Joint audit and audit quality

84 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2021

Date Written: August 27, 2021


This review explores behavioural perspectives to provide insights on a contribution of joint audit to audit quality. We suggest joint audit to act as a means to reduce cognitive bias and enhance professional scepticism in financial statement audits. With reference to social and psychological factors impacting the quality of auditor hypothesis formation and the search for corroborating evidence, we suggest that heuristics and cognitive bias particularly affect the application and maintenance of an appropriate level of professional scepticism and the gathering of sufficient appropriate evidence to support managerial assertions during audit.

Auditors conduct their work under a complex raft of heuristics, and social and cognitive influences, which affect auditors’ impartiality and performance with implications for audit quality. The impact of social and psychological factors on auditor independence and competence is suggested to compromise a single engagement team to an extent that can be less pronounced under appropriately designed joint audit arrangements. We base our insights on a review of research on the impact of bias on judgement formation and professional scepticism during audit, and observations from auditing practice.

Joint audits can provide beneficial synergy including higher scepticism, higher accountability, bias mitigation (Marnet, Barone and Gwilliam, 2018), peer consultation and review, and, overall, higher joint expertise (Biehl, Bleibtreu and Stefani, 2021). We suggest that joint audits can also contribute to enhancing audit quality by reducing auditor dependence (Velte, 2017).

We further reflect on the UK White Paper (BEIS, 2021) proposals drafted in response to recommendations made by three independent reviews commissioned by the UK Government in 2018 (Kingman, 2018; Brydon, 2019; CMA, 2019). The focus of this review is on the potential for joint audit to enhance audit quality by reinforcing professional scepticism and strengthening the audit review process through bias mitigation.

Assessing and comparing quality outcomes remains challenging – especially when studying different markets, different jurisdictions, and different types of companies. Previous studies focused on accruals or fraud, with noted methodological challenges and typically ambiguous results for empirical investigations (e.g., Jones, 1991; DeFond and Park, 2001; Francis and Wang, 2008; Francis et al., 2009; Ratzinger-Sakel et al., 2013; Velte, 2017).

The contribution of joint audit to audit quality through the mitigation of cognitive bias during audit is a largely overlooked area in the prior literature, although investigations on the effects of bias and heuristics on audit quality in the single auditor context have a long history. Thus, this review complements the existing literature and provides a new perspective to assessing a contribution of joint audit to audit quality. Building on the extant literature on single audit arrangements, it is suggested that the impact of bias and heuristics on audit quality can be less pronounced under joint audit arrangements than for a single engagement team. Bias mitigation from appropriately designed joint audit arrangements has the potential to allow for a more consistent application of an appropriate level of professional scepticism, a characteristic of critical importance to audit quality.

Keywords: Joint audit, audit quality, professional scepticism, bias, heuristics

JEL Classification: D02, E61, G41, M42, M48

Suggested Citation

Marnet, Oliver, Joint audit and audit quality (August 27, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Oliver Marnet (Contact Author)

University of Southampton ( email )

University of Southampton
Southampton Business School
United Kingdom

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