit engagement after the effective date of the merger or acquisition.
290.34
The firm shall take steps necessary to terminate, by the effective date of the merger or acquisition, any current interests or relationships that are not permitted under this Code. However, if such a current interest or relationship cannot reasonably be terminated by the effective date of the merger or acquisition, for example, because the related entity is unable by the effective date to effect an orderly transition to another service provider of a non‑assurance service provided by the firm, the firm shall evaluate the threat that is created by such interest or relationship. The more significant the threat, the more likely the firm’s objectivity will be compromised and it will be unable to continue as auditor. The significance of the threat will depend upon factors such as —
 
(a)The nature and significance of the interest or relationship;
 
(b)The nature and significance of the related entity relationship (for example, whether the related entity is a subsidiary or parent); and
 
(c)The length of time until the interest or relationship can reasonably be terminated.
 
The firm shall discuss with those charged with governance the reasons why the interest or relationship cannot reasonably be terminated by the effective date of the merger or acquisition and the evaluation of the significance of the threat.
290.35
If those charged with governance request the firm to continue as auditor, the firm shall do so only if —
 
(a)The interest or relationship will be terminated as soon as reasonably possible and in all cases within six months of the effective date of the merger or acquisition;
 
(b)Any individual who has such an interest or relationship, including one that has arisen through performing a non‑assurance service that would not be permitted under this section, will not be a member of the engagement team for the audit or the individual responsible for the engagement quality control review; and
 
(c)Appropriate transitional measures will be applied, as necessary, and discussed with those charged with governance. Examples of transitional measures include —
 
(i)Having a professional accountant review the audit or non‑assurance work as appropriate;
 
(ii)Having a professional accountant, who is not a member of the firm expressing the opinion on the financial statements, perform a review that is equivalent to an engagement quality control review; and
 
(iii)Engaging another firm to evaluate the results of the non‑assurance service or having another firm re‑perform the non‑assurance service to the extent necessary to enable it to take responsibility for the service.
290.36
The firm may have completed a significant amount of work on the audit prior to the effective date of the merger or acquisition and may be able to complete the remaining audit procedures within a short period of time. In such circumstances, if those charged with governance request the firm to complete the audit while continuing with an interest or relationship identified in paragraph 290.33, the firm shall do so only if it —
 
(a)Has evaluated the significance of the threat created by such interest or relationship and discussed the evaluation with those charged with governance;
 
(b)Complies with the requirements of paragraph 290.35(b) and (c); and
 
(c)Ceases to be the auditor no later than the issuance of the audit report.
290.37
When addressing previous and current interests and relationships covered by paragraphs 290.33 to 290.36, the firm shall determine whether, even if all the requirements could be met, the interests and relationships create threats that would remain so significant that objectivity would be compromised and, if so, the firm shall cease to be the auditor.
290.38
The public accountant shall document any interests or relationships covered by paragraphs 290.34 and 36 that will not be terminated by the effective date of the merger or acquisition and the reasons why they will not be terminated, the transitional measures applied, the results of the discussion with those charged with governance, and the rationale as to why the previous and current interests and relationships do not create threats that would remain so significant that objectivity would be compromised.
Breach of a Provision of this Section
290.39
A breach of a provision of this section may occur despite the firm having policies and procedures designed to provide it with reasonable assurance that independence is maintained. A consequence of a breach may be that termination of the audit engagement is necessary.
290.40
When the firm concludes that a breach has occurred, the firm shall terminate, suspend or eliminate the interest or relationship that caused the breach and address the consequences of the breach.
290.41
When a breach is identified, the firm shall consider whether there are any legal or regulatory requirements that apply with respect to the breach and, if so, shall comply with those requirements. The firm shall consider reporting the breach to a member body, relevant regulator or oversight authority if such reporting is common practice or is expected in the particular jurisdiction.
290.42
When a breach is identified, the firm shall, in accordance with its policies and procedures, promptly communicate the breach to the engagement partner, those with responsibility for the policies and procedures relating to independence, other relevant personnel in the firm, and, where appropriate, the network, and those subject to the independence requirements who need to take appropriate action. The firm shall evaluate the significance of that breach and its impact on the firm’s objectivity and ability to issue an audit report. The significance of the breach will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The nature and duration of the breach;
 
(b)The number and nature of any previous breaches with respect to the current audit engagement;
 
(c)Whether a member of the audit team had knowledge of the interest or relationship that caused the breach;
 
(d)Whether the individual who caused the breach is a member of the audit team or another individual for whom there are independence requirements;
 
(e)If the breach relates to a member of the audit team, the role of that individual;
 
(f)If the breach was caused by the provision of a service, the impact of that service, if any, on the accounting records or the amounts recorded in the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion; and
 
(g)The extent of the self‑interest, advocacy, intimidation or other threats created by the breach.
290.43
Depending upon the significance of the breach, it may be necessary to terminate the audit engagement or it may be possible to take action that satisfactorily addresses the consequences of the breach. The firm shall determine whether such action can be taken and is appropriate in the circumstances. In making this determination, the firm shall exercise professional judgment and take into account whether a reasonable and informed third party, weighing the significance of the breach, the action to be taken and all the specific facts and circumstances available to the public accountant at that time, would be likely to conclude that the firm’s objectivity would be compromised and therefore the firm is unable to issue an audit report.
290.44
Examples of actions that the firm may consider include —
 
(a)Removing the relevant individual from the audit team;
 
(b)Conducting an additional review of the affected audit work or re‑performing that work to the extent necessary, in either case using different personnel;
 
(c)Recommending that the audit client engage another firm to review or re‑perform the affected audit work to the extent necessary; and
 
(d)Where the breach relates to a non‑assurance service that affects the accounting records or an amount that is recorded in the financial statements, engaging another firm to evaluate the results of the non‑assurance service or having another firm re‑perform the non‑assurance service to the extent necessary to enable it to take responsibility for the service.
290.45
If the firm determines that action cannot be taken to satisfactorily address the consequences of the breach, the firm shall inform those charged with governance as soon as possible and take the steps necessary to terminate the audit engagement in compliance with any applicable legal or regulatory requirements relevant to terminating the audit engagement. Where termination is not permitted by law or regulation, the firm shall comply with any reporting or disclosure requirements.
290.46
If the firm determines that action can be taken to satisfactorily address the consequences of the breach, the firm shall discuss the breach and the action it has taken or proposes to take with those charged with governance. The firm shall discuss the breach and the action as soon as possible, unless those charged with governance have specified an alternative timing for reporting less significant breaches. The matters to be discussed shall include —
 
(a)The significance of the breach, including its nature and duration;
 
(b)How the breach occurred and how it was identified;
 
(c)The action taken or proposed to be taken and the firm’s rationale for why the action will satisfactorily address the consequences of the breach and enable it to issue an audit report;
 
(d)The conclusion that, in the firm’s professional judgment, objectivity has not been compromised and the rationale for that conclusion; and
 
(e)Any steps that the firm has taken or proposes to take to reduce or avoid the risk of further breaches occurring.
290.47
The firm shall communicate in writing with those charged with governance all matters discussed in accordance with paragraph 290.46 and obtain the concurrence of those charged with governance that action can be, or has been, taken to satisfactorily address the consequences of the breach. The communication shall include a description of the firm’s policies and procedures relevant to the breach designed to provide it with reasonable assurance that independence is maintained and any steps that the firm has taken, or proposes to take, to reduce or avoid the risk of further breaches occurring. If those charged with governance do not concur that the action satisfactorily addresses the consequences of the breach, the firm shall take the steps necessary to terminate the audit engagement, where permitted by law or regulation, in compliance with any applicable legal or regulatory requirements relevant to terminating the audit engagement. Where termination is not permitted by law or regulation, the firm shall comply with any reporting or disclosure requirements.
290.48
If the breach occurred prior to the issuance of the previous audit report, the firm shall comply with this section in evaluating the significance of the breach and its impact on the firm’s objectivity and its ability to issue an audit report in the current period. The firm shall also consider the impact of the breach, if any, on the firm’s objectivity in relation to any previously issued audit reports, and the possibility of withdrawing such audit reports, and discuss the matter with those charged with governance.
290.49
The firm shall document the breach, the action taken, key decisions made and all the matters discussed with those charged with governance and any discussions with a member body, relevant regulator or oversight authority. When the firm continues with the audit engagement, the matters to be documented shall also include the conclusion that, in the firm’s professional judgment, objectivity has not been compromised and the rationale for why the action taken satisfactorily addressed the consequences of the breach such that the firm could issue an audit report.
Paragraphs 290.50 to 290.99 are intentionally left blank.
Application of the Conceptual Framework Approach to Independence
290.100
Paragraphs 290.102 to 290.228 describe specific circumstances and relationships that create or may create threats to independence. The paragraphs describe the potential threats and the types of safeguards that may be appropriate to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level and identify certain situations where no safeguards could reduce the threats to an acceptable level. The paragraphs do not describe all of the circumstances and relationships that create or may create a threat to independence. The firm and the members of the audit team shall evaluate the implications of similar, but different, circumstances and relationships and determine whether safeguards, including the safeguards in paragraphs 200.12 to 200.15, can be applied when necessary to eliminate the threats to independence or reduce them to an acceptable level.
290.101
Paragraphs 290.102 to 290.125 contain references to the materiality of a financial interest, loan, or guarantee, or the significance of a business relationship. For the purpose of determining whether such an interest is material to an individual, the combined net worth of the individual and the individual’s immediate family members may be taken into account.
Financial Interests
290.102
Holding a financial interest in an audit client may create a self‑interest threat. The existence and significance of any threat created depends on —
 
(a)The role of the person holding the financial interest;
 
(b)Whether the financial interest is direct or indirect; and
 
(c)The materiality of the financial interest.
290.103
Financial interests may be held through an intermediary (for example, a collective investment vehicle, estate or trust). The determination of whether such financial interests are direct or indirect will depend upon whether the beneficial owner has control over the investment vehicle or the ability to influence its investment decisions. When control over the investment vehicle or the ability to influence investment decisions exists, this Code defines that financial interest to be a direct financial interest. Conversely, when the beneficial owner of the financial interest has no control over the investment vehicle or ability to influence its investment decisions, this Code defines that financial interest to be an indirect financial interest.
290.104
If a member of the audit team, a member of that individual’s immediate family, or a firm has a direct financial interest or a material indirect financial interest in the audit client, the self‑interest threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Therefore, none of the following shall have a direct financial interest or a material indirect financial interest in the client:
 
(a)a member of the audit team;
 
(b)a member of that individual’s immediate family;
 
(c)the firm.
290.105
When a member of the audit team has a close family member of whom the audit team member knows has a direct financial interest or a material indirect financial interest in the audit client, a self‑interest threat is created. The significance of the threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The nature of the relationship between the member of the audit team and the close family member; and
 
(b)The materiality of the financial interest to the close family member.
 
The significance of the threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)The close family member disposing, as soon as practicable, of all of the financial interest or disposing of a sufficient portion of an indirect financial interest so that the remaining interest is no longer material;
 
(ii)Having a professional accountant review the work of the member of the audit team; and
 
(iii)Removing the individual from the audit team.
290.106
If a member of the audit team, a member of that individual’s immediate family, or a firm has a direct or material indirect financial interest in an entity that has a controlling interest in the audit client, and the client is material to the entity, the self‑interest threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Therefore, none of the following shall have such a financial interest:
 
(a)a member of the audit team;
 
(b)a member of that individual’s immediate family;
 
(c)the firm.
290.107
The holding by a firm’s retirement benefit plan of a direct or material indirect financial interest in an audit client creates a self‑interest threat. The significance of the threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level.
290.108
If other partners in the office in which the engagement partner practices in connection with the audit engagement, or their immediate family members, hold a direct financial interest or a material indirect financial interest in that audit client, the self‑interest threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Therefore, neither such partners nor their immediate family members shall hold any such financial interests in such an audit client.
290.109
The office in which the engagement partner practices in connection with the audit engagement is not necessarily the office to which that partner is assigned. Accordingly, when the engagement partner is located in a different office from that of the other members of the audit team, professional judgment shall be used to determine in which office the partner practices in connection with that engagement.
290.110
If other partners and managerial employees who provide non‑audit services to the audit client, except those whose involvement is minimal, or their immediate family members, hold a direct financial interest or a material indirect financial interest in the audit client, the self‑interest threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Accordingly, neither such personnel nor their immediate family members shall hold any such financial interests in such an audit client.
290.111
Despite paragraphs 290.108 and 290.110, the holding of a financial interest in an audit client by an immediate family member of —
 
(a)A partner located in the office in which the engagement partner practices in connection with the audit engagement; or
 
(b)A partner or managerial employee who provides non‑audit services to the audit client,
 
is deemed not to compromise independence if the financial interest is received as a result of the immediate family member’s employment rights (for example, through pension or share option plans) and, when necessary, safeguards are applied to eliminate any threat to independence or reduce it to an acceptable level.
 
