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Hong Kong Standards on Auditing: Key Principles and Practices

Hong Kong Standards on Auditing


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Hong Kong’s auditing standards, set by the HKICPA, ensure financial statements are accurate, reliable, and compliant with accounting regulations. These standards are essential for maintaining transparency and trust in Hong Kong’s financial markets.

Key Takeaways

The Hong Kong Standards on Auditing (HKSAs) are closely aligned with International Standards on Auditing (ISA) to promote consistency and comparability in global auditing practices. This alignment enhances the credibility of Hong Kong’s auditing profession.

The HKICPA sets the HKSAs, while the Accounting and Financial Reporting Council (AFRC) oversees their implementation, ensuring auditors adhere to these standards and maintaining high-quality financial reporting in Hong Kong.

HKSAs emphasize principles like auditor independence, thorough documentation, critical evaluation of financial statements, and reporting on fraud and errors. These principles guide auditors in providing reliable audit opinions.

By following HKSAs, auditors help ensure the integrity of financial information, which builds investor confidence and supports Hong Kong’s reputation as a leading financial hub.

Hong Kong has become a top financial center in Asia, with a well-developed financial system and lively capital market.

This financial hub draws businesses and investors, including foreign companies, from all over the world who want a safe and reliable place to conduct their financial activities.

In this fast-paced financial setting, keeping financial information honest is very important. This is where Hong Kong's strict auditing rules come in.

These rules, set by the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA), give auditors clear guidelines to ensure financial statements are accurate and dependable.

Read further and we’ll look at the main principles and practices behind Hong Kong's auditing standards, especially those in the Hong Kong Standards on Auditing.

You will learn how these ethical standards encourage transparency, accountability, and investor confidence in the Hong Kong financial market.

What are Hong Kong’s Auditing Standards?

The main goal of an audit is to offer an unbiased review of financial records to make sure the financial statements comply with accounting standards and regulations, and it is mandatory for all companies in Hong Kong to have their financial statements audited.

Audited financial statements include the balance sheet, income statement, statement of changes in equity, and cash flow statement.

The HKICPA sets the Hong Kong Standards on Auditing (HKSAs) to ensure a consistent and high-quality audit process for financial statements and build trust in Hong Kong's financial reporting system.

It means that the HKSAs provide clear instructions for auditors, promoting thorough and unbiased evaluations of a company's financial health.

This protects investors and other stakeholders by ensuring accurate and reliable financial information.

Keep in mind that there are separate standards for different reporting needs.

For instance, accountants must use the Hong Kong Standard on Investment Circular Reporting Engagements 200 (HKSIR 200) when preparing reports on historical financial information for investment circulars.

By following the HKSAs, auditors help ensure that financial information is trustworthy and reflects a company's financial status.

The Preface

The Preface to Hong Kong Standards on Quality Control, Auditing, Assurance, and Related Services, developed by the Auditing and Assurance Standards Committee (AASC) as mandated by the Council, explains which entities must follow these standards.

It highlights the HKICPA's commitment to high-quality accounting services. By following these standards, auditors ensure the reliability of financial information, which helps build public trust in financial markets.

The preface notes that the standards are designed to align with International Standards on Quality Control, Auditing, Assurance, and Related Services from the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB). This alignment promotes consistency in auditing practices worldwide.

It stresses that following these standards is mandatory for HKICPA members. Non-compliance can lead to disciplinary actions, including the potential loss of a practicing certificate.

The preface emphasizes the importance of these standards in legal proceedings. If an auditor's work is questioned in court, following these standards will be crucial in evaluating its quality.

It describes the transparent process for developing these standards involving HKICPA members, stakeholders, and other interested parties. This broad participation ensures the standards remain relevant and effective.

Association with International Standards on Auditing (ISA)

The HKSAs is closely aligned with the International Standards on Auditing (ISA) issued by the IAASB.

Financial statements prepared under HKSAs are easily understood and comparable to those prepared under ISA in other regions, promoting international consistency in auditing practices.

Following internationally recognized best practices strengthens the global reputation of Hong Kong's auditing profession.

Accounting and Financial Reporting Council (AFRC)

The Accounting and Financial Reporting Council (AFRC) is an independent regulator of the accounting profession in Hong Kong.

Its responsibilities include:

  • Oversee the development and implementation of the HKSAs
  • Ensure compliance of auditors with the HKSAs
  • Investigate potential breaches of auditing standards
  • Promote high-quality financial reporting in Hong Kong

By fulfilling these responsibilities, the AFRC helps the effectiveness and integrity of the HKSAs framework.

International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)

Hong Kong adopted International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in 2005.

