Direct Confirmation Procedure

  1.  The verification of balances by direct communication with debtors is theoretically the best method of ascertaining whether the balances are genuine, accurately stated and undisputed, particularly where the internal control system is weak. The utility of this procedure depends to a large extent on receiving adequate response to confirmation requests. Therefore, in situations where the auditor has reasons to believe, based on his past experience or other factors, he may limit his reliance on direct confirmation procedure and place greater reliance on the other auditing procedures.
  2.  The auditor employs direct confirmation procedure with the consent of the entity under audit. There may be situations where the management of the entity requests the auditor not to seek confirmation from certain debtors. In such cases, the auditor should consider whether there are valid grounds for such a request. In appropriate cases, the auditor may also need to reconsider the nature, timing and extent of his audit procedures including the degree of planned reliance on management’s representations.
  3.  The confirmation date, the method of requesting confirmations, and the particular debtors from whom confirmation of balances is to be obtained are to be determined by the auditor.
  4.  The debtors may be requested to confirm the balances either as at the date of the balance sheet, or as at any other selected date which is reasonably close to the date of the balance sheet. The date should be settled by the auditor in consultation with the entity.
  5.  The form of requesting confirmation from the debtors may be either  the ‘positive’ form of request, wherein the debtor is requested to respond whether or not he is in agreement with the balance shown, or the ‘negative’ from of request wherein the debtor is requested to respond
    only if he disagrees with the balance shown.
  6.  The use of the positive form is preferable when individual account balances are relatively large, or where the internal controls are weak, or where the auditor has reasons to believe that there may be a substantial number of accounts in dispute or inaccuracies or irregularities.
  7.  The negative form is useful when internal controls are considered to be effective, or when a large number of small balances are involved, or when the auditor has no reason to believe that the debtors are unlikely to respond. If the negative rather than the positive form of confirmation is used, the number of requests sent and the extent of the other auditing procedures to be  performed should normally be greater so as to enable the auditor to obtain the same degree of assurance with respect to the debtor balances.
  8.  In many situations, it may be appropriate to use the positive form for debtors with large balances and the negative form for debtors with small balances.
  9.  Where the number of debtors is small, all of them may be circularized, but if the debtors are numerous, this may be done on a sample basis. The sample list of debtors to be circularized, in order to be meaningful, should be based on a complete list of all debtor accounts.  While selecting the debtors to be circularized, special attention should be paid to accounts with large balances, accounts with old outstanding balances, and customer accounts with credit balances. In addition, the auditor should consider accounts in respect of which provisions have been made or balances have been written off during the period under audit of earlier years and request confirmation of the balance without considering the provision or write-off. The auditor may also consider including in his sample some of the accounts with nil balances. The nature of the entity’s business (e.g., the type of sales made or services rendered) and the type of third parties with whom the entity deals, should also be considered in selecting the sample, so that the auditor can reach appropriate conclusions about the debtors as a whole.
  10.  In appropriate cases, the debtor may sent a copy of his complete ledger account for a specific period as shown in the entity’s books.
  11. The method of selection of the debtors to be circularised should not be revealed to the entity until the trial balance of the debtors’ ledger is handed over to the auditor. A list of debtors selected for confirmation should be given to the entity for preparing requests for confirmation which should be properly addressed and duly stamped. The auditor should maintain strict control to ensure the correctness and proper despatch of request letters. In the alternative, the auditor may request the client to furnish duly authorised confirmation letters and the auditor may fill in the names, addresses and the amounts relating to debtors selected by him and mail the letters directly. It should be ensured that confirmations as well as any undelivered letters are returned to the auditor and not to the client.
  12.  Any discrepancies revealed by the confirmations received or by the additional tests carried out by the auditor may have a bearing on other accounts not included in the original sample. The entity should be asked to investigate and reconcile the discrepancies. In addition, the auditor should also consider what further tests he can carry out in order to satisfy himself as to the correctness of the amount of debtors taken as a whole.
    (Note: Students may note that AAS 30, “External Confirmation” also deals with the subject.)
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