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The situation in Ukraine is changing daily, as are the reactions of the UK government and the international community. We look at some key considerations for auditors

Sanctions have been imposed on Russia and Belarus, and the UK Foreign Office currently advises against travel to Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and parts of surrounding countries. The combination of these factors will provide auditors with a number of significant challenges.

The tragic circumstances in Ukraine mean that, for many, there are far more important issues at hand and the possibility of ‘business as usual’ is not realistic, including carrying out audits. In many cases, offices of companies and auditors will be closed, and obtaining sufficient appropriate evidence will be impossible.

There will be different challenges for entities located in Russia and Belarus, where business will be continuing but under sanctions and other restrictions. Accordingly, there will be different impacts on auditing.

In this article, we give an overview of some of the key areas that auditors may need to consider.

Overall audit approach

Despite the unusual circumstances, the International Standards on Auditing (ISAs) (UK) still apply. Auditors must comply with them while considering how the war has an impact on their approach.

One area for consideration is the auditor’s risk assessment – taking into account that entities are operating in uncertain conditions.

The auditor’s risk assessment will need to reflect changes within the audited entity’s business and operating environment, and whether there are any new risks, significant or otherwise. For instance: disruption that may impact the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern; additional disclosures required on the impact of the war; and changes to forecasts, future plans or even business model or strategy. See information from the FRC

The situation may also have an impact on the auditor’s conduct of audit work, when accumulating sufficient appropriate audit evidence (see information from the FRC). For example, it is likely to affect the actual physical or electronic obtaining of audit evidence – in particular, with respect to group audits with components in countries affected.

Know your client (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) checks

Firms and responsible individuals are required to gain an understanding of the directors and Ultimate Beneficial Owners of entities when taking on a new client. These checks will require further scrutiny, including that of checks carried out previously, in case the individuals involved are on the sanctions lists – therefore affecting continuance as well as acceptance decisions.

All businesses, organisations and individuals, including accountants in practice, have an obligation to report information about sanctions breaches to the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI). Reports to the OFSI must be made as soon as practicable if you know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a person is subject to financial sanctions. You are required not to deal with that person and to freeze funds or economic resources that you are in possession or control of, or that you are otherwise dealing with. Firms should consider consulting their legal counsel or external solicitors.

Checks will need to be extended to whether any debt has been received via a sanctioned bank. The stopping of payments may have going concern implications.

ICAEW’s article Russia sanctions: reputational risk cannot be overstated urges members to look hard at any connections with Russia among their clients and perform careful due diligence, thinking about “not just the letter of the law, but the spirit, too”. Some ICAEW members are rescreening clients, looking at sanctions lists beyond the UK’s and considering clients with ties to the Russian regime, even if they do not appear on sanctions lists.

Non-compliance with laws and regulations (NOCLAR)

Whether carrying out the risk assessment as part of planning, audit procedures or reporting, compliance with laws and regulations is likely to prove a difficult area for management and auditors alike. With frequent changes to sanctions and connected restrictions, and steps to reduce reliance on Russian oil and gas supplies, it will often be difficult for management to ensure that they have complied with laws and regulations, let alone articulate how they have complied.

Correspondingly, auditors fulfilling their responsibilities under ISAs with respect to laws and regulations, including the requirement to report on the extent to which the audit was able to detect irregularities, including fraud, will be auditing and reporting on a fast-changing situation. This may be the case right up to the point of signing the auditor’s report, depending on the period end of the entity and timing of the audit. Auditors will need to be vigilant and maintain regular communication with management in order to monitor NOCLAR up to the signing of the auditor’s report.

See information from the FRC.

Post balance sheet events

For companies with 31 December 2021 year ends, the war in Ukraine would be considered a non-adjusting event, as the conditions did not exist at the end of the reporting period. Auditors will need to ensure that management’s disclosures around any material non-adjusting event, and related estimates of its financial effect, are appropriately disclosed in the notes to the financial statements.

ICAEW’s Financial Reporting Faculty’s article War in Ukraine: the corporate reporting implications considers the consequences of sanctions on companies’ financial and non-financial reporting, including post balance sheet events.

See more information from the FRC. 

Impairment of Russian and Belarusian assets

With cash at banks and investment assets frozen by ‘Western’ banks and, in some cases, tangible assets such as properties and yachts being seized, auditors will need to review management’s assessment of impairment indicators.

Other assets that might be impaired include loans or other debts due from companies in Ukraine, Russia or Belarus, where there may now be uncertainty over the ability or willingness to repay.

