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Researching UK auditing standards

Research guide

Updated: 02 Feb 2023 Update History

In this guide, we provide information on how to obtain current and historical UK auditing standards, and give an overview of their history and development.

How the Library can help

The ICAEW Library has compiled this guide to help everyone to find the auditing standards they need.

The Library enquiry team can also help ICAEW members, ACA students and other authorised users with requests for auditing standards, and related information. Library staff can consult print sources held in our collection on your behalf, and we can loan books and supply documents from our collection by email or post.

If you would like to know more about the information we can offer, please call us on +44 (0)20 7920 8620, email library@icaew.com or contact us through webchat.

GAAS (Generally Accepted Auditing Standards)

The acronym GAAS stands for ‘Generally Accepted Auditing Standards’, and describes a set of formal and informal rules (that can be written or unwritten) acknowledged as the basis for auditors to conduct their work and have the quality of their work assessed by. These include legislation, pronouncements from professional or standard setting bodies, legal judgements in cases involving auditors, and practitioners' ‘internal’ standards that are accepted practice even when no formal public pronouncements have been issued.

This guide focuses specifically on the UK auditing standards (and related guidance) issued by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) and its predecessor bodies, the Auditing Practices Committee (APC) and the Auditing Practices Board (APB). Currently, these take the form of adapted versions of standards first issued by the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB), along with a number of supplementary pronouncements.

The ICAEW Library maintains a separate guide to researching international auditing standards.

Current UK auditing standards

An overview of the types of FRC audit and assurance pronouncements currently in force — and where they can be found — is set out below.

More information on these documents, and the associated regulatory regime, can be found in the FRC’s Scope and Authority of Audit and Assurance Pronouncements document, issued in June 2016.

International Standards on Auditing (UK)

Since December 2004, the FRC has issued adapted versions of International Standards on Auditing (originally issued by the IAASB) for use in the UK. These are known as International Standards on Auditing (UK) — or ISAs (UK) — and contain supplementary material not found in the original IAASB standards. ISAs (UK) are updated or revised quite frequently, and have gone through a number of iterations.

Each ISA (UK) sets out an objective for the auditor and details certain requirements with which the auditor must comply, where relevant, in order to meet their objective. The standards also provide application and other explanatory material which is not prescriptive, but which is intended to assist auditors in interpreting and applying the relevant requirements, and meeting their objectives.

All of the ISAs (UK) currently in force are available to download in full from the FRC website, free-of-charge. ISAs (UK) are also included in the consolidated print volumes of FRC Ethical and Auditing Standards which are published periodically by Tolley. The ICAEW Library holds copies of these volumes, as published. In addition, Tolley publishes print copies of some individual ISAs (UK); these are also collected by the Library.

International Standards on Quality Management (UK)

As well as ISAs (UK), the FRC also issues standards on audit quality. These currently take the form of International Standards on Quality Management (UK) — also known as ISQMs (UK) — which are adapted versions of the ISQMs issued by the IAASB. ISQMs (UK) replaced the previous FRC-issued quality control standard, the International Standard on Quality Control (ISQC) (UK) 1, as of 15 December 2022.

ISQMs (UK) deal with firms' responsibilities with regard to designing, implementing and operating a system of quality management for audits or reviews of financial statements, and other assurance or related services engagements. They set out objectives for firms, detail various requirements designed to enable them meet those objectives, and provide related guidance in the form of application and other explanatory and introductory material.

The current ISQMs (UK) are available to download in full from the FRC website, free-of-charge. FRC audit quality standards are also included in the consolidated print volumes of FRC Ethical and Auditing Standards which are published periodically by Tolley. The ICAEW Library holds copies of these volumes, as published.

Ethical Standard

The FRC's Ethical Standard — which applies to the audit of financial statements and other public interest assurance engagements — sets out certain overarching principles and supporting ethical provisions, as well as a number of specific requirements relevant to particular circumstances.

The latest version of the Ethical Standard, along with associated notes and guidance, is freely available to download in full from the FRC website. The standard is also included in the consolidated print volumes of FRC Ethical and Auditing Standards which are published periodically by Tolley. The ICAEW Library holds copies of these volumes, as published.

Practice Notes and Bulletins

The FRC issues Practice Notes to assist auditors in applying the above standards to particular circumstances and industries. It also issues Bulletins, which provide auditors with timely guidance on new or emerging issues. Both Practice Notes and Bulletins are persuasive rather than prescriptive.

All of the Practice Notes and Bulletins which are currently in force are available to download in full from the FRC website, free-of-charge. In addition, some Practice Notes and Bulletins are published in print format; these are collected by the ICAEW Library.

