How to Plan an Audit during Fieldwork and Get Away with It! | AccountingWEB

How to Plan an Audit during Fieldwork and Get Away with It!

First, let me say that planning during fieldwork is the least desirable approach for audits.  The truth is, however, it happens!  Engagement personnel get tied up on a problem job.  The client doesn’t have required schedules prepared.  The in-charge accountant is wrapping up another job.  The result is fieldwork start dates get changed and the engagement team “hits the ground running!”

While we know starting an engagement without proper planning will cost us, sometimes we have to do it.  Here is one approach to staying alive for the in-charge accountant when it happens:

•    Check on status of client assistance upon arrival
•    Meet with staff persons, brainstorm and assign standard stuff
o    Trial balance input
o    Proving bank reconciliations
o    Replicating prior year audit documentation
o    Support tests for fixed assets, expenses, etc.
•    Perform client acceptance and continuance evaluation
•    Prepare engagement letter and meet with client CEO or owner
•    Review prior year’s working papers
•    Read the general ledger
•    Create or update internal control documentation
•    Perform systems walk-through procedure
•    Start fraud risk memo and planning document
•    Tailor audit program as you go

While the in-charge accountant may stay alive without proper planning, the biggest problem with planning in the field will be playing “catch up” from the beginning of fieldwork to the end.  The work flow will be filled with stops and starts and inefficiencies.  Time will likely be wasted due to over auditing and using the “SALLY” method of performing procedures and preparing documentation.  Because of little or no on-the-job training for staff personnel, the in-charge accountant’s supervision and review time will skyrocket!  In addition to all this, the in-charge will probably need an anti-depressant!

When we have to plan in the field, the impression left with client personnel is often less than favorable.  Clients or prospective clients often evaluate a CPA firm based on how they run their own shop.  Beginning the engagement with little or no planning can speak negatively about the way a CPA firm conducts its business.

So, how can we play “catch up” and minimize the damage? Here are some suggestions for the in-charge accountant on how to “quick-start” planning with the least amount of negative impact:

1. Visit the client’s office and obtain the schedules that have been prepared by client personnel.
2. Postpone the start of the fieldwork for a day.
3. Return to the office and meet with engagement personnel to brainstorm and assign work that they can do before going to the field, e.g., replicating prior year schedules, loading trial balances and assembling standard practice aids to use in their areas of assignment.
4. Complete the engagement letter, client acceptance or continuance documentation and review prior year’s working papers.
5. Go to the field the next day, assign work to staff and perform the remainder of the planning procedures above.

The final procedure is to figure out how we prevent this approach to planning from happening again next year!  To say it another way, what do we need to change to enable us to perform proper planning next year before starting fieldwork!  The simple answer is for us to make planning a priority.  I’ll address the longer answer and talk more about how to make planning happen before fieldwork in a future blog.

My Small Audit Series of live and on-demand self-study webcasts address ways auditors can avoid these planning and other pitfalls to maximize engagement profits.  You can obtain course descriptions and register at

This blog

by Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC - Larry has over 40 years experience as a CPA practitioner, author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs.  He is co-founder of CPA Firm Support Services, LLC (, an organization providing resources, training and consulting to smaller CPA firms.  Larry writes a weekly blog on focusing on small audits, reviews and compilations.  He is currently developing documentation manuals and handbooks for small audits, reviews and compilations and related electronic practice aids.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.


Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.


Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.


Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".


William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.


Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (, a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.


Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.


Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website:
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.


The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.


FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.


Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.


Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.


AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.