Rules Rather than Discretion in Audit Standards: Going-Concern Opinions in Belgium
Accounting Review, Vol. 84, September 2009
45 Pages Posted: 6 May 2009
We study going-concern (GC) reporting in Belgium to examine the effects associated with a shift toward rules-based audit standards. Beginning in 2000, a major revision in Belgian GC audit standards took effect. Among its changes, auditors must ascertain whether their clients are in compliance with two “financial-juridical criteria” for board of directors’ GC disclosures. In a study of a sample of private Belgian companies, we report two major findings. First, there is a decrease in auditor Type II errors, particularly by non-Big 6/5 auditors for their clients that fail both criteria. Second, there is an increase in Type I errors, again particularly for companies that fail both criteria. We also conduct an ex post analysis of the decrease in Type II errors and the increase in Type I errors. Our findings suggest the standard engenders both favorable and unfavorable effects, the net of which depends on the priorities assigned to the affected parties (creditors, auditors, companies and employees).
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