Staff Guidance Notes

In addition to the aforementioned Practice Notes and Bulletins, the FRC issues Staff Guidance Notes, which provide further support to those applying ISAs (UK) and the Ethical Standard. These are intended to assist practitioners in making judgments with regard to the standards.

All of the current Staff Guidance Notes are available to download in full from the FRC website, free-of-charge. In addition, some Staff Guidance Notes are published in print format; these are collected by the ICAEW Library.

Other standards and guidance

Further to the 'core' standards and guidance outlined above, the FRC also issues a number of other standards and guidance documents on matters relating to audit and other assurance engagements. These are:

  • Professional Judgement Guidance;
  • International Standard on Assurance Engagements (UK);
  • Standard for Providing Assurance on Client Assets to the Financial Conduct Authority;
  • Standards for Investment Reporting (SIRs);
  • Review Standards for Interim Financial Statements;
  • Briefing Paper on Professional Scepticism.

The latest version(s) of each of the above, as well as more information on their respective scopes and purposes, are freely available via the FRC website. Print copies (as published) are also collected by the ICAEW Library.

Superseded standards

Over the years, UK auditing standards have existed in various different forms and iterations, issued by a number of bodies. Information on how to access superseded standards is set out below.

For a chronological outline of the history and development of UK auditing standards, please see the timeline further down the page.

Withdrawn standards freely available online

Some more-recently superseded standards and guidelines are freely available on the FRC website, via the below links:

Withdrawn standards in the ICAEW Library collection

The ICAEW Library holds the majority of UK auditing standards, going back to the 1980s. We can supply copies through our document supply service, subject to licensing restrictions.

Our collection covers standards issued by the FRC and those issued by its predecessor bodies, the Auditing Practices Board (APB) and the Auditing Practices Committee (APC) — including:

  • ISAs (UK / UK and Ireland);
  • ISQCs (UK / UK and Ireland);
  • Ethical Standards;
  • Practice Notes;
  • Bulletins;
  • SIRs;
  • Statements of Standards for Reporting Accountants (SSRAs);
  • Statements of Auditing Standards (SASs);
  • Auditing Standards and Guidelines (1980–1991).

Many superseded pronouncements which are no longer available via the FRC website can be found in historical editions of the annual reference book ‘Auditing and Reporting’ (most recently published by Croner-i), which ceased being published in print in 2021. Each edition reproduces the full texts of all relevant pronouncements extant in April of the year of publication. Older editions include the Statements of Auditing Standards (SASs) that were in use before International Standards on Auditing were implemented in the UK. The ICAEW Library holds a copy of every print edition from 1980 to 2019/20 — full holdings information can be found on the Library catalogue.  

Superseded FRC pronouncements on auditing can also be found in the consolidated print volumes of standards and guidelines published periodically by the FRC itself since 2005. See the Library catalogue for information on our holdings of these volumes.

In addition to the consolidated volumes mentioned above, the ICAEW Library holds copies of many individual auditing standards and guidance documents.

If you are unable to access a particular historical pronouncement, please request a copy from the Library on +44 (0)20 7920 8620, or via email at library@icaew.com.

Consultation papers and Exposure Drafts

New or revised UK auditing standards (and, where appropriate, new or revised guidance) are developed via a process of consultation, whereby Exposure Drafts are issued to seek responses from interested parties.

Exposure Drafts and other documents relating to open and closed consultations going back several years are available via the FRC website. The site also offers users the option of signing up for email news alerts to keep up with developments.

Copies of older Exposure Drafts, as well as responses to them, are held in the Library collection and are available for public consultation by prior arrangement. Please contact us for details by phone on +44 (0)20 7920 8620, or by email at library@icaew.com.

History and development of UK auditing standards

The timeline below provides a brief overview of developments since 1976. Prior to this time, auditing guidance was published by the professional bodies (for example, the ICAEW published statements on auditing and reporting in the Members' Handbook).

1976

The Auditing Practices Committee (APC) was established by the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (CCAB) in March 1976 to formalise the existing co-operation of the CCAB bodies on audit practices.

At the time of its establishment the role of the Auditing Practices Committee was defined as:

to provide a framework of practice for the exercise of an auditor's individual judgement, by proposing for the approval of the Councils of the governing bodies statements of explanation and guidance on auditing, and definitive statements of auditing standards.

The Accountant, 4 March 1976

1978

The APC published a draft auditing standards booklet (see the online catalogue entry) on 24 May 1978 with an explanatory foreword, three auditing standards and seven auditing guidelines. The standards and guidelines were conceived as a codification of existing best practice. The auditing guidelines were intended to suggest applications of the standards in particular cases.

Over a two year period of consultation the APC received more than 1,500 pages of responses from 240 sources (‘Will Audit Standards Standardise Audits?’, The Accountant, 24 April 1980).

