Prepopulating Audit Workpapers with Prior Year Assessments: Default Option Effects on Risk Rating Accuracy
45 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2016 Last revised: 24 May 2018
Date Written: May 1, 2018
Risk assessment is a critical audit task, as auditors’ accuracy therein affects audit effectiveness and financial reporting quality, as well as audit efficiency. We propose that risk assessment accuracy for client risks that have changed from the prior year is affected by the manner in which auditors access prior year risk assessments, specifically whether they face a default option created by the prepopulation of current year workpapers with those assessments. We find that auditors with prepopulated (versus blank) workpapers are less accurate for risks that have changed because they are more likely to stick with last year’s assessments, and also to work fast. We then show that auditor characteristics reflecting a preference for accuracy reduce, but do not eliminate, these effects. Finally, we provide exploratory evidence that sticking and working fast are associated with, respectively, motivated reasoning and superficial processing. Collectively, these findings suggest the critical need for an intervention, and also have implications outside auditing.
Keywords: Default options, prepopulation, prior year results, audit workpapers, risk assessment, audit effectiveness, audit efficiency, auditor characteristics
JEL Classification: M40, M42, D80, D91
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation