Key Audit Matters: The Development of Key Audit Matters for Danish Listed Companies

Nikolaj Duus Borup Nørgaard

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

This thesis deals with key audit matters in Danish listed companies in the C25 index and Mid Cap index. Key audit matters were implemented in the independent auditor’s report for companies with financial year ending 15 December 2016 or later, thus this is the third year with key audit matters. As companies restrain information from the stakeholders an information gab has occurred. At the same time there might be conflicting interests between management and investors, as both parts seek to optimise their individual yields – management wants to optimise salary and bonuses, while investors want to optimise gains and dividends. Key audit matters were implemented to narrow the information gab between companies and stakeholders. Auditors have access to all information in the companies for auditing purposes, therefore, an obligation has been put on the auditors to describe the key audit matters, and what has been performed to minimize these. Investors have access to these descriptions as they are part of the independent auditor’s report, and the information gab should be narrowed. The questions dealt with in this thesis are whether the information gab has actually been narrowed due to auditors explaining key audit matters, but also how the development of the key audit matters have been since implementation. If auditors’ explanations are generic, and only explaining what can already be read in the applied accounting policies and notes, the key audit matters will not be of any use for the reader, hence bureaucratically waste of time for the auditors as well. On the other hand, it might be an advantage for the auditors to write generically key audit matters so auditors will not be subject to future attack for giving out too much or false information. Game theory will be used to explain this conflict, as auditors investigate how other auditors describe the key audit matters, and make decisions based on other auditors’ approach to key audit matters. When looking at the development of the key audit matters over time, the average number of key audit matters per company is lower in 2018 than 2016. At the same time auditors have chosen especially revenue and intangible fixed assets as key audit matters. Though the average number of key audit matters is lower in 2018 than 2016, the number of key audit matters concerning revenue and intangible fixed assets has risen. This confirms the theory of auditors investigating how other auditors approach this matter. Analyses of four companies have also been performed, where key audit matters through all three financial years have been compared to accounting policies and notes to determine whether they are generic or elaborate. Only few of the key audit matters were considered elaborate. The thesis concludes that auditors describe fewer key audit matters now compared to implementation year, and auditors choose the