Some assets may be based on accounting estimates, where an underlying model relies on assumptions that include macroeconomic factors. These factors have been altered considerably by the war and related sanctions. This might include the higher interest rate set by the Central Bank of Russia. Auditors will need to assess whether the assumptions underlying these models are still appropriate and, correspondingly, that assets (or liabilities) based on these models are not materially misstated. See ISA (UK) 540 Auditing Accounting Estimates and Related Disclosures

Going concern

Management of entities affected by the crisis, including those with operations in Ukraine, will need to evaluate the impact on the going concern assessment and revisit this as necessary. The auditor, correspondingly, will need to demonstrate professional scepticism and judgement when auditing going concern, to consider whether management has taken all relevant factors into account. These factors are likely to include:

Financing and funding

There may be going concern implications if a company, charity or other entity relies on financing, donations or other funding from individuals who have been sanctioned or have had assets frozen or seized. UK entities may be dependent on the support of Ukrainian, Russian or Belarusian companies and may no longer be able to rely on the continuation of that support. The auditor should challenge how this affects management’s going concern assessment.

Companies that have put a stop on sales to the Russian market

Certain transnational companies have stopped trading with the Russian consumer base. This will affect their sales in the current period and potentially sales forecasts for the next period at least, and may have a knock-on effect for their suppliers in turn.

The companies may also be voluntarily breaching contracts and may be subject to litigation or other demands for compensation, contractual or otherwise.

With many countries preventing Russian airlines using their airspace or no longer flying through Russian airspace, certain industries such as tourism may also be adversely affected where tourist numbers are down or where longer flight times – and hence increased fuel requirements – make certain destinations uneconomical.

Business disruption, including supply-chain issues

Interruption of supplies of commodities, or rising prices due to reduced supply (including instances both where the Russian government has reduced supplies, and where other countries are refusing supplies is likely to impact supply chains adversely. This might include oil and gas, as well as the supply of electricity, but also extends to other commodities such as nickel, grain and fertiliser.

Availability of petrol and higher prices is likely to affect many companies’ cost base and cause disruption to transportation. Auditors will need to consider the impact on clients’ business models, cash flows and ability to continue as a going concern.

Disruption to electronic payment systems, including providers such as Visa, Mastercard or SWIFT, will also cause operational issues that could affect receipts as well as payments.

Additionally, the elevated threat of cyber attacks may cause further disruption, depending on whether the audited entity is in an industry or sector more prone to being targeted.

Insurance cover of assets

Auditors may also need to consider the effect on going concern of insurance companies refusing to cover damage or loss of a client’s assets. This may be the case when a loss event is considered to be an ‘act of war’. This may not be restricted to the use of conventional weaponry, but also include retaliatory cyber attacks.

Obtaining trade credit insurance may also be more difficult, given the current situation.

Currency valuation

The Russian rouble has already devalued considerably, due to sanctions and other economic factors. Companies revaluing roubles to another reporting currency may be subject to material exchange rate losses.

Some sanctions have been placed on Belarus for its complicity in the war. Management and auditors should also consider the implications if this causes a devaluation of the Belarusian rouble.

Investments in Russian entities

Some transnational companies have indicated that they will be divesting investments in Russian entities. They may only be able to do so at unfavourable rates, may have to give up holdings entirely or may be prevented by Russia’s own countermeasures to the sanctions.

See information from the FRC

Group audits

There are likely to be a number of impacts on group audits where one or more components are located in Ukraine, Russia or Belarus.

Physical access to countries affected and access to working papers

Advice from the UK Foreign Office will apply here. For component audits planned to take place in Ukraine, Russia or Belarus, there will need to be a rethink. A sensible approach will also need to be developed for other areas subject to UK Foreign Office advice, where either conflict or refugee movement make it impossible to function with normality.

If an auditor is unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence, through lack of physical access, inability to audit or hold meetings by video, or to access working papers electronically, they may have to qualify the auditor’s report due to a limitation on the scope of the audit.


There will be an impact on consolidating entities in Ukraine, Russia or Belarus if there are severe long-term restrictions over control of either the entity itself or significant assets held by the entity.

A separate article, Guide to the impact of the war in Ukraine on group auditors, gives further detail on considerations for group auditors.

Member firms in Russia

Some firms have severed ties with member firms in Russia that were part of their network. This may affect planning of a group audit, where a UK engagement team planned to use the member firm for local auditing in Russia.

See information from the FRC. 

Changes to the auditor’s report

In situations where the auditor is required to report on a material uncertainty related to going concern, or is required to modify the audit opinion, such as a limitation on the scope of the audit, the Audit and Assurance Faculty’s guides on auditor’s report wording may be helpful.

Auditors required to report on Key Audit Matters (KAMs) under ISA (UK) 701 may consider that the impact of the war in Ukraine constitutes a KAM and describe additional audit procedures that were necessary as a result of the war. Additional information may also be required in the ‘Scope of the audit’ section around group audits.

Visit ICAEW’s ‘Ukraine crisis: central resource hub.

Audit & Beyond

This article was first featured in the April 2022 edition of Audit & Beyond.

Audit & Assurance April 2022 cover