However, when the immediate family member has or obtains the right to dispose of the financial interest or, in the case of a stock option, the right to exercise the option, the financial interest shall be disposed of or forfeited as soon as practicable.
290.112
A self‑interest threat may be created if the firm or a member of the audit team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, has a financial interest in an entity and an audit client also has a financial interest in that entity. However, independence is deemed not to be compromised if these interests are immaterial and the audit client cannot exercise significant influence over the entity. If such interest is material to any party, and the audit client can exercise significant influence over the other entity, no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Accordingly, the firm shall not have such an interest and any individual with such an interest shall, before becoming a member of the audit team, either —
 
(a)Dispose of the interest; or
 
(b)Dispose of a sufficient amount of the interest so that the remaining interest is no longer material.
290.113
A self‑interest, familiarity or intimidation threat may be created if a member of the audit team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, or the firm, has a financial interest in an entity when a director, officer or controlling owner of the audit client is also known to have a financial interest in that entity. The existence and significance of any threat will depend upon factors such as —
 
(a)The role of the professional on the audit team;
 
(b)Whether ownership of the entity is closely or widely held;
 
(c)Whether the interest gives the investor the ability to control or significantly influence the entity; and
 
(d)The materiality of the financial interest.
 
The significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Removing the member of the audit team with the financial interest from the audit team; and
 
(ii)Having a professional accountant review the work of the member of the audit team.
290.114
The holding by a firm, or a member of the audit team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, of a direct financial interest or a material indirect financial interest in the audit client as a trustee creates a self‑interest threat. Similarly, a self‑interest threat is created when —
 
(a)A partner in the office in which the engagement partner practices in connection with the audit;
 
(b)Other partners and managerial employees who provide non‑assurance services to the audit client, except those whose involvement is minimal; or
 
(c)Their immediate family members,
 
hold a direct financial interest or a material indirect financial interest in the audit client as trustee.
 
Such an interest shall not be held unless —
 
(i)Neither the trustee, nor an immediate family member of the trustee, nor the firm are beneficiaries of the trust;
 
(ii)The interest in the audit client held by the trust is not material to the trust;
 
(iii)The trust is not able to exercise significant influence over the audit client; and
 
(iv)The trustee, an immediate family member of the trustee, or the firm cannot significantly influence any investment decision involving a financial interest in the audit client.
290.115
Members of the audit team shall determine whether a self‑interest threat is created by any known financial interests in the audit client held by other individuals including —
 
(a)Partners and professional employees of the firm, other than those referred to above, or their immediate family members; and
 
(b)Individuals with a close personal relationship with a member of the audit team.
 
Whether these interests create a self‑interest threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(i)The firm’s organisational, operating and reporting structure; and
 
(ii)The nature of the relationship between the individual and the member of the audit team.
 
The significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(A)Removing the member of the audit team with the personal relationship from the audit team;
 
(B)Excluding the member of the audit team from any significant decision‑making concerning the audit engagement; and
 
(C)Having a professional accountant review the work of the member of the audit team.
290.116
If a firm or a partner or employee of the firm, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, receives a direct financial interest or a material indirect financial interest in an audit client, for example, by way of an inheritance, gift or as a result of a merger and such interest would not be permitted to be held under this section, then —
 
(a)If the interest is received by the firm, the financial interest shall be disposed of immediately, or a sufficient amount of an indirect financial interest shall be disposed of so that the remaining interest is no longer material;
 
(b)If the interest is received by a member of the audit team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, the individual who received the financial interest shall immediately dispose of the financial interest, or dispose of a sufficient amount of an indirect financial interest so that the remaining interest is no longer material; or
 
(c)If the interest is received by an individual who is not a member of the audit team, or by an immediate family member of the individual, the financial interest shall be disposed of as soon as possible, or a sufficient amount of an indirect financial interest shall be disposed of so that the remaining interest is no longer material. Pending the disposal of the financial interest, a determination shall be made as to whether any safeguards are necessary.
Loans and Guarantees
290.117
A loan, or a guarantee of a loan, to a member of the audit team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, or the firm from an audit client that is a bank or a similar institution may create a threat to independence. If the loan or guarantee is not made under normal lending procedures, terms and conditions, a self‑interest threat would be created that would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Accordingly, neither a member of the audit team, a member of that individual’s immediate family, nor a firm shall accept such a loan or guarantee.
290.118
If a loan to a firm from an audit client that is a bank or similar institution is made under normal lending procedures, terms and conditions and it is material to the audit client or firm receiving the loan, it may be possible to apply safeguards to reduce the self‑interest threat to an acceptable level. An example of such a safeguard is having the work reviewed by a professional accountant from a network firm that is neither involved with the audit nor received the loan.
290.119
A loan, or a guarantee of a loan, from an audit client that is a bank or a similar institution to a member of the audit team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, does not create a threat to independence if the loan or guarantee is made under normal lending procedures, terms and conditions. Examples of such loans include home mortgages, bank overdrafts, car loans and credit card balances.
290.120
If the firm or a member of the audit team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, accepts a loan from, or has a borrowing guaranteed by, an audit client that is not a bank or similar institution, the self‑interest threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level, unless the loan or guarantee is immaterial to both —
 
(a)the firm or the member of the audit team and the immediate family member; and
 
(b)the client.
290.121
Similarly, if the firm or a member of the audit team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, makes or guarantees a loan to an audit client, the self‑interest threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level, unless the loan or guarantee is immaterial to both —
 
(a)the firm or the member of the audit team and the immediate family member; and
 
(b)the client.
290.122
If a firm or a member of the audit team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, has deposits or a brokerage account with an audit client that is a bank, broker or similar institution, a threat to independence is not created if the deposit or account is held under normal commercial terms.
Business Relationships
290.123
A close business relationship between a firm, or a member of the audit team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, and the audit client or its management, arises from a commercial relationship or common financial interest and may create self‑interest or intimidation threats. Examples of such relationships include —
 
(a)Having a financial interest in a joint venture with either the client or a controlling owner, director, officer or other individual who performs senior managerial activities for that client;
 
(b)Arrangements to combine one or more services or products of the firm with one or more services or products of the client and to market the package with reference to both parties; and
 
(c)Distribution or marketing arrangements under which the firm distributes or markets the client’s products or services, or the client distributes or markets the firm’s products or services.
 
Unless any financial interest is immaterial and the business relationship is insignificant to the firm and the client or its management, the threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Therefore, unless the financial interest is immaterial and the business relationship is insignificant, the business relationship shall not be entered into, or it shall be reduced to an insignificant level or terminated.
 
In the case of a member of the audit team, unless any such financial interest is immaterial and the relationship is insignificant to that member, the individual shall be removed from the audit team.
 
If the business relationship is between an immediate family member of a member of the audit team and the audit client or its management, the significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level.
290.124
A business relationship involving the holding of an interest by the firm, or a member of the audit team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, in a closely‑held entity when the audit client or a director or officer of the client, or any group thereof, also holds an interest in that entity does not create threats to independence if —
 
(a)The business relationship is insignificant to the firm, the member of the audit team and the immediate family member, and the client;
 
(b)The financial interest is immaterial to the investor or group of investors; and
 
(c)The financial interest does not give the investor, or group of investors, the ability to control the closely‑held entity.
290.125
The purchase of goods and services from an audit client by the firm, or a member of the audit team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, does not generally create a threat to independence if the transaction is in the normal course of business and at arm’s length. However, such transactions may be of such a nature or magnitude that they create a self‑interest threat. The significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)Eliminating or reducing the magnitude of the transaction; and
 
(b)Removing the individual from the audit team.
Family and Personal Relationships
290.126
Family and personal relationships between a member of the audit team and a director or officer or certain employees (depending on their role) of the audit client may create self‑interest, familiarity or intimidation threats. The existence and significance of any threats will depend on a number of factors, including the individual’s responsibilities on the audit team, the role of the family member or other individual within the client and the closeness of the relationship.
290.127
When an immediate family member of a member of the audit team —
 
(a)is a director or officer of the audit client;
 
(b)is an employee in a position to exert significant influence over the preparation of the client’s accounting records or the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion; or
 
(c)was in such a position during any period covered by the engagement or the financial statements,
 
the threats to independence can only be reduced to an acceptable level by removing the individual from the audit team. The closeness of the relationship is such that no other safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Accordingly, no individual who has such a relationship shall be a member of the audit team.
290.128
Threats to independence are created when an immediate family member of a member of the audit team is an employee in a position to exert significant influence over the client’s financial position, financial performance or cash flows. The significance of the threats will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The position held by the immediate family member; and
 
(b)The role of the professional on the audit team.
 
The significance of the threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Removing the individual from the audit team; and
 
(ii)Structuring the responsibilities of the audit team so that the professional does not deal with matters that are within the responsibility of the immediate family member.
290.129
Threats to independence are created when a close family member of a member of the audit team is —
 
(a)A director or officer of the audit client; or
 
(b)An employee in a position to exert significant influence over the preparation of the client’s accounting records or the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion.
 
The significance of the threats will depend on factors such as —
 
(i)The nature of the relationship between the member of the audit team and the close family member;
 
(ii)The position held by the close family member; and
 
(iii)The role of the professional on the audit team.
 
The significance of the threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(A)Removing the individual from the audit team; and
 
(B)Structuring the responsibilities of the audit team so that the professional does not deal with matters that are within the responsibility of the close family member.
290.130
Threats to independence are created when a member of the audit team has a close relationship with a person who is not an immediate or close family member, but who is a director or officer or an employee in a position to exert significant influence over the preparation of the client’s accounting records or the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion. A member of the audit team who has such a relationship shall consult in accordance with firm policies and procedures. The significance of the threats will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The nature of the relationship between the individual and the member of the audit team;
 
(b)The position the individual holds with the client; and
 
(c)The role of the professional on the audit team.
 
The significance of the threats shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Removing the professional from the audit team; and
 
(ii)Structuring the responsibilities of the audit team so that the professional does not deal with matters that are within the responsibility of the individual with whom the professional has a close relationship.
290.131
Self‑interest, familiarity or intimidation threats may be created by a personal or family relationship between (a) a partner or employee of the firm who is not a member of the audit team and (b) a director or officer of the audit client or an employee in a position to exert significant influence over the preparation of the client’s accounting records or the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion. Partners and employees of the firm who are aware of such relationships shall consult in accordance with firm policies and procedures. The existence and significance of any threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The nature of the relationship between the partner or employee of the firm and the director or officer or employee of the client;
 
(b)The interaction of the partner or employee of the firm with the audit team;
 
(c)The position of the partner or employee within the firm; and
 
(d)The position the individual holds with the client.
 
The significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Structuring the partner’s or employee’s responsibilities to reduce any potential influence over the audit engagement; and
 
(ii)Having a professional accountant review the relevant audit work performed.
Employment with an Audit Client
290.132
Familiarity or intimidation threats may be created if a director or officer of the audit client, or an employee in a position to exert significant influence over the preparation of the client’s accounting records or the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion, has been a member of the audit team or partner of the firm.
290.133
If a former member of the audit team or partner of the firm has joined the audit client in such a position and a significant connection remains between the firm and the individual, the threat would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Therefore, independence would be deemed to be compromised if a former member of the audit team or partner joins the audit client as a director or officer, or as an employee in a position to exert significant influence over the preparation of the client’s accounting records or the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion, unless —
 
(a)The individual is not entitled to any benefits or payments from the firm, unless made in accordance with fixed pre‑determined arrangements, and any amount owed to the individual is not material to the firm; and
 
(b)The individual does not continue to participate or appear to participate in the firm’s business or professional activities.
290.134
If a former member of the audit team or partner of the firm has joined the audit client in such a position, and no significant connection remains between the firm and the individual, the existence and significance of any familiarity or intimidation threats will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The position the individual has taken at the client;
 
(b)Any involvement the individual will have with the audit team;
 
(c)The length of time since the individual was a member of the audit team or partner of the firm; and
 
(d)The former position of the individual within the audit team or firm, for example, whether the individual was responsible for maintaining regular contact with the client’s management or those charged with governance.
 
The significance of any threats created shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Modifying the audit plan;
 
(ii)Assigning individuals to the audit team who have sufficient experience in relation to the individual who had joined the client; and
 
(iii)Having a professional accountant review the work of the former member of the audit team.
290.135
If a former partner of the firm has previously joined an entity in such a position and the entity subsequently becomes an audit client of the firm, the significance of any threat to independence shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level.
290.136
A self‑interest threat is created when a member of the audit team participates in the audit engagement while knowing that the member of the audit team will, or may, join the client some time in the future. Firm policies and procedures shall require members of an audit team to notify the firm when entering employment negotiations with the client. On receiving such notification, the significance of the threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)Removing the individual from the audit team; and
 
(b)A review of any significant judgments made by that individual while on the team.
Audit Clients that are Public Interest Entities
290.137
Familiarity or intimidation threats are created when a key audit partner joins the audit client that is a public interest entity as —
 
(a)A director or officer of the entity; or
 
(b)An employee in a position to exert significant influence over the preparation of the client’s accounting records or the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion.
 
Independence would be deemed to be compromised unless, subsequent to the partner ceasing to be a key audit partner, the public interest entity had issued audited financial statements covering a period of not less than twelve months and the partner was not a member of the audit team with respect to the audit of those financial statements.
290.138
An intimidation threat is created when the individual who was the firm’s Senior or Managing Partner (Chief Executive or equivalent) joins an audit client that is a public interest entity as —
 
(a)An employee in a position to exert significant influence over the preparation of the entity’s accounting records or its financial statements; or
 
(b)A director or officer of the entity.
 
