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Coronavirus Could Impact External Audits

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Feb 5, 2020

External auditors with clients in countries affected by the coronavirus could find their jobs difficult or even impossible to do, as travel becomes increasingly problematic, according to the Wall Street Journal

Each of the Big Four firms, due to concern for the health of its auditors, has, at the very least, advised that they put off travel to mainland China, if not cancelling it entirely. This is on top of numerous travel advisories issued by governments, as well as airlines cancelling flights. This means that actually going on site to do audit work has become a dicey proposition. While much of an audit can be done remotely, certain aspects, such as counting general inventory, require physical presence due to certain auditing standards. But if travel to that inventory is restricted, this work cannot be done, which means that the audit report can't be filed in accordance with regulations. This has led firms to consider either applying for an extension or coordinating with regulators to find some way to satisfy requirements without traveling to affected areas. 

The Journal said the SEC is currently monitoring the situation and, if the situation calls for it, might issue guidance or assistance similar to when it provided relief in the wake of Hurricane Michael in 2018. 

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