1980–1991

The first standards and guidelines were published in April 1980, and used a numbering sequence starting with 101 for the standards and 201 for the guidelines (to avoid any confusion with the existing SSAPs). The first standard (101) was ‘The auditor's operational standard’ and the first guideline (201) was ‘Planning, controlling and recording’.

Although new standards had been issued, the older guidance was not entirely replaced at this time. The initial volume of Auditing standards and guidelines published in 1980 stated that the existing pronouncements on audit matters approved by the respective councils of the accountancy bodies should be considered by their members as having the same status as auditing guidelines and would remain in force until withdrawn.

In 1989 the APC began to issue a series of ‘Practice Notes’, which were intended as good practice guidelines to assist auditors in applying auditing standards for particular circumstances or industries. The first Practice Note (‘Lloyd's syndicates, brokers and underwriting agents – interim guidance on ad hoc reporting’) was issued by the APC in December 1989.

1991–2004

The Auditing Practices Committee (APC) was restructured in 1991 and reconstituted as the Auditing Practices Board (APB).

The APC Practice Notes already in existence at this time were adopted by the APB and it was stated that they would remain in force until replaced by a Statement of Auditing Standard (SAS), or an APB Practice Note or Bulletin.

2004

In 2004 the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) took over responsibility for the setting of audit standards through the APB which became a subsidiary board of the FRC. The FRC was also charged with monitoring and enforcing these auditing standards.

On 22 December 2004 the APB issued International Standards on Auditing (UK and Ireland), based on the International Standards on Auditing (ISAs) issued by the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB). These new standards would apply to all audits of financial statements for periods commencing on or after 15 December 2004, replacing the Statements of Auditing Standards.

2009

At the end of 2008, the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) completed a project (known as the 'Clarity Project'), which aimed ‘to improve the understandability of the ISAs and make them more compatible with regulatory frameworks, including the EC's Statutory Audit Directive’. The project resulted in a number of changes to the IAASB's suite of ISAs.

In light of this, the APB issued new standards to replace the existing ISAs (UK and Ireland) and ISQC (UK and Ireland) 1. The publication of these standards was announced on 13 October 2009, in a press release entitled 'The APB issues new ISAs (UK and Ireland)'. The new standards applied to audits of financial statements for periods ending on or after 15 December 2010.

The APB also issued a staff paper, 'Summary of changes in the new ISAs (UK and Ireland)', which was intended to assist those seeking to understand the changes.

2012

In July 2012, as part of a reform of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), the Auditing Practices Board (APB) was replaced by the Audit & Assurance Council. Responsibility for setting auditing standards was assumed by the FRC Board, with the Audit and Assurance Council acting in an advisory role to the FRC Board and its Codes and Standards Committee.

2016

In June 2016 the FRC reissued its suite of accounting standards. At this time, the International Auditing Standards (UK and Ireland) and the International Standard on Quality Control (UK and Ireland) became the International Auditing Standards (UK) and the International Standard on Quality Control (UK). The Irish Auditing & Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA) has been appointed as the Competent Authority for Audit in Ireland, and is responsible for issuing standards for use in Ireland.

The suite of auditing standards issued by the FRC in 2016 contained a number of amendments made in order incorporate certain provisions of the Audit Regulation and Audit Directive issued by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union in April 2014. Many of these related to the audit of public interest entities (PIEs).

2019

Following an Independent Review of the FRC led by Sir John Kingman, the Business Secretary Greg Clark announced in March 2019 that the FRC will be replaced with a new regulator called the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority (ARGA). Upon its establishment, ARGA will inherit responsibility for setting and maintaining UK auditing standards. In January 2022, the FRC stated that it expects ARGA to be created in 2023/24.

Later in 2019, the FRC issued a major revision to its Ethical Standard and revised versions of the following standards:

  • ISQC (UK) 1: Quality Control for Firms that Perform Audits and Reviews of Financial Statements, and other Assurance and Related Services Engagements;
  • ISA (UK) 250 Section A: Consideration of Laws and Regulations in an Audit of Financial Statements;
  • ISA (UK) 250 Section B: The Auditor's Statutory Right and Duty to Report to Regulators of Public Interest Entities and Regulators of Other Entities in the Financial Sector;
  • ISA (UK) 701: Communicating Key Audit Matters in the Independent Auditor's Report;
  • ISA (UK) 720: The Auditor’s Responsibilities Relating to Other Information.

A press release, 'FRC moves to strengthen auditor independence and ban conflicts of interest', was issued on 17 December 2019 outlining the changes.

2021

Related resources

A list of other resources relevant to audit and assurance in the UK is set out below. Please note that this list is not exhaustive.

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