Independence would be deemed to be compromised unless twelve months have passed since the individual was the Senior or Managing Partner (Chief Executive or equivalent) of the firm.
290.139
Independence is deemed not to be compromised if, as a result of a business combination, a former key audit partner or the individual who was the firm’s former Senior or Managing Partner is in a position as described in paragraphs 290.137 and 290.138, and —
 
(a)The position was not taken in contemplation of the business combination;
 
(b)Any benefits or payments due to the former partner from the firm have been settled in full, unless made in accordance with fixed pre‑determined arrangements and any amount owed to the partner is not material to the firm;
 
(c)The former partner does not continue to participate or appear to participate in the firm’s business or professional activities; and
 
(d)The position held by the former partner with the audit client is discussed with those charged with governance of the client.
Temporary Staff Assignments
290.140
The lending of staff by a firm to an audit client may create a self‑review threat. Such assistance may be given, but only for a short period of time and the firm’s personnel shall not be involved in —
 
(a)Providing non‑assurance services that would not be permitted under this section; or
 
(b)Assuming management responsibilities.
 
In all circumstances, the audit client shall be responsible for directing and supervising the activities of the loaned staff.
 
The significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Conducting an additional review of the work performed by the loaned staff;
 
(ii)Not giving the loaned staff audit responsibility for any function or activity that the staff performed during the temporary staff assignment; and
 
(iii)Not including the loaned staff as a member of the audit team.
Recent Service with an Audit Client
290.141
Self‑interest, self‑review or familiarity threats may be created if a member of the audit team has recently served as a director, officer, or employee of the audit client. This would be the case when, for example, a member of the audit team has to evaluate elements of the financial statements for which the member of the audit team had prepared the accounting records while with the client.
290.142
If, during the period covered by the audit report, a member of the audit team had served as a director or officer of the audit client, or was an employee in a position to exert significant influence over the preparation of the client’s accounting records or the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion, the threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Consequently, such individuals shall not be assigned to the audit team.
290.143
Self‑interest, self‑review or familiarity threats may be created if, before the period covered by the audit report, a member of the audit team had served as a director or officer of the audit client, or was an employee in a position to exert significant influence over the preparation of the client’s accounting records or financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion. For example, such threats would be created if a decision made or work performed by the individual in the prior period, while employed by the client, is to be evaluated in the current period as part of the current audit engagement. The existence and significance of any threats will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The position the individual held with the client;
 
(b)The length of time since the individual left the client; and
 
(c)The role of the professional on the audit team.
 
The significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to reduce the threat to an acceptable level. An example of such a safeguard is conducting a review of the work performed by the individual as a member of the audit team.
Serving as a Director or Officer of an Audit Client
290.144
If a partner or employee of the firm serves as a director or officer of an audit client, the self‑review and self‑interest threats created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threats to an acceptable level. Accordingly, no partner or employee shall serve as a director or officer of an audit client.
290.145
The position of Company Secretary has different implications in different jurisdictions. Duties may range from administrative duties, such as personnel management and the maintenance of company records and registers, to duties as diverse as ensuring that the company complies with regulations or providing advice on corporate governance matters. Generally, this position is seen to imply a close association with the entity.
290.146
If a partner or employee of the firm serves as Company Secretary for an audit client, self‑review and advocacy threats are created that would generally be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threats to an acceptable level. Despite paragraph 290.144, when this practice is specifically permitted under local law, professional rules or practice, and provided management makes all relevant decisions, the duties and activities shall be limited to those of a routine and administrative nature, such as preparing minutes and maintaining statutory returns. In those circumstances, the significance of any threats shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level.
290.147
Performing routine administrative services to support a company secretarial function or providing advice in relation to company secretarial administration matters does not generally create threats to independence, as long as client management makes all relevant decisions.
Long Association of Senior Personnel (Including Partner Rotation) with an Audit Client
General Provisions
290.148
Familiarity and self‑interest threats are created by using the same senior personnel on an audit engagement over a long period of time. The significance of the threats will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)How long the individual has been a member of the audit team;
 
(b)The role of the individual on the audit team;
 
(c)The structure of the firm;
 
(d)The nature of the audit engagement;
 
(e)Whether the client’s management team has changed; and
 
(f)Whether the nature or complexity of the client’s accounting and reporting issues has changed.
 
The significance of the threats shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Rotating the senior personnel off the audit team;
 
(ii)Having a professional accountant who was not a member of the audit team review the work of the senior personnel; and
 
(iii)Regular independent internal or external quality reviews of the engagement.
Audit Clients that are Public Interest Entities
290.149
In respect of an audit of a public interest entity, an individual shall not be a key audit partner for more than seven years. After such time, the individual shall not be a member of the engagement team or be a key audit partner for the client for two years. During that period, the individual shall not participate in the audit of the entity, provide quality control for the engagement, consult with the engagement team or the client regarding technical or industry‑specific issues, transactions or events or otherwise directly influence the outcome of the engagement.
290.150
Despite paragraph 290.149, key audit partners whose continuity is especially important to audit quality may, in rare cases due to unforeseen circumstances outside the firm’s control, be permitted an additional year on the audit team as long as the threat to independence can be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by applying safeguards. For example, a key audit partner may remain on the audit team for up to one additional year in circumstances where, due to unforeseen events, a required rotation was not possible, as might be the case due to serious illness of the intended engagement partner.
290.151
The long association of other partners with an audit client that is a public interest entity creates familiarity and self‑interest threats. The significance of the threats will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)How long any such partner has been associated with the audit client;
 
(b)The role, if any, of the individual on the audit team; and
 
(c)The nature, frequency and extent of the individual’s interactions with the client’s management or those charged with governance.
 
The significance of the threats shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Rotating the partner off the audit team or otherwise ending the partner’s association with the audit client; and
 
(ii)Regular independent internal or external quality reviews of the engagement.
290.152
When an audit client becomes a public interest entity, the length of time the individual has served the audit client as a key audit partner before the client becomes a public interest entity shall be taken into account in determining the timing of the rotation. If the individual has served the audit client as a key audit partner for five years or less when the client becomes a public interest entity, the number of years the individual may continue to serve the client in that capacity before rotating off the engagement is seven years less the number of years already served. If the individual has served the audit client as a key audit partner for six or more years when the client becomes a public interest entity, the partner may continue to serve in that capacity for a maximum of two additional years before rotating off the engagement.
290.153
When a firm has only a few people with the necessary knowledge and experience to serve as a key audit partner on the audit of a public interest entity, rotation of key audit partners may not be an available safeguard. If an independent regulator in the relevant jurisdiction has provided an exemption from partner rotation in such circumstances, an individual may remain a key audit partner for more than seven years, in accordance with such regulation, provided that the independent regulator has specified alternative safeguards which are applied, such as a regular independent external review.
Provision of Non‑assurance Services to an Audit Client
290.154
Firms have traditionally provided to their audit clients a range of non‑assurance services that are consistent with their skills and expertise. Providing non‑assurance services may, however, create threats to the independence of the firm or members of the audit team. The threats created are most often self‑review, self‑interest and advocacy threats.
290.155
New developments in business, the evolution of financial markets and changes in information technology make it impossible to draw up an all‑inclusive list of non‑assurance services that might be provided to an audit client. When specific guidance on a particular non‑assurance service is not included in this section, the conceptual framework shall be applied when evaluating the particular circumstances.
290.156
Before the firm accepts an engagement to provide a non‑assurance service to an audit client, a determination shall be made as to whether providing such a service would create a threat to independence. In evaluating the significance of any threat created by a particular non‑assurance service, consideration shall be given to any threat that the audit team has reason to believe is created by providing other related non-assurance services. If a threat is created that cannot be reduced to an acceptable level by the application of safeguards, the non-assurance service shall not be provided.
290.157
A firm may provide non‑assurance services that would otherwise be restricted under this section to the following related entities of the audit client:
 
(a)An entity, which is not an audit client, that has direct or indirect control over the audit client;
 
(b)An entity, which is not an audit client, with a direct financial interest in the client if that entity has significant influence over the client and the interest in the client is material to such entity;
 
(c)An entity, which is not an audit client, that is under common control with the audit client,
 
if it is reasonable to conclude that —
 
(i)the services do not create a self‑review threat because the results of the services will not be subject to audit procedures; and
 
(ii)any threats that are created by the provision of such services are eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by the application of safeguards.
290.158
A non‑assurance service provided to an audit client does not compromise the firm’s independence when the client becomes a public interest entity if —
 
(a)The previous non‑assurance service complies with the provisions of this section that relate to audit clients that are not public interest entities;
 
(b)Services that are not permitted under this section for audit clients that are public interest entities are terminated before or as soon as practicable after the client becomes a public interest entity; and
 
(c)The firm applies safeguards when necessary to eliminate or reduce to an acceptable level any threats to independence arising from the service.
Management Responsibilities
290.159
Management of an entity performs many activities in managing the entity in the best interests of stakeholders of the entity. It is not possible to specify every activity that is a management responsibility. However, management responsibilities involve leading and directing an entity, including making significant decisions regarding the acquisition, deployment and control of human, financial, physical and intangible resources.
290.160
Whether an activity is a management responsibility depends on the circumstances and requires the exercise of judgment. Examples of activities that would generally be considered a management responsibility include —
 
(a)Setting policies and strategic direction;
 
(b)Directing and taking responsibility for the actions of the entity’s employees;
 
(c)Authorising transactions;
 
(d)Deciding which recommendations of the firm or other third parties to implement;
 
(e)Taking responsibility for the preparation and fair presentation of the financial statements in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework; and
 
(f)Taking responsibility for designing, implementing and maintaining internal control.
290.161
Activities that are routine and administrative, or involve matters that are insignificant, generally are deemed not to be a management responsibility. For example, executing an insignificant transaction that has been authorised by management or monitoring the dates for filing statutory returns and advising an audit client of those dates is deemed not to be a management responsibility. Further, providing advice and recommendations to assist management in discharging its responsibilities is not assuming a management responsibility.
290.162
If a firm were to assume a management responsibility for an audit client, the threats created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threats to an acceptable level. For example, deciding which recommendations of the firm to implement will create self‑review and self‑interest threats. Further, assuming a management responsibility creates a familiarity threat because the firm becomes too closely aligned with the views and interests of management. Therefore, the firm shall not assume a management responsibility for an audit client.
290.163
To avoid the risk of assuming a management responsibility when providing non‑assurance services to an audit client, the firm shall be satisfied that a member of management is responsible for making the significant judgments and decisions that are the proper responsibility of management, evaluating the results of the service and accepting responsibility for the actions to be taken arising from the results of the service. This reduces the risk of the firm inadvertently making any significant judgments or decisions on behalf of management. The risk is further reduced when the firm gives the client the opportunity to make judgments and decisions based on an objective and transparent analysis and presentation of the issues.
Preparing Accounting Records and Financial Statements
General Provisions
290.164
Management is responsible for the preparation and fair presentation of the financial statements in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework. These responsibilities include —
 
(a)Originating or changing journal entries, or determining the account classifications of transactions; and
 
(b)Preparing or changing source documents or originating data, in electronic or other form, evidencing the occurrence of a transaction (for example, purchase orders, payroll time records, and customer orders).
290.165
Providing an audit client with accounting and bookkeeping services, such as preparing accounting records or financial statements, creates a self‑review threat when the firm subsequently audits the financial statements.
290.166
The audit process, however, necessitates dialogue between the firm and management of the audit client, which may involve —
 
(a)The application of accounting standards or policies and financial statement disclosure requirements;
 
(b)The appropriateness of financial and accounting control and the methods used in determining the stated amounts of assets and liabilities; or
 
(c)Proposing adjusting journal entries.
 
These activities are considered to be a normal part of the audit process and do not, generally, create threats to independence.
290.167
Similarly, the client may request technical assistance from the firm on matters such as resolving account reconciliation problems or analysing and accumulating information for regulatory reporting. In addition, the client may request technical advice on accounting issues such as the conversion of existing financial statements from one financial reporting framework to another (for example, to comply with group accounting policies or to transition to a different financial reporting framework such as International Financial Reporting Standards). Such services do not, generally, create threats to independence provided the firm does not assume a management responsibility for the client.
Audit clients that are not public interest entities
290.168
The firm may provide services related to the preparation of accounting records and financial statements to an audit client that is not a public interest entity where the services are of a routine or mechanical nature, so long as any self‑review threat created is reduced to an acceptable level. Examples of such services include —
 
(a)Providing payroll services based on client‑originated data;
 
(b)Recording transactions for which the client has determined or approved the appropriate account classification;
 
(c)Posting transactions coded by the client to the general ledger;
 
(d)Posting client‑approved entries to the trial balance; and
 
(e)Preparing financial statements based on information in the trial balance.
 