Companies in Hong Kong can choose to use either the adopted IFRS standards, known as Hong Kong Financial Reporting Standards (HKFRS), issued and maintained by the HKICPA, which are very similar to IFRS, or the local Hong Kong accounting standards.

This alignment between HKFRS and IFRS allows financial statements prepared in Hong Kong to be easily compared internationally.

What are the Key Principles and Practices of HKSAs?

The HKSAs set out detailed guidelines for carrying out high-quality audits of financial statements. These professional standards are based on key principles that guide auditors' professional judgment and ensure their audit opinions are reliable.

Overall Objectives of the Independent Auditor (HKSA 200):

First, auditors should express whether the financial statements give an accurate and fair view of the company's financial position and performance, meaning they are free from significant errors and accurately reflect the company's actual situation.

Second, auditors must stay independent to avoid conflicts of interest and remain objective, ensuring their professional judgment is not influenced by others.

Lastly, auditors should approach their work critically and question it, alert to the risk of errors. 

They shouldn't just accept management's explanations but verify the accuracy of financial information.

Terms of Engagement (HKSA 210)

A clear engagement letter documents the agreement between the auditor and the client. 

It outlines the scope, objectives, and responsibilities of both parties, helping to prevent misunderstandings and ensure everyone knows what the audit will cover and what is expected.

Quality Control (HKSA 220)

Audit firms must have strong quality control procedures to ensure consistent audit methods, minimize mistakes, and maintain high-quality audit services. 

These procedures cover aspects like human resources, performance, and risk management.

Audit Documentation (HKSA 230)

Auditors must keep thorough and well-organized audit documentation, recording the procedures performed, evidence obtained, and conclusions reached. 

This principle provides transparency and supports the auditor's opinion, making it easier for regulators or other stakeholders to review the audit.

Fraud and Error (HKSA 240)

This standard highlights the auditor's duty to identify and report potential fraud. 

Auditors must maintain a skeptical attitude throughout the audit and perform procedures to assess the risk of fraud, such as looking for unusual transactions and testing internal controls.

Consideration of Laws and Regulations in an Audit (HKSA 250)

The auditor should understand the key laws and regulations that apply to the company's industry and operations, such as industry-specific rules, tax laws (including those administered by the Inland Revenue Department), or environmental laws.

Based on this understanding, the auditor performs procedures to assess the risk of errors in the financial statements due to non-compliance. This might include asking management questions, reviewing contracts or agreements, and performing analytical checks.

If the auditor finds potential non-compliance with laws and regulations, they need to evaluate the impact on the company's financial statements. This could involve estimating possible fines or penalties or adjusting financial statement balances.

The auditor should inform management and those charged with governance about any identified or suspected non-compliance. This allows the company to take corrective actions if needed.

Communication with Those Charged with Governance (HKSA 260)

The auditor must let those in charge of governance know about the nature and scope of the audit. This includes explaining the planned procedures and the level of assurance the audit will provide.

Throughout the audit, the auditor should keep those in charge of governance informed about any significant findings or potential issues. This helps ensure that concerns can be discussed and resolved in a timely manner.

The HKSA 260 standard requires the auditor to communicate specific matters to those in charge of governance. These include:

  • Weaknesses in internal controls
  • Disagreements with management
  • Any limitations on the scope of the audit

The auditor’s final report is the main way of communicating with those in charge of governance. It summarizes the audit findings and gives an opinion on whether the financial statements present a true and fair view of the company’s financial position.

Going Concern (HKSA 570)

Auditors must assess whether a company can continue operating in the near future and evaluate whether it has enough resources to meet its obligations. 

If there are significant doubts about this, they must be disclosed in the audit report.

Use of Work of Internal Auditors (HKSA 610)

When there is an internal audit department, this standard guides how to evaluate and use their work. 

Auditors can use the internal audit team's findings to understand the company's operations and controls. 

However, they must still perform their procedures to determine how much they can rely on this work.

Related Parties (HKSA 620)

Auditors must identify transactions with related parties with close relationships with the company, as these can be prone to bias or manipulation. 

The standard requires extra procedures to assess these transactions, including obtaining additional evidence to confirm their legitimacy.

These standards promote auditor independence, thorough documentation, and a careful approach to ensure the accuracy and reliability of financial statements.

Following these standards helps preserve the integrity of Hong Kong’s financial markets and protect investors and stakeholders.

Incorporate Your Business Today!

Hong Kong's auditing standards maintain transparency and trust.

This framework makes Hong Kong an attractive destination for businesses of all sizes, including foreign companies looking for a secure and trustworthy environment for their financial activities.

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Vivian Au

For many years, I worked at big accounting and company secretary firms in Hong Kong. I started Air Corporate to make the life of entrepreneurs and SMEs easy.

Vivian Au


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