In this study, we use a survey instrument to obtain perspectives from over 700 auditors about present-day audit workloads, the relationship between audit workloads and audit quality, and auditing as a career. Our findings indicate that auditors are working, on average, five hours per week above the threshold at which they believe audit quality begins to deteriorate and often 20 hours above this threshold at the peak of busy season. We find that auditors perceive workload fatigue as having the largest negative impact on morale, and understaffing and staff turnover as being two of the biggest impediments to delivering a high quality audit. We also find that auditors are much less excited about public accounting as a career today than they were when they first entered the profession; however, a few factors moderate this relationship. First, although workloads negatively impact auditors’ views about the profession, the impact is strongest as auditors are required to work beyond the level at which they believe audit quality begins to suffer. Additionally, views about the profession are less negative when auditors believe that they are rewarded for taking a strong stance on audit issues and when they are rewarded more for effectiveness than for efficiency. Our findings provide support for the PCAOB’s concern that excessive workload could be a “root cause” of audit deficiencies and also provide useful insights for public accounting firms as they evaluate ways to attract and retain talented auditors.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
Persellin, J., Schmidt, J.J., & Wilkins M. (2014). Auditor Perceptions of Audit Workloads, Audit Quality, and the Auditing Profession. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.2534492