In all cases, the significance of any threat created shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Arranging for such services to be performed by an individual who is not a member of the audit team; and
 
(ii)If such services are performed by a member of the audit team, using a partner or senior staff member with appropriate expertise who is not a member of the audit team to review the work performed.
Audit clients that are public interest entities
290.169
Except in emergency situations, a firm shall not provide to an audit client that is a public interest entity accounting and bookkeeping services, including payroll services, or prepare financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion or financial information which forms the basis of the financial statements.
290.170
Despite paragraph 290.169, a firm may provide accounting and bookkeeping services, including payroll services and the preparation of financial statements or other financial information, of a routine or mechanical nature for divisions or related entities of an audit client that is a public interest entity if the personnel providing the services are not members of the audit team and —
 
(a)The divisions or related entities for which the service is provided are collectively immaterial to the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion; or
 
(b)The services relate to matters that are collectively immaterial to the financial statements of the division or related entity.
Emergency Situations
290.171
Accounting and bookkeeping services, which would otherwise not be permitted under this section, may be provided to audit clients in emergency or other unusual situations, when it is impractical for the audit client to make other arrangements. This may be the case when —
 
(a)only the firm has the resources and necessary knowledge of the client’s systems and procedures to assist the client in the timely preparation of its accounting records and financial statements; and
 
(b)a restriction on the firm’s ability to provide the services would result in significant difficulties for the client (for example, as might result from a failure to meet regulatory reporting requirements).
 
In such situations, the following conditions shall be met:
 
(i)Those who provide the services are not members of the audit team;
 
(ii)The services are provided for only a short period of time and are not expected to recur;
 
(iii)The situation is discussed with those charged with governance.
Valuation Services
General Provisions
290.172
A valuation comprises the making of assumptions with regard to future developments, the application of appropriate methodologies and techniques, and the combination of both to compute a certain value, or range of values, for an asset, a liability or for a business as a whole.
290.173
Performing valuation services for an audit client may create a self‑review threat. The existence and significance of any threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)Whether the valuation will have a material effect on the financial statements;
 
(b)The extent of the client’s involvement in determining and approving the valuation methodology and other significant matters of judgment;
 
(c)The availability of established methodologies and professional guidelines;
 
(d)For valuations involving standard or established methodologies, the degree of subjectivity inherent in the item;
 
(e)The reliability and extent of the underlying data;
 
(f)The degree of dependence on future events of a nature that could create significant volatility inherent in the amounts involved; and
 
(g)The extent and clarity of the disclosures in the financial statements.
 
The significance of any threat created shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Having a professional who was not involved in providing the valuation service review the audit or valuation work performed; and
 
(ii)Making arrangements so that personnel providing such services do not participate in the audit engagement.
290.174
Certain valuations do not involve a significant degree of subjectivity. This is likely the case where the underlying assumptions are either established by law or regulation, or are widely accepted and when the techniques and methodologies to be used are based on generally accepted standards or prescribed by law or regulation. In such circumstances, the results of a valuation performed by two or more parties are not likely to be materially different.
290.175
If a firm is requested to perform a valuation to assist an audit client with its tax reporting obligations or for tax planning purposes and the results of the valuation will not have a direct effect on the financial statements, the provisions included in paragraph 290.188 apply.
Audit clients that are not public interest entities
290.176
In the case of an audit client that is not a public interest entity, if the valuation service has a material effect on the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion and the valuation involves a significant degree of subjectivity, no safeguards could reduce the self‑review threat to an acceptable level. Accordingly a firm shall not provide such a valuation service to an audit client.
Audit clients that are public interest entities
290.177
A firm shall not provide valuation services to an audit client that is a public interest entity if the valuations would have a material effect, separately or in the aggregate, on the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion.
Taxation Services
290.178
Taxation services comprise a broad range of services, including —
 
(a)Tax return preparation;
 
(b)Tax calculations for the purpose of preparing the accounting entries;
 
(c)Tax planning and other tax advisory services; and
 
(d)Assistance in the resolution of tax disputes.
 
While taxation services provided by a firm to an audit client are addressed separately under each of these broad headings; in practice, these activities are often interrelated.
290.179
Performing certain tax services creates self‑review and advocacy threats. The existence and significance of any threats will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The system by which the tax authorities assess and administer the tax in question and the role of the firm in that process;
 
(b)The complexity of the relevant tax regime and the degree of judgment necessary in applying it;
 
(c)The particular characteristics of the engagement; and
 
(d)The level of tax expertise of the client’s employees.
Tax Return Preparation
290.180
Tax return preparation services involve assisting clients with their tax reporting obligations by drafting and completing information, including the amount of tax due (usually on standardised forms) required to be submitted to the applicable tax authorities. Such services also include advising on the tax return treatment of past transactions and responding on behalf of the audit client to the tax authorities’ requests for additional information and analysis (including providing explanations of and technical support for the approach being taken). Tax return preparation services are generally based on historical information and principally involve analysis and presentation of such historical information under existing tax law, including precedents and established practice. Further, the tax returns are subject to whatever review or approval process the tax authority deems appropriate. Accordingly, providing such services does not generally create a threat to independence if management takes responsibility for the returns including any significant judgments made.
Tax Calculations for the Purpose of Preparing Accounting Entries — Audit Clients that are not public interest entities
290.181
Preparing calculations of current and deferred tax liabilities (or assets) for an audit client for the purpose of preparing accounting entries that will be subsequently audited by the firm creates a self-review threat. The significance of the threat will depend on —
 
(a)The complexity of the relevant tax law and regulation and the degree of judgment necessary in applying them;
 
(b)The level of tax expertise of the client’s personnel; and
 
(c)The materiality of the amounts to the financial statements.
 
Safeguards shall be applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Using professionals who are not members of the audit team to perform the service;
 
(ii)If the service is performed by a member of the audit team, using a partner or senior staff member with appropriate expertise who is not a member of the audit team to review the tax calculations; and
 
(iii)Obtaining advice on the service from an external tax professional.
Tax Calculations for the Purpose of Preparing Accounting Entries — Audit Clients that are public interest entities
290.182
Except in emergency situations, in the case of an audit client that is a public interest entity, a firm shall not prepare tax calculations of current and deferred tax liabilities (or assets) for the purpose of preparing accounting entries that are material to the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion.
290.183
The preparation of calculations of current and deferred tax liabilities (or assets) for an audit client for the purpose of the preparation of accounting entries, which would otherwise not be permitted under this section, may be provided to audit clients in emergency or other unusual situations when it is impractical for the audit client to make other arrangements. This may be the case when —
 
(a)only the firm has the resources and necessary knowledge of the client’s business to assist the client in the timely preparation of its calculations of current and deferred tax liabilities (or assets); and
 
(b)a restriction on the firm’s ability to provide the services would result in significant difficulties for the client (for example, as might result from a failure to meet regulatory reporting requirements).
 
In such situations, the following conditions shall be met:
 
(i)Those who provide the services are not members of the audit team;
 
(ii)The services are provided for only a short period of time and are not expected to recur;
 
(iii)The situation is discussed with those charged with governance.
Tax Planning and Other Tax Advisory Services
290.184
Tax planning or other tax advisory services comprise a broad range of services, such as advising the client how to structure its affairs in a tax efficient manner or advising on the application of a new tax law or regulation.
290.185
A self‑review threat may be created where the advice will affect matters to be reflected in the financial statements. The existence and significance of any threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The degree of subjectivity involved in determining the appropriate treatment for the tax advice in the financial statements;
 
(b)The extent to which the outcome of the tax advice will have a material effect on the financial statements;
 
(c)Whether the effectiveness of the tax advice depends on the accounting treatment or presentation in the financial statements and there is doubt as to the appropriateness of the accounting treatment or presentation under the relevant financial reporting framework;
 
(d)The level of tax expertise of the client’s employees;
 
(e)The extent to which the advice is supported by tax law or regulation, other precedent or established practice; and
 
(f)Whether the tax treatment is supported by a private ruling or has otherwise been cleared by the tax authority before the preparation of the financial statements.
 
For example, providing tax planning and other tax advisory services where the advice is clearly supported by tax authority or other precedent, by established practice or has a basis in tax law that is likely to prevail does not generally create a threat to independence.
290.186
The significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)Using professionals who are not members of the audit team to perform the service;
 
(b)Having a tax professional, who was not involved in providing the tax service, advise the audit team on the service and review the financial statement treatment;
 
(c)Obtaining advice on the service from an external tax professional; and
 
(d)Obtaining pre‑clearance or advice from the tax authorities.
290.187
Where the effectiveness of the tax advice depends on a particular accounting treatment or presentation in the financial statements and —
 
(a)the audit team has reasonable doubt as to the appropriateness of the related accounting treatment or presentation under the relevant financial reporting framework; and
 
(b)the outcome or consequences of the tax advice will have a material effect on the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion,
 
the self‑review threat would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Accordingly, a firm shall not provide such tax advice to an audit client.
290.188
In providing tax services to an audit client, a firm may be requested to perform a valuation to assist the client with its tax reporting obligations or for tax planning purposes. Where the result of the valuation will have a direct effect on the financial statements, the provisions included in paragraphs 290.172 to 290.177 relating to valuation services are applicable. Where the valuation is performed for tax purposes only and the result of the valuation will not have a direct effect on the financial statements (that is, the financial statements are only affected through accounting entries related to tax), this would not generally create threats to independence if such effect on the financial statements is immaterial or if the valuation is subject to external review by a tax authority or similar regulatory authority. If the valuation is not subject to such an external review and the effect is material to the financial statements, the existence and significance of any threat created will depend upon factors such as —
 
(a)The extent to which the valuation methodology is supported by tax law or regulation, other precedent or established practice and the degree of subjectivity inherent in the valuation; and
 
(b)The reliability and extent of the underlying data.
 
The significance of any threat created shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Using professionals who are not members of the audit team to perform the service;
 
(ii)Having a professional review the audit work or the result of the tax service; and
 
(iii)Obtaining pre‑clearance or advice from the tax authorities.
Assistance in the Resolution of Tax Disputes
290.189
An advocacy or self‑review threat may be created when the firm represents an audit client in the resolution of a tax dispute once the tax authorities have notified the client that they have rejected the client’s arguments on a particular issue and either the tax authority or the client is referring the matter for determination in a formal proceeding, for example before a tribunal or court. The existence and significance of any threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)Whether the firm has provided the advice which is the subject of the tax dispute;
 
(b)The extent to which the outcome of the dispute will have a material effect on the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion;
 
(c)The extent to which the matter is supported by tax law or regulation, other precedent, or established practice;
 
(d)Whether the proceedings are conducted in public; and
 
(e)The role management plays in the resolution of the dispute.
 
The significance of any threat created shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Using professionals who are not members of the audit team to perform the service;
 
(ii)Having a tax professional, who was not involved in providing the tax service, advise the audit team on the services and review the financial statement treatment; and
 
(iii)Obtaining advice on the service from an external tax professional.
290.190
Where the taxation services involve acting as an advocate for an audit client before a public tribunal or court in the resolution of a tax matter and the amounts involved are material to the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion, the advocacy threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could eliminate or reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Therefore, the firm shall not perform this type of service for an audit client. What constitutes a “public tribunal or court” shall be determined according to how tax proceedings are heard in the particular jurisdiction.
290.191
The firm is not, however, precluded from having a continuing advisory role (for example, responding to specific requests for information, providing factual accounts or testimony about the work performed or assisting the client in analysing the tax issues) for the audit client in relation to the matter that is being heard before a public tribunal or court.
Internal Audit Services
General Provisions
290.192
The scope and objectives of internal audit activities vary widely and depend on the size and structure of the entity and the requirements of management and those charged with governance. Internal audit activities may include —
 
(a)Monitoring of internal control – reviewing controls, monitoring their operation and recommending improvements thereto;
 
(b)Examination of financial and operating information – reviewing the means used to identify, measure, classify and report financial and operating information, and specific inquiry into individual items including detailed testing of transactions, balances and procedures;
 
(c)Review of the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of operating activities including non‑financial activities of an entity; and
 
(d)Review of compliance with laws, regulations and other external requirements, and with management policies and directives and other internal requirements.
290.193
Internal audit services involve assisting the audit client in the performance of its internal audit activities. The provision of internal audit services to an audit client creates a self‑review threat to independence if the firm uses the internal audit work in the course of a subsequent external audit. Performing a significant part of the client’s internal audit activities increases the possibility that firm personnel providing internal audit services will assume a management responsibility. If the firm’s personnel assume a management responsibility when providing internal audit services to an audit client, the threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Accordingly, a firm’s personnel shall not assume a management responsibility when providing internal audit services to an audit client.
290.194
Examples of internal audit services that involve assuming management responsibilities include —
 
(a)Setting internal audit policies or the strategic direction of internal audit activities;
 
(b)Directing and taking responsibility for the actions of the entity’s internal audit employees;
 
(c)Deciding which recommendations resulting from internal audit activities shall be implemented;
 
(d)Reporting the results of the internal audit activities to those charged with governance on behalf of management;
 
(e)Performing procedures that form part of the internal control, such as reviewing and approving changes to employee data access privileges;
 
(f)Taking responsibility for designing, implementing and maintaining internal control; and
 
(g)Performing outsourced internal audit services, comprising all or a substantial portion of the internal audit function, where the firm is responsible for determining the scope of the internal audit work and may have responsibility for one or more of the matters noted in (a) to (f).
290.195
To avoid assuming a management responsibility, the firm shall only provide internal audit services to an audit client if it is satisfied that —
 
(a)The client designates an appropriate and competent resource, preferably within senior management, to be responsible at all times for internal audit activities and to acknowledge responsibility for designing, implementing, and maintaining internal control;
 
(b)The client’s management or those charged with governance reviews, assesses and approves the scope, risk and frequency of the internal audit services;
 
(c)The client’s management evaluates the adequacy of the internal audit services and the findings resulting from their performance;
 
(d)The client’s management evaluates and determines which recommendations resulting from internal audit services to implement and manages the implementation process; and
 
(e)The client’s management reports to those charged with governance the significant findings and recommendations resulting from the internal audit services.
290.196
When a firm uses the work of an internal audit function, SSAs require the performance of procedures to evaluate the adequacy of that work. When a firm accepts an engagement to provide internal audit services to an audit client, and the results of those services will be used in conducting the external audit, a self‑review threat is created because of the possibility that the audit team will use the results of the internal audit service without appropriately evaluating those results or exercising the same level of professional scepticism as would be exercised when the internal audit work is performed by individuals who are not members of the firm. The significance of the threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The materiality of the related financial statement amounts;
 
(b)The risk of misstatement of the assertions related to those financial statement amounts; and
 
(c)The degree of reliance that will be placed on the internal audit service.
 
