Empirical Analysis of Auditor's Practice for Determining Materiality

Samantha Molz

Student thesis: Master thesis


The main purpose of the thesis is to investigate, how the auditor determines the
materiality and the challenges related to this. Furthermore, the thesis discusses whether
the guidelines are sufficient.
The auditor’s determination of materiality is a question of professional judgment, and
affected by the auditor’s understanding of the financial information needs of the users
of the financial statement. The determination of materiality is a complex and dynamic
process and not a simple mechanical calculation.
Through five interviews with audit partners, I have examined how the auditor
determines the materiality and what challenges the auditor identifies in the process. The
analysis showed that the aspects that plays the largest role in the determination of
benchmark, is an overall knowledge of the customer, including the type of business, the
users of the financial statement and the industry. Moreover, the analysis showed that in
relation to determining an appropriate percentage for the chosen benchmark, it is once
again the knowledge of the customer that is in focus. According to the determination of
performance materiality, the management and the finance department is taken into
consideration. Additionally the analysis found a tendency towards a mechanical
approach, but that this was not exclusively a simple calculation. When it comes to the
revision as the audit progress, this are made, if the auditor finds it to be relevant, but
that this is seldom the case in praxis. Finally, the analysis showed that the challenges
related to determination of materiality is primarily concerned with that of quality
control, which engenders a more or less mechanical approach to the determination.
The discussion about whether the guidelines are sufficient begins by focusing on the fact
that the ISA 320 is already relatively extensive. In spite of that, the guidelines are
limited. In this way, new and more thoroughly detailed guidelines may be beneficial, but
there is a risk of increasing the mechanical approach even more. Especially for the young
auditors, without the capabilities to do professional judgment.

EducationsMSc in Auditing, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages112