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Knowledge guide to UK auditing standards

A short history of the development of auditing standards in the UK, a brief overview of current standards and information on where to find the standards.

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).

All links in the timeline below show you our holdings of the material referred to. For information on where you can find online editions of current standards please see Sources for finding UK auditing standards


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).


The APC published a draft auditing standards booklet (see 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).


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.


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 SAS or APB Practice Note or Bulletin.


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 Auditing Practices Board (APB) issued International Standards on Auditing (UK and Ireland) which would apply to all audits of financial statements for periods commencing on or after 15 December 2004, replacing the Statements of Auditing Standards.


The International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) completed a project (known as the 'Clarity Project') to update and reformat the International Standards on Auditing (ISAs) which sought ‘to improve the understandability of the ISAs and make them more compatible with regulatory frameworks, including the EC's Statutory Audit Directive.’

The APB issued a press release on 13 October 2009 The APB issues new ISAs (UK and Ireland) announcing the publication of the new standards to replace the existing ISAs (UK and Ireland) and ISQC (UK and Ireland) 1. The new standards will apply 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.


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.


The FRC notes in its June 2016 Editorial and Consistency Amendments made to Final Draft Standards issued in April 2016 document that references to Standards (UK and Ireland) have been amended to Standards (UK). The Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA) has been appointed as the Competent Authority for Audit in Ireland and will be responsible for issuing standards for use in Ireland.


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.

Current UK auditing standards

2016 Auditing Standards

The International Standards on Auditing (UK) (ISAs (UK)) include objectives for the auditor, together with requirements and related application and other explanatory material. The ISAs (UK) are effective for audits of financial statements for periods commencing on or after 17 June 2019.

2009 Auditing Standards

The International Standards on Auditing (UK and Ireland) (ISAs (UK and Ireland)) contain basic principles and essential procedures, together with related guidance and explanatory material. The ISAs (UK and Ireland) are effective for audits of financial statements for periods ending on or after 15 December 2010.

FRC Ethical Standards on Auditing (ESs)

Ethical Standards (ESs) contain basic principles and essential procedures (identified in bold type lettering) together with related guidance in the form of explanatory and other material. The standards cover the integrity, objectivity and independence for auditors and apply in the audit of financial statements.’

Exposure Drafts

Standards are preceded by Exposure Drafts for public comment and responses. These responses are available for public consultation in the Library by prior arrangement. Please contact us for details by phone on +44 (0)20 7920 8620 or by email at library@icaew.com.

Standards for Investment Reporting (SIRs)

The APB also issues Statements of Investment Circular Reporting Standards (SIRs). These

contain basic principles and essential procedures with which reporting accountants are required to comply in the conduct of an engagement in connection with an investment circular (eg a prospectus listing particulars circular to shareholders or similar documents) prepared for issue in connection with a securities transaction governed wholly or in part by the laws and regulations of the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland.

Practice Notes and Bulletins

The APB issues Practice Notes to assist auditors in applying Auditing Standards of general application to particular circumstances and industries. Bulletins are issued to provide auditors with timely guidance on new or emerging issues.

Practice Notes and Bulletins are persuasive rather than prescriptive.

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.

Sources for finding UK auditing standards

FRC website

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) website provides full text access to all the publications including International Standards on Auditing, Ethical Standards, Exposure Drafts, the single SSRA, SIRs, Practice Notes, Bulletins and other papers such as consultation documents. Hard copies of FRC publications are published by Tolley.

Auditing and Reporting (Croner-i)

The reference book ‘Auditing and Reporting’ has been published annually since 1980. In 2021 it ceased being published in hard copy as a book and the content is now only available online as part of a subscription. The current publisher is Croner-i. The content includes:

  • International Standards on Auditing (UK & Ireland)
  • International Standard on Quality Control (UK & Ireland)
  • FRC Ethical Standard
  • Standards for Investment Reporting
  • Practice Notes
  • Bulletins.

Older editions include the APB Statements of Auditing Standards (SASs) that were in use before International Standards on Auditing were implemented in the UK and Ireland.

Please note that some APB documents are not reproduced in the book, but copies may be obtained from the FRC website or possibly be ordered from Tolley.

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