The significance of the threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. An example of such a safeguard is using professionals who are not members of the audit team to perform the internal audit service.
Audit clients that are public interest entities
290.197
In the case of an audit client that is a public interest entity, a firm shall not provide internal audit services that relate to —
 
(a)A significant part of the internal controls over financial reporting;
 
(b)Financial accounting systems that generate information that is, separately or in the aggregate, significant to the client’s accounting records or financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion; or
 
(c)Amounts or disclosures that are, separately or in the aggregate, material to the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion.
IT Systems Services
General Provisions
290.198
Services related to information technology (IT) systems include the design or implementation of hardware or software systems. The systems may aggregate source data, form part of the internal control over financial reporting or generate information that affects the accounting records or financial statements, or the systems may be unrelated to the audit client’s accounting records, the internal control over financial reporting or financial statements. Providing systems services may create a self‑review threat depending on the nature of the services and the IT systems.
290.199
The following IT systems services are deemed not to create a threat to independence as long as the firm’s personnel do not assume a management responsibility:
 
(a)Design or implementation of IT systems that are unrelated to internal control over financial reporting;
 
(b)Design or implementation of IT systems that do not generate information forming a significant part of the accounting records or financial statements;
 
(c)Implementation of “off‑the‑shelf” accounting or financial information reporting software that was not developed by the firm if the customisation required to meet the client’s needs is not significant;
 
(d)Evaluating and making recommendations with respect to a system designed, implemented or operated by another service provider or the client.
Audit clients that are not public interest entities
290.200
Providing services to an audit client that is not a public interest entity involving the design or implementation of IT systems that —
 
(a)form a significant part of the internal control over financial reporting; or
 
(b)generate information that is significant to the client’s accounting records or financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion creates a self‑review threat.
290.201
The self‑review threat is too significant to permit such services unless appropriate safeguards are put in place ensuring that —
 
(a)The client acknowledges its responsibility for establishing and monitoring a system of internal controls;
 
(b)The client assigns the responsibility to make all management decisions with respect to the design and implementation of the hardware or software system to a competent employee, preferably within senior management;
 
(c)The client makes all management decisions with respect to the design and implementation process;
 
(d)The client evaluates the adequacy and results of the design and implementation of the system; and
 
(e)The client is responsible for operating the system (hardware or software) and for the data it uses or generates.
290.202
Depending on the degree of reliance that will be placed on the particular IT systems as part of the audit, a determination shall be made as to whether to provide such non‑assurance services only with personnel who are not members of the audit team and who have different reporting lines within the firm. The significance of any remaining threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. An example of such a safeguard is having a professional accountant review the audit or non‑assurance work.
Audit clients that are public interest entities
290.203
In the case of an audit client that is a public interest entity, a firm shall not provide services involving the design or implementation of IT systems that —
 
(a)form a significant part of the internal control over financial reporting; or
 
(b)generate information that is significant to the client’s accounting records or financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion.
Litigation Support Services
290.204
Litigation support services may include activities such as acting as an expert witness, calculating estimated damages or other amounts that might become receivable or payable as the result of litigation or other legal dispute, and assistance with document management and retrieval. These services may create a self‑review or advocacy threat.
290.205
If the firm provides a litigation support service to an audit client and the service involves estimating damages or other amounts that affect the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion, the valuation service provisions included in paragraphs 290.172 to 290.177 shall be followed. In the case of other litigation support services, the significance of any threat created shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level.
Legal Services
290.206
For the purpose of this section, legal services are defined as any services for which the person providing the services must either be admitted to practice law before the courts of the jurisdiction in which such services are to be provided or have the required legal training to practice law. Such legal services may include, depending on the jurisdiction, a wide and diversified range of areas including both corporate and commercial services to clients, such as contract support, litigation, mergers and acquisition legal advice and support and assistance to clients’ internal legal departments. Providing legal services to an entity that is an audit client may create both self‑review and advocacy threats.
290.207
Legal services that support an audit client in executing a transaction (for example, contract support, legal advice, legal due diligence and restructuring) may create self‑review threats. The existence and significance of any threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The nature of the service;
 
(b)Whether the service is provided by a member of the audit team; and
 
(c)The materiality of any matter in relation to the client’s financial statements.
 
The significance of any threat created shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Using professionals who are not members of the audit team to perform the service; and
 
(ii)Having a professional who was not involved in providing the legal services provide advice to the audit team on the service and review any financial statement treatment.
290.208
Acting in an advocacy role for an audit client in resolving a dispute or litigation when the amounts involved are material to the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion would create advocacy and self‑review threats so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Therefore, the firm shall not perform this type of service for an audit client.
290.209
When a firm is asked to act in an advocacy role for an audit client in resolving a dispute or litigation when the amounts involved are not material to the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion, the firm shall evaluate the significance of any advocacy and self‑review threats created and apply safeguards when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)Using professionals who are not members of the audit team to perform the service; and
 
(b)Having a professional who was not involved in providing the legal services advise the audit team on the service and review any financial statement treatment.
290.210
The appointment of a partner or an employee of the firm as General Counsel for legal affairs of an audit client would create self‑review and advocacy threats that are so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threats to an acceptable level. The position of General Counsel is generally a senior management position with broad responsibility for the legal affairs of a company, and consequently, no member of the firm shall accept such an appointment for an audit client.
Recruiting Services
General Provisions
290.211
Providing recruiting services to an audit client may create self‑interest, familiarity or intimidation threats. The existence and significance of any threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The nature of the requested assistance; and
 
(b)The role of the person to be recruited.
 
The significance of any threat created shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. In all cases, the firm shall not assume management responsibilities, including acting as a negotiator on the client’s behalf, and the hiring decision shall be left to the client.
 
The firm may generally provide such services as reviewing the professional qualifications of a number of applicants and providing advice on their suitability for the post. In addition, the firm may interview candidates and advise on a candidate’s competence for financial accounting, administrative or control positions.
Audit clients that are public interest entities
290.212
A firm shall not provide the following recruiting services to an audit client that is a public interest entity with respect to a director or officer of the entity or senior management in a position to exert significant influence over the preparation of the client’s accounting records or the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion:
 
(a)Searching for or seeking out candidates for such positions;
 
(b)Undertaking reference checks of prospective candidates for such positions.
Corporate Finance Services
290.213
Providing corporate finance services such as —
 
(a)Assisting an audit client in developing corporate strategies;
 
(b)Identifying possible targets for the audit client to acquire;
 
(c)Advising on disposal transactions;
 
(d)Assisting finance raising transactions; and
 
(e)Providing structuring advice,
 
may create advocacy and self‑review threats.
 
The significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Using professionals who are not members of the audit team to provide the services; and
 
(ii)Having a professional who was not involved in providing the corporate finance service advise the audit team on the service and review the accounting treatment and any financial statement treatment.
290.214
Providing a corporate finance service, for example advice on the structuring of a corporate finance transaction or on financing arrangements that will directly affect amounts that will be reported in the financial statements on which the firm will provide an opinion may create a self‑review threat. The existence and significance of any threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The degree of subjectivity involved in determining the appropriate treatment for the outcome or consequences of the corporate finance advice in the financial statements;
 
(b)The extent to which the outcome of the corporate finance advice will directly affect amounts recorded in the financial statements and the extent to which the amounts are material to the financial statements; and
 
(c)Whether the effectiveness of the corporate finance advice depends on a particular accounting treatment or presentation in the financial statements and there is doubt as to the appropriateness of the related accounting treatment or presentation under the relevant financial reporting framework.
 
The significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Using professionals who are not members of the audit team to perform the service; and
 
(ii)Having a professional who was not involved in providing the corporate finance service to the client advise the audit team on the service and review the accounting treatment and any financial statement treatment.
290.215
Where the effectiveness of corporate finance advice depends on a particular accounting treatment or presentation in the financial statements and —
 
(a)the audit team has reasonable doubt as to the appropriateness of the related accounting treatment or presentation under the relevant financial reporting framework; and
 
(b)the outcome or consequences of the corporate finance advice will have a material effect on the financial statements on which the firm will express an opinion,
 
the self‑review threat would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level, in which case the corporate finance advice shall not be provided.
290.216
Providing corporate finance services involving promoting, dealing in, or underwriting an audit client’s shares would create an advocacy or self‑review threat that is so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Accordingly, a firm shall not provide such services to an audit client.
Fees
Fees ― Relative Size
290.217
When the total fees from an audit client represent a large proportion of the total fees of the firm expressing the audit opinion, the dependence on that client and concern about losing the client creates a self-interest or intimidation threat. The significance of the threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The operating structure of the firm;
 
(b)Whether the firm is well established or new; and
 
(c)The significance of the client qualitatively or quantitatively, or both, to the firm.
 
The significance of the threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Reducing the dependency on the client;
 
(ii)External quality control reviews; and
 
(iii)Consulting a third party, such as a professional regulatory body or a professional accountant, on key audit judgments.
290.218
A self‑interest or intimidation threat is also created when the fees generated from an audit client represent a large proportion of the revenue from an individual partner’s clients or a large proportion of the revenue of an individual office of the firm. The significance of the threat will depend upon factors such as —
 
(a)The significance of the client qualitatively or quantitatively, or both, to the partner or office; and
 
(b)The extent to which the remuneration of the partner, or the partners in the office, is dependent upon the fees generated from the client.
 
The significance of the threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)Reducing the dependency on the audit client;
 
(b)Having a professional accountant review the work or otherwise advise as necessary; and
 
(c)Regular independent internal or external quality reviews of the engagement.
Audit Clients that are Public Interest Entities
290.219
Where an audit client is a public interest entity and, for two consecutive years, the total fees from the client and its related entities (subject to the considerations in paragraph 290.27) represent more than 15% of the total fees received by the firm expressing the opinion on the financial statements of the client, the firm shall disclose to those charged with governance of the audit client the fact that the total of such fees represents more than 15% of the total fees received by the firm, and discuss which of the safeguards below it will apply to reduce the threat to an acceptable level, and apply the selected safeguard —
 
(a)Prior to the issuance of the audit opinion on the second year’s financial statements, a professional accountant, who is not a member of the firm expressing the opinion on the financial statements, performs an engagement quality control review of that engagement or a professional regulatory body performs a review of that engagement that is equivalent to an engagement quality control review (“a pre‑issuance review”); or
 
(b)After the audit opinion on the second year’s financial statements has been issued, and before the issuance of the audit opinion on the third year’s financial statements, a professional accountant, who is not a member of the firm expressing the opinion on the financial statements, or a professional regulatory body performs a review of the second year’s audit that is equivalent to an engagement quality control review (“a post‑issuance review”).
 
When the total fees significantly exceed 15%, the firm shall determine whether the significance of the threat is such that a post‑issuance review would not reduce the threat to an acceptable level and, therefore, a pre‑issuance review is required. In such circumstances a pre‑issuance review shall be performed.
 
