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Using an electronic signature to sign an audit report

This guide was developed by the Audit and Assurance Faculty with the Business Law Department in July 2020 and is based on the relevant laws and regulations that apply as at 1 July 2020.

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This guide from the Audit and Assurance Faculty and Business Law Department covers considerations for auditors around the use of electronic signatures in auditor’s reports in the UK. The principles may also apply to other reporting engagements. It is intended to provide practical guidance to ICAEW members. It is not intended to constitute legal advice. If in doubt, members are advised to seek legal advice.

Many auditors will be working remotely more and more, and this presents logistical challenges for the signing of the auditor’s report on financial statements. Auditors working out of their offices are faced with choosing between coordinating signing pages by post that use handwritten (‘wet ink’) signatures, or signing with a type of electronic signature.

Wet ink signatures are no longer required in most cases, and electronic signatures have been adopted by other industries for a number of years. Even so, uncertainty around the legal status of electronic signatures has contributed to hindering their use where legislation requires a document to be ‘signed’. However, a Law Commission report of September 2019, which was acknowledged by the UK government in March 2020, has provided greater clarity that a mode of signature other than wet ink is acceptable. This guide outlines the legal and regulatory environment, including the types of electronic signature, and provides quality management and other practical considerations around signing an auditor’s report using an electronic signature.

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