Thereafter, when the fees continue to exceed 15% each year, the disclosure to and discussion with those charged with governance shall occur and one of the above safeguards shall be applied. If the fees significantly exceed 15%, the firm shall determine whether the significance of the threat is such that a post-issuance review would not reduce the threat to an acceptable level and, therefore, a pre‑issuance review is required. In such circumstances a pre-issuance review shall be performed.
Audit Clients that are Listed Entities or Public Companies
SG290.219A
Where an audit client is a listed entity or a public company and the amount of annual fees received for non‑audit services compared to the total annual audit fees from the audit client is 50% or more, the firm shall disclose to those charged with governance of the audit client the fact that the total of such fees represent 50% or more of the total annual audit fees received by the firm and discuss the safeguards it will apply to reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Examples of safeguards that could be considered and applied include —
 
(a)Independent internal or external quality control reviews of the engagement; and
 
(b)Consulting a third party, such as a professional regulatory body or other professional accountant, on key audit judgments.
Fees ― Overdue
290.220
A self‑interest threat may be created if fees due from an audit client remain unpaid for a long time, especially if a significant part is not paid before the issue of the audit report for the following year. Generally the firm is expected to require payment of such fees before such audit report is issued. If fees remain unpaid after the report has been issued, the existence and significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. An example of such a safeguard is having an additional professional accountant who did not take part in the audit engagement provide advice or review the work performed. The firm shall determine whether the overdue fees might be regarded as being equivalent to a loan to the client and whether, because of the significance of the overdue fees, it is appropriate for the firm to be re‑appointed or continue the audit engagement.
Contingent Fees
290.221
Contingent fees are fees calculated on a predetermined basis relating to the outcome of a transaction or the result of the services performed by the firm. For the purposes of this section, a fee is not regarded as being contingent if established by a court or other public authority.
290.222
A contingent fee charged directly or indirectly, for example through an intermediary, by a firm in respect of an audit engagement creates a self‑interest threat that is so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Accordingly, a firm shall not enter into any such fee arrangement.
290.223
A contingent fee charged directly or indirectly, for example through an intermediary, by a firm in respect of a non‑assurance service provided to an audit client may also create a self‑interest threat. The threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level if —
 
(a)The fee is charged by the firm expressing the opinion on the financial statements and the fee is material or expected to be material to that firm;
 
(b)The fee is charged by a network firm that participates in a significant part of the audit and the fee is material or expected to be material to that firm; or
 
(c)The outcome of the non-assurance service, and therefore the amount of the fee, is dependent on a future or contemporary judgment related to the audit of a material amount in the financial statements.
 
Accordingly, such arrangements shall not be accepted.
290.224
For other contingent fee arrangements charged by a firm for a non‑assurance service to an audit client, the existence and significance of any threats will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The range of possible fee amounts;
 
(b)Whether an appropriate authority determines the outcome of the matter upon which the contingent fee will be determined;
 
(c)The nature of the service; and
 
(d)The effect of the event or transaction on the financial statements.
 
The significance of any threats shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Having a professional accountant review the relevant audit work or otherwise advise as necessary; and
 
(ii)Using professionals who are not members of the audit team to perform the non‑assurance service.
Compensation and Evaluation Policies
290.225
A self‑interest threat is created when a member of the audit team is evaluated on or compensated for selling non‑assurance services to that audit client. The significance of the threat will depend on —
 
(a)The proportion of the individual’s compensation or performance evaluation that is based on the sale of such services;
 
(b)The role of the individual on the audit team; and
 
(c)Whether promotion decisions are influenced by the sale of such services.
 
The significance of the threat shall be evaluated and, if the threat is not at an acceptable level, the firm shall either revise the compensation plan or evaluation process for that individual or apply safeguards to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Removing such members from the audit team; and
 
(ii)Having a professional accountant review the work of the member of the audit team.
290.226
A key audit partner shall not be evaluated on or compensated based on that partner’s success in selling non‑assurance services to the partner’s audit client. This is not intended to prohibit normal profit‑sharing arrangements between partners of a firm.
Gifts and Hospitality
290.227
Accepting gifts or hospitality from an audit client may create self‑interest and familiarity threats. If a firm or a member of the audit team accepts gifts or hospitality, unless the value is trivial and inconsequential, the threats created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threats to an acceptable level. Consequently, a firm or a member of the audit team shall not accept such gifts or hospitality.
Actual or Threatened Litigation
290.228
When litigation takes place, or appears likely, between the firm or a member of the audit team and the audit client, self‑interest and intimidation threats are created. The relationship between client management and the members of the audit team must be characterised by complete candor and full disclosure regarding all aspects of a client’s business operations. When the firm and the client’s management are placed in adversarial positions by actual or threatened litigation, affecting management’s willingness to make complete disclosures, self-interest and intimidation threats are created. The significance of the threats created will depend on such factors as —
 
(a)The materiality of the litigation; and
 
(b)Whether the litigation relates to a prior audit engagement.
 
The significance of the threats shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)If the litigation involves a member of the audit team, removing that individual from the audit team; and
 
(ii)Having a professional review the work performed.
 
If such safeguards do not reduce the threats to an acceptable level, the only appropriate action is to withdraw from, or decline, the audit engagement.
Paragraphs 290.229 to 290.499 are intentionally left blank.
Reports that Include a Restriction on Use and Distribution
Introduction
290.500
The independence requirements in Section 290 apply to all audit engagements. However, in certain circumstances involving audit engagements where the report includes a restriction on use and distribution, and provided the conditions described in paragraphs 290.501 and 290.502 are met, the independence requirements in this section may be modified as provided in paragraphs 290.505 to 290.514. These paragraphs are only applicable to an audit engagement on special purpose financial statements —
 
(a)that is intended to provide a conclusion in positive or negative form that the financial statements are prepared in all material respects, in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework, including, in the case of a fair presentation framework, that the financial statements give a true and fair view or are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework; and
 
(b)where the audit report includes a restriction on use and distribution.
 
The modifications are not permitted in the case of an audit of financial statements required by law or regulation.
290.501
The modifications to the requirements of Section 290 are permitted if the intended users of the report —
 
(a)are knowledgeable as to the purpose and limitations of the report; and
 
(b)explicitly agree to the application of the modified independence requirements.
 
Knowledge as to the purpose and limitations of the report may be obtained by the intended users through their participation, either directly or indirectly through their representative who has the authority to act for the intended users, in establishing the nature and scope of the engagement. Such participation enhances the ability of the firm to communicate with intended users about independence matters, including the circumstances that are relevant to the evaluation of the threats to independence and the applicable safeguards necessary to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level, and to obtain their agreement to the modified independence requirements that are to be applied.
290.502
The firm shall communicate (for example, in an engagement letter) with the intended users regarding the independence requirements that are to be applied with respect to the provision of the audit engagement. Where the intended users are a class of users (for example, lenders in a syndicated loan arrangement) who are not specifically identifiable by name at the time the engagement terms are established, such users shall subsequently be made aware of the independence requirements agreed to by the representative (for example, by the representative making the firm’s engagement letter available to all users).
290.503
If the firm also issues an audit report that does not include a restriction on use and distribution for the same client, the provisions of paragraphs 290.500 to 290.514 do not change the requirement to apply the provisions of paragraphs 290.1 to 290.228 to that audit engagement.
290.504
The modifications to the requirements of Section 290 that are permitted in the circumstances set out above are described in paragraphs 290.505 to 290.514. Compliance in all other respects with the provisions of Section 290 is required.
Public Interest Entities
290.505
When the conditions set out in paragraphs 290.500 to 290.502 are met, it is not necessary to apply the additional requirements in paragraphs 290.100 to 290.228 that apply to audit engagements for public interest entities.
Related Entities
290.506
When the conditions set out in paragraphs 290.500 to 290.502 are met, references to audit client do not include its related entities. However, when the audit team knows or has reason to believe that a relationship or circumstance involving a related entity of the client is relevant to the evaluation of the firm’s independence of the client, the audit team shall include that related entity when identifying and evaluating threats to independence and applying appropriate safeguards.
Networks and Network Firms
290.507
When the conditions set out in paragraphs 290.500 to 290.502 are met, reference to the firm does not include network firms. However, when the firm knows or has reason to believe that threats are created by any interests and relationships of a network firm, they shall be included in the evaluation of threats to independence.
Financial Interests, Loans and Guarantees, Close Business Relationships and Family and Personal Relationships
290.508
When the conditions set out in paragraphs 290.500 to 290.502 are met, the relevant provisions set out in paragraphs 290.102 to 290.143 apply only to the members of the engagement team, their immediate family members and close family members.
290.509
In addition, a determination shall be made as to whether threats to independence are created by interests and relationships, as described in paragraphs 290.102 to 290.143, between the audit client and the following members of the audit team:
 
(a)Those who provide consultation regarding technical or industry specific issues, transactions or events;
 
(b)Those who provide quality control for the engagement, including those who perform the engagement quality control review.
 
An evaluation shall be made of the significance of any threats that the engagement team has reason to believe are created by interests and relationships between the audit client and others within the firm who can directly influence the outcome of the audit engagement, including those who recommend the compensation of, or who provide direct supervisory, management or other oversight of the audit engagement partner in connection with the performance of the audit engagement (including those at all successively senior levels above the engagement partner through to the individual who is the firm’s Senior or Managing Partner (Chief Executive or equivalent)).
290.510
An evaluation shall also be made of the significance of any threats that the engagement team has reason to believe are created by financial interests in the audit client held by individuals, as described in paragraphs 290.108 to 290.111 and paragraphs 290.113 to 290.115.
290.511
Where a threat to independence is not at an acceptable level, safeguards shall be applied to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level.
290.512
In applying the provisions set out in paragraphs 290.106 and 290.115 to interests of the firm, if the firm has a material financial interest, whether direct or indirect, in the audit client, the self‑interest threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Accordingly, the firm shall not have such a financial interest.
Employment with an Audit Client
290.513
An evaluation shall be made of the significance of any threats from any employment relationships as described in paragraphs 290.132 to 290.136. Where a threat exists that is not at an acceptable level, safeguards shall be applied to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of safeguards that might be appropriate include those set out in paragraph 290.134.
Provision of Non‑assurance Services
290.514
If the firm conducts an engagement to issue a restricted use and distribution report for an audit client and provides a non‑assurance service to the audit client, the provisions of paragraphs 290.154 to 290.228 shall be complied with, subject to paragraphs 290.504 to 290.507.
SECTION 291

INDEPENDENCE — OTHER ASSURANCE ENGAGEMENTS

CONTENTS

____________________________________________________________

 
 
Paragraph
Structure of Section
 
291.1
A Conceptual Framework Approach to Independence
 
291.4
Assurance Engagements
 
291.12
Assertion-Based Assurance Engagements
 
291.17
Direct Reporting Assurance Engagements
 
291.20
Reports that Include a Restriction on Use and Distribution
 
291.21
Multiple Responsible Parties
 
291.28
Documentation
 
291.29
Engagement Period
 
291.30
Breach of a Provision of this Section
 
291.33
Application of the Conceptual Framework Approach to Independence
 
291.100
Financial Interests
 
291.104
Loans and Guarantees
 
291.112
Business Relationships
 
291.118
Family and Personal Relationships
 
291.120
Employment with an Assurance Client
 
291.126
Recent Service with an Assurance Client
 
291.130
Serving as a Director or Officer of an Assurance Client
 
291.133
Long Association of Senior Personnel with an Assurance Client
 
291.137
Provision of Non‑assurance Services to an Assurance Client
 
291.138
 
Management Responsibilities
 
291.141
 
Other Considerations
 
291.146
Fees
 
291.149
 
Fees ― Relative Size
 
291.149
 
Fees ― Overdue
 
291.151
 
Contingent Fees
 
291.152
Gifts and Hospitality
 
291.156
Actual or Threatened Litigation
 
291.157
Structure of Section
291.1
This section addresses independence requirements for assurance engagements that are not audit or review engagements. Independence requirements for audit and review engagements are addressed in Section 290. If the assurance client is also an audit or review client, the requirements in Section 290 also apply to the firm, network firms and members of the audit or review team. In certain circumstances involving assurance engagements where the assurance report includes a restriction on use and distribution and provided certain conditions are met, the independence requirements in this section may be modified as provided in paragraphs 291.21 to 291.27.
291.2
Assurance engagements are designed to enhance intended users’ degree of confidence about the outcome of the evaluation or measurement of a subject matter against criteria. The Framework for Assurance Engagements (the Assurance Framework) issued by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, and adopted by the Public Accountants Oversight Committee for the purpose of the practice monitoring programme, describes the elements and objectives of an assurance engagement and identifies engagements to which Singapore Standards on Assurance Engagements (SSAEs) apply. For a description of the elements and objectives of an assurance engagement, refer to the Assurance Framework.
291.3
Compliance with the fundamental principle of objectivity requires being independent of assurance clients. In the case of assurance engagements, it is in the public interest and, therefore, required by this Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics, that members of assurance teams and firms be independent of assurance clients and that any threats that the firm has reason to believe are created by a network firm’s interests and relationships be evaluated. In addition, when the assurance team knows or has reason to believe that a relationship or circumstance involving a related entity of the assurance client is relevant to the evaluation of the firm’s independence from the client, the assurance team shall include that related entity when identifying and evaluating threats to independence and applying appropriate safeguards.
A Conceptual Framework Approach to Independence
291.4
The objective of this section is to assist firms and members of assurance teams in applying the conceptual framework approach described below to achieving and maintaining independence.
291.5
Independence comprises the following:
 
(a)Independence of Mind
 The state of mind that permits the expression of a conclusion without being affected by influences that compromise professional judgment, thereby allowing an individual to act with integrity and exercise objectivity and professional scepticism.
 
(b)Independence in Appearance
 The avoidance of facts and circumstances that are so significant that a reasonable and informed third party would be likely to conclude, weighing all the specific facts and circumstances, that a firm’s, or a member of the assurance team’s, integrity, objectivity or professional scepticism has been compromised.
291.6
The conceptual framework approach shall be applied by public accountants to —
 
(a)Identify threats to independence;
 
(b)Evaluate the significance of the threats identified; and
 
(c)Apply safeguards when necessary to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level.
 
When the public accountant determines that appropriate safeguards are not available or cannot be applied to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level, the public accountant shall eliminate the circumstance or relationship creating the threats or decline or terminate the assurance engagement.
 
A public accountant shall use professional judgment in applying this conceptual framework.
291.7
Many different circumstances, or combinations of circumstances, may be relevant in assessing threats to independence. It is impossible to define every situation that creates threats to independence and to specify the appropriate action. Therefore, this Code establishes a conceptual framework that requires firms and members of assurance teams to identify, evaluate, and address threats to independence. The conceptual framework approach assists public accountants in complying with the ethical requirements in this Code. It accommodates many variations in circumstances that create threats to independence and can deter a public accountant from concluding that a situation is permitted if it is not specifically prohibited.
291.8
Paragraphs 291.100 and onwards describe how the conceptual framework approach to independence is to be applied. These paragraphs do not address all the circumstances and relationships that create or may create threats to independence.
291.9
In deciding whether to accept or continue an engagement, or whether a particular individual may be a member of the assurance team, a firm shall identify and evaluate any threats to independence. If the threats are not at an acceptable level, and the decision is whether to accept an engagement or include a particular individual on the assurance team, the firm shall determine whether safeguards are available to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. If the decision is whether to continue an engagement, the firm shall determine whether any existing safeguards will continue to be effective to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level or whether other safeguards will need to be applied or whether the engagement needs to be terminated. Whenever new information about a threat comes to the attention of the firm during the engagement, the firm shall evaluate the significance of the threat in accordance with the conceptual framework approach.
291.10
Throughout this section, reference is made to the significance of threats to independence. In evaluating the significance of a threat, qualitative as well as quantitative factors shall be taken into account.
291.11
This section does not, in most cases, prescribe the specific responsibility of individuals within the firm for actions related to independence because responsibility may differ depending on the size, structure and organisation of a firm. The firm is required by SSQCs to establish policies and procedures designed to provide it with reasonable assurance that independence is maintained when required by relevant ethical standards.
Assurance Engagements
291.12
As further explained in the Assurance Framework, in an assurance engagement the public accountant expresses a conclusion designed to enhance the degree of confidence of the intended users (other than the responsible party) about the outcome of the evaluation or measurement of a subject matter against criteria.
291.13
The outcome of the evaluation or measurement of a subject matter is the information that results from applying the criteria to the subject matter. The term “subject matter information” is used to mean the outcome of the evaluation or measurement of a subject matter. For example, the Framework states that an assertion about the effectiveness of internal control (subject matter information) results from applying a framework for evaluating the effectiveness of internal control, such as COSO* or CoCo (criteria), to internal control, a process (subject matter).
 
__________________
*“Internal Control — Integrated Framework” The Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission.
“Guidance on Assessing Control — The CoCo Principles” Criteria of Control Board, The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.
291.14
Assurance engagements may be assertion‑based or direct reporting. In either case, they involve three separate parties: a public accountant, a responsible party and intended users.
291.15
In an assertion‑based assurance engagement, the evaluation or measurement of the subject matter is performed by the responsible party, and the subject matter information is in the form of an assertion by the responsible party that is made available to the intended users.
291.16
In a direct reporting assurance engagement, the public accountant either directly performs the evaluation or measurement of the subject matter, or obtains a representation from the responsible party that has performed the evaluation or measurement that is not available to the intended users. The subject matter information is provided to the intended users in the assurance report.
Assertion-Based Assurance Engagements
291.17
In an assertion‑based assurance engagement, the members of the assurance team and the firm shall be independent of the assurance client (the party responsible for the subject matter information, and which may be responsible for the subject matter). Such independence requirements prohibit certain relationships between members of the assurance team and —
 
(a)directors or officers; and
 
(b)individuals at the client in a position to exert significant influence over the subject matter information.
 
Also, a determination shall be made as to whether threats to independence are created by relationships with individuals at the client in a position to exert significant influence over the subject matter of the engagement. An evaluation shall be made of the significance of any threats that the firm has reason to believe are created by network firm* interests and relationships.
 
__________________
*See paragraphs 290.13 to 290.24 for guidance on what constitutes a network firm.
291.18
In the majority of assertion-based assurance engagements, the responsible party is responsible for both the subject matter information and the subject matter. However, in some engagements, the responsible party may not be responsible for the subject matter. For example, when a public accountant is engaged to perform an assurance engagement regarding a report that an environmental consultant has prepared about a company’s sustainability practices for distribution to intended users, the environmental consultant is the responsible party for the subject matter information but the company is responsible for the subject matter (the sustainability practices).
291.19
In assertion‑based assurance engagements where the responsible party is responsible for the subject matter information but not the subject matter, the members of the assurance team and the firm shall be independent of the party responsible for the subject matter information (the assurance client). In addition, an evaluation shall be made of any threats the firm has reason to believe are created by interests and relationships between a member of the assurance team, the firm, a network firm and the party responsible for the subject matter.
Direct Reporting Assurance Engagements
291.20
In a direct reporting assurance engagement, the members of the assurance team and the firm shall be independent of the assurance client (the party responsible for the subject matter). An evaluation shall also be made of any threats the firm has reason to believe are created by network firm interests and relationships.
Reports that Include a Restriction on Use and Distribution
291.21
In certain circumstances where the assurance report includes a restriction on use and distribution, and provided the conditions in this paragraph and in paragraph 291.22 are met, the independence requirements in this section may be modified. The modifications to the requirements of Section 291 are permitted if the intended users of the report —
 
(a)are knowledgeable as to the purpose, subject matter information and limitations of the report; and
 
(b)explicitly agree to the application of the modified independence requirements.
 
Knowledge as to the purpose, subject matter information, and limitations of the report may be obtained by the intended users through their participation, either directly or indirectly through their representative who has the authority to act for the intended users, in establishing the nature and scope of the engagement. Such participation enhances the ability of the firm to communicate with intended users about independence matters, including the circumstances that are relevant to the evaluation of the threats to independence and the applicable safeguards necessary to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level, and to obtain their agreement to the modified independence requirements that are to be applied.
291.22
The firm shall communicate (for example, in an engagement letter) with the intended users regarding the independence requirements that are to be applied with respect to the provision of the assurance engagement. Where the intended users are a class of users (for example, lenders in a syndicated loan arrangement) who are not specifically identifiable by name at the time the engagement terms are established, such users shall subsequently be made aware of the independence requirements agreed to by the representative (for example, by the representative making the firm’s engagement letter available to all users).
291.23
If the firm also issues an assurance report that does not include a restriction on use and distribution for the same client, the provisions of paragraphs 291.25 to 291.27 do not change the requirement to apply the provisions of paragraphs 291.1 to 291.157 to that assurance engagement. If the firm also issues an audit report, whether or not it includes a restriction on use and distribution, for the same client, the provisions of Section 290 shall apply to that audit engagement.
291.24
The modifications to the requirements of Section 291 that are permitted in the circumstances set out above are described in paragraphs 291.25 to 291.27. Compliance in all other respects with the provisions of Section 291 is required.
291.25
When the conditions set out in paragraphs 291.21 and 291.22 are met, the relevant provisions set out in paragraphs 291.104 to 291.132 apply to all members of the engagement team, and their immediate and close family members. In addition, a determination shall be made as to whether threats to independence are created by interests and relationships between the assurance client and the following other members of the assurance team:
 
(a)Those who provide consultation regarding technical or industry specific issues, transactions or events;
 
(b)Those who provide quality control for the engagement, including those who perform the engagement quality control review.
 
An evaluation shall also be made, by reference to the provisions set out in paragraphs 291.104 to 291.132, of any threats that the engagement team has reason to believe are created by interests and relationships between the assurance client and others within the firm who can directly influence the outcome of the assurance engagement, including those who recommend the compensation, or who provide direct supervisory, management or other oversight, of the assurance engagement partner in connection with the performance of the assurance engagement.
291.26
Even though the conditions set out in paragraphs 291.21 and 291.22 are met, if the firm had a material financial interest, whether direct or indirect, in the assurance client, the self‑interest threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Accordingly, the firm shall not have such a financial interest. In addition, the firm shall comply with the other applicable provisions of this section described in paragraphs 291.112 to 291.157.
291.27
An evaluation shall also be made of any threats that the firm has reason to believe are created by network firm interests and relationships.
Multiple Responsible Parties
291.28
In some assurance engagements, whether assertion‑based or direct reporting, there might be several responsible parties. In determining whether it is necessary to apply the provisions in this section to each responsible party in such engagements, the firm may take into account whether an interest or relationship between the firm, or a member of the assurance team, and a particular responsible party would create a threat to independence that is not trivial and inconsequential in the context of the subject matter information. This will take into account factors such as —
 
(a)The materiality of the subject matter information (or of the subject matter) for which the particular responsible party is responsible; and
 
(b)The degree of public interest associated with the engagement.
 
If the firm determines that the threat to independence created by any such interest or relationship with a particular responsible party would be trivial and inconsequential, it may not be necessary to apply all of the provisions of this section to that responsible party.
Documentation
291.29
Documentation provides evidence of the public accountant’s judgments in forming conclusions regarding compliance with independence requirements. The absence of documentation is not a determinant of whether a firm considered a particular matter nor whether it is independent.
 
The public accountant shall document conclusions regarding compliance with independence requirements, and the substance of any relevant discussions that support those conclusions. Accordingly —
 
(a)When safeguards are required to reduce a threat to an acceptable level, the public accountant shall document the nature of the threat and the safeguards in place or applied that reduce the threat to an acceptable level; and
 
(b)When a threat required significant analysis to determine whether safeguards were necessary and the public accountant concluded that they were not because the threat was already at an acceptable level, the public accountant shall document the nature of the threat and the rationale for the conclusion.
Engagement Period
291.30
Independence from the assurance client is required both during the engagement period and the period covered by the subject matter information. The engagement period starts when the assurance team begins to perform assurance services with respect to the particular engagement. The engagement period ends when the assurance report is issued. When the engagement is of a recurring nature, it ends at the later of the notification by either party that the professional relationship has terminated or the issuance of the final assurance report.
291.31
When an entity becomes an assurance client during or after the period covered by the subject matter information on which the firm will express a conclusion, the firm shall determine whether any threats to independence are created by —
 
(a)Financial or business relationships with the assurance client during or after the period covered by the subject matter information but before accepting the assurance engagement; or
 
(b)Previous services provided to the assurance client.
291.32
If a non‑assurance service was provided to the assurance client during or after the period covered by the subject matter information but before the assurance team begins to perform assurance services and the service would not be permitted during the period of the assurance engagement, the firm shall evaluate any threat to independence created by the service. If any threat is not at an acceptable level, the assurance engagement shall only be accepted if safeguards are applied to eliminate any threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)Not including personnel who provided the non‑assurance service as members of the assurance team;
 
(b)Having a professional accountant review the assurance and non‑assurance work as appropriate; and
 
(c)Engaging another firm to evaluate the results of the non‑assurance service or having another firm re‑perform the non‑assurance service to the extent necessary to enable it to take responsibility for the service.
 
However, if the non‑assurance service has not been completed and it is not practical to complete or terminate the service before the commencement of public accountancy services in connection with the assurance engagement, the firm shall only accept the assurance engagement if it is satisfied —
 
(i)The non-assurance service will be completed within a short period of time; or
 
(ii)The client has arrangements in place to transition the service to another provider within a short period of time.
 
During the service period, safeguards shall be applied when necessary. In addition, the matter shall be discussed with those charged with governance.
Breach of a Provision of this Section
291.33
When a breach of a provision of this section is identified, the firm shall terminate, suspend or eliminate the interest or relationship that caused the breach, and shall evaluate the significance of that breach and its impact on the firm’s objectivity and ability to issue an assurance report. The firm shall determine whether action can be taken that satisfactorily addresses the consequences of the breach. In making this determination, the firm shall exercise professional judgment and take into account whether a reasonable and informed third party, weighing the significance of the breach, the action to be taken and all the specific facts and circumstances available to the public accountant at that time, would be likely to conclude that the firm’s objectivity would be compromised such that the firm is unable to issue an assurance report.
291.34
If the firm determines that action cannot be taken to satisfactorily address the consequences of the breach, the firm shall, as soon as possible, inform the party that engaged the firm or those charged with governance, as appropriate, and take the steps necessary to terminate the assurance engagement in compliance with any applicable legal or regulatory requirements relevant to terminating the assurance engagement.
291.35
If the firm determines that action can be taken to satisfactorily address the consequences of the breach, the firm shall discuss the breach and the action it has taken or proposes to take with the party that engaged the firm or those charged with governance, as appropriate. The firm shall discuss the breach and the proposed action on a timely basis, taking into account the circumstances of the engagement and the breach.
291.36
If the party that engaged the firm or those charged with governance, as appropriate, do not concur that the action satisfactorily addresses the consequences of the breach, the firm shall take the steps necessary to terminate the assurance engagement in compliance with any applicable legal or regulatory requirements relevant to terminating the assurance engagement.
291.37
The firm shall document the breach, the actions taken, key decisions made and all the matters discussed with the party that engaged the firm or those charged with governance. When the firm continues with the assurance engagement, the matters to be documented shall also include the conclusion that, in the firm’s professional judgment, objectivity has not been compromised and the rationale for why the action taken satisfactorily addressed the consequences of the breach such that the firm could issue an assurance report.
Paragraphs 291.38 to 291.99 are intentionally left blank.
Application of the Conceptual Framework Approach to Independence
291.100
Paragraphs 291.104 to 291.157 describe specific circumstances and relationships that create or may create threats to independence. The paragraphs describe the potential threats and the types of safeguards that may be appropriate to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level and identify certain situations where no safeguards could reduce the threats to an acceptable level. The paragraphs do not describe all of the circumstances and relationships that create or may create a threat to independence. The firm and the members of the assurance team shall evaluate the implications of similar, but different, circumstances and relationships and determine whether safeguards, including the safeguards in paragraphs 200.11 to 200.14 can be applied when necessary to eliminate the threats to independence or reduce them to an acceptable level.
291.101
The paragraphs demonstrate how the conceptual framework approach applies to assurance engagements and are to be read in conjunction with paragraph 291.28 which explains that, in the majority of assurance engagements, there is one responsible party and that responsible party is the assurance client. However, in some assurance engagements there are two or more responsible parties. In such circumstances, an evaluation shall be made of any threats the firm has reason to believe are created by interests and relationships between a member of the assurance team, the firm, a network firm and the party responsible for the subject matter. For assurance reports that include a restriction on use and distribution, the paragraphs are to be read in the context of paragraphs 291.21 to 291.27.
291.102
Not used.
291.103
Paragraphs 291.104 to 291.119 contain references to the materiality of a financial interest, loan, or guarantee, or the significance of a business relationship. For the purpose of determining whether such an interest is material to an individual, the combined net worth of the individual and the individual’s immediate family members may be taken into account.
Financial Interests
291.104
Holding a financial interest in an assurance client may create a self‑interest threat. The existence and significance of any threat created depends on —
 
(a)The role of the person holding the financial interest;
 
(b)Whether the financial interest is direct or indirect; and
 
(c)The materiality of the financial interest.
291.105
Financial interests may be held through an intermediary (for example, a collective investment vehicle, estate or trust). The determination of whether such financial interests are direct or indirect will depend upon whether the beneficial owner has control over the investment vehicle or the ability to influence its investment decisions. When control over the investment vehicle or the ability to influence investment decisions exists, this Code defines that financial interest to be a direct financial interest. Conversely, when the beneficial owner of the financial interest has no control over the investment vehicle or ability to influence its investment decisions, this Code defines that financial interest to be an indirect financial interest.
291.106
If a member of the assurance team, a member of that individual’s immediate family, or a firm has a direct financial interest or a material indirect financial interest in the assurance client, the self‑interest threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Therefore, none of the following shall have a direct financial interest or a material indirect financial interest in the client:
 
(a)a member of the assurance team;
 
(b)a member of that individual’s immediate family member;
 
(c)the firm.
291.107
When a member of the assurance team has a close family member who the assurance team member knows has a direct financial interest or a material indirect financial interest in the assurance client, a self-interest threat is created. The significance of the threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The nature of the relationship between the member of the assurance team and the close family member; and
 
(b)The materiality of the financial interest to the close family member.
 
The significance of the threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)The close family member disposing, as soon as practicable, of all of the financial interest or disposing of a sufficient portion of an indirect financial interest so that the remaining interest is no longer material;
 
(ii)Having a professional accountant review the work of the member of the assurance team; and
 
(iii)Removing the individual from the assurance team.
291.108
If a member of the assurance team, a member of that individual’s immediate family, or a firm has a direct or material indirect financial interest in an entity that has a controlling interest in the assurance client, and the client is material to the entity, the self‑interest threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Therefore, none of the following shall have such a financial interest:
 
(a)a member of the assurance team;
 
(b)a member of that individual’s immediate family;
 
(c)the firm.
291.109
The holding by a firm or a member of the assurance team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, of a direct financial interest or a material indirect financial interest in the assurance client as a trustee creates a self‑interest threat. Such an interest shall not be held unless —
 
(a)Neither the trustee, nor an immediate family member of the trustee, nor the firm are beneficiaries of the trust;
 
(b)The interest in the assurance client held by the trust is not material to the trust;
 
(c)The trust is not able to exercise significant influence over the assurance client; and
 
(d)The trustee, an immediate family member of the trustee, or the firm cannot significantly influence any investment decision involving a financial interest in the assurance client.
291.110
Members of the assurance team shall determine whether a self‑interest threat is created by any known financial interests in the assurance client held by other individuals including —
 
(a)Partners and professional employees of the firm, other than those referred to above, or their immediate family members; and
 
(b)Individuals with a close personal relationship with a member of the assurance team.
 
Whether these interests create a self‑interest threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(i)The firm’s organisational, operating and reporting structure; and
 
(ii)The nature of the relationship between the individual and the member of the assurance team.
 
The significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(A)Removing the member of the assurance team with the personal relationship from the assurance team;
 
(B)Excluding the member of the assurance team from any significant decision-making concerning the assurance engagement; and
 
(C)Having a professional accountant review the work of the member of the assurance team.
291.111
If a firm, a member of the assurance team, or an immediate family member of the individual, receives a direct financial interest or a material indirect financial interest in an assurance client, for example, by way of an inheritance, gift or as a result of a merger, and such interest would not be permitted to be held under this section, then —
 
(a)If the interest is received by the firm, the financial interest shall be disposed of immediately, or a sufficient amount of an indirect financial interest shall be disposed of so that the remaining interest is no longer material; or
 
(b)If the interest is received by a member of the assurance team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, the individual who received the financial interest shall immediately dispose of the financial interest, or dispose of a sufficient amount of an indirect financial interest so that the remaining interest is no longer material.
Loans and Guarantees
291.112
A loan, or a guarantee of a loan, to a member of the assurance team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, or the firm from an assurance client that is a bank or a similar institution, may create a threat to independence. If the loan or guarantee is not made under normal lending procedures, terms and conditions, a self‑interest threat would be created that would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Accordingly, neither a member of the assurance team, a member of that individual’s immediate family, nor a firm shall accept such a loan or guarantee.
291.113
If a loan to a firm from an assurance client that is a bank or similar institution is made under normal lending procedures, terms and conditions and it is material to the assurance client or firm receiving the loan, it may be possible to apply safeguards to reduce the self-interest threat to an acceptable level. An example of such a safeguard is having the work reviewed by a professional accountant from a network firm that is neither involved with the assurance engagement nor received the loan.
291.114
A loan, or a guarantee of a loan, from an assurance client that is a bank or a similar institution to a member of the assurance team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, does not create a threat to independence if the loan or guarantee is made under normal lending procedures, terms and conditions. Examples of such loans include home mortgages, bank overdrafts, car loans and credit card balances.
291.115
If the firm or a member of the assurance team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, accepts a loan from, or has a borrowing guaranteed by, an assurance client that is not a bank or similar institution, the self‑interest threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level, unless the loan or guarantee is immaterial to both —
 
(a)the firm, or the member of the assurance team and the immediate family member; and
 
(b)the client.
291.116
Similarly, if the firm, or a member of the assurance team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, makes or guarantees a loan to an assurance client, the self-interest threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level, unless the loan or guarantee is immaterial to both —
 
(a)the firm, or the member of the assurance team and the immediate family member; and
 
(b)the client.
291.117
If a firm or a member of the assurance team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, has deposits or a brokerage account with an assurance client that is a bank, broker, or similar institution, a threat to independence is not created if the deposit or account is held under normal commercial terms.
Business Relationships
291.118
A close business relationship between a firm, or a member of the assurance team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, and the assurance client or its management arises from a commercial relationship or common financial interest and may create self‑interest or intimidation threats. Examples of such relationships include —
 
(a)Having a financial interest in a joint venture with either the client or a controlling owner, director or officer or other individual who performs senior managerial activities for that client;
 
(b)Arrangements to combine one or more services or products of the firm with one or more services or products of the client and to market the package with reference to both parties; and
 
(c)Distribution or marketing arrangements under which the firm distributes or markets the client’s products or services, or the client distributes or markets the firm’s products or services.
 
Unless any financial interest is immaterial and the business relationship is insignificant to the firm and the client or its management, the threat created would be so significant that no safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Therefore, unless the financial interest is immaterial and the business relationship is insignificant, the business relationship shall not be entered into, or shall be reduced to an insignificant level or terminated.
 
In the case of a member of the assurance team, unless any such financial interest is immaterial and the relationship is insignificant to that member, the individual shall be removed from the assurance team.
 
If the business relationship is between an immediate family member of a member of the assurance team and the assurance client or its management, the significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level.
291.119
The purchase of goods and services from an assurance client by the firm, or a member of the assurance team, or a member of that individual’s immediate family, does not generally create a threat to independence if the transaction is in the normal course of business and at arm’s length. However, such transactions may be of such a nature or magnitude that they create a self‑interest threat. The significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(a)Eliminating or reducing the magnitude of the transaction; and
 
(b)Removing the individual from the assurance team.
Family and Personal Relationships
291.120
Family and personal relationships between a member of the assurance team and a director or officer or certain employees (depending on their role) of the assurance client, may create self‑interest, familiarity or intimidation threats. The existence and significance of any threats will depend on a number of factors, including the individual’s responsibilities on the assurance team, the role of the family member or other individual within the client, and the closeness of the relationship.
291.121
When an immediate family member of a member of the assurance team —
 
(a)is a director or officer of the assurance client;
 
(b)is an employee in a position to exert significant influence over the subject matter information of the assurance engagement; or
 
(c) was in such a position during any period covered by the engagement or the subject matter information,
 
the threats to independence can only be reduced to an acceptable level by removing the individual from the assurance team. The closeness of the relationship is such that no other safeguards could reduce the threat to an acceptable level. Accordingly, no individual who has such a relationship shall be a member of the assurance team.
291.122
Threats to independence are created when an immediate family member of a member of the assurance team is an employee in a position to exert significant influence over the subject matter of the engagement. The significance of the threats will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The position held by the immediate family member; and
 
(b)The role of the professional on the assurance team.
 
The significance of the threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Removing the individual from the assurance team; and
 
(ii)Structuring the responsibilities of the assurance team so that the professional does not deal with matters that are within the responsibility of the immediate family member.
291.123
Threats to independence are created when a close family member of a member of the assurance team is —
 
(a)A director or officer of the assurance client; or
 
(b)An employee in a position to exert significant influence over the subject matter information of the assurance engagement.
 
The significance of the threats will depend on factors such as —
 
(i)The nature of the relationship between the member of the assurance team and the close family member;
 
(ii)The position held by the close family member; and
 
(iii)The role of the professional on the assurance team.
 
The significance of the threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(A)Removing the individual from the assurance team; and
 
(B)Structuring the responsibilities of the assurance team so that the professional does not deal with matters that are within the responsibility of the close family member.
291.124
Threats to independence are created when a member of the assurance team has a close relationship with a person who is not an immediate or close family member, but who is a director or officer or an employee in a position to exert significant influence over the subject matter information of the assurance engagement. A member of the assurance team who has such a relationship shall consult in accordance with firm policies and procedures. The significance of the threats will depend on factors such as —
 
(a)The nature of the relationship between the individual and the member of the assurance team;
 
(b)The position the individual holds with the client; and
 
(c)The role of the professional on the assurance team.
 
The significance of the threats shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(i)Removing the professional from the assurance team; and
 
(ii)Structuring the responsibilities of the assurance team so that the professional does not deal with matters that are within the responsibility of the individual with whom the professional has a close relationship.
291.125
Self-interest, familiarity or intimidation threats may be created by a personal or family relationship between —
 
(a)a partner or employee of the firm who is not a member of the assurance team; and
 
(b)a director or officer of the assurance client or an employee in a position to exert significant influence over the subject matter information of the assurance engagement.
 
The existence and significance of any threat will depend on factors such as —
 
(i)The nature of the relationship between the partner or employee of the firm and the director or officer or employee of the client;
 
(ii)The interaction of the partner or employee of the firm with the assurance team;
 
(iii)The position of the partner or employee within the firm; and
 
(iv)The role of the individual within the client.
 
The significance of any threat shall be evaluated and safeguards applied when necessary to eliminate the threat or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples of such safeguards include —
 
(A)Structuring the partner’s or employee’s responsibilities to reduce any potential influence over the assurance engagement; and
 
(B)Having a professional accountant review the relevant assurance work performed.
Employment with an Assurance Client
291.126
Familiarity or intimidation threats may be created if a director or officer of the assurance client, or an employee who is in a position to exert significant influence over the subject matter information of the assurance engagement, has been a member of the assurance team or partner of the firm.
291.127
If a former member of the assurance team or partner of the firm has joined the assurance client in such a position, the existence and significance of any familiarity or intimidation threats will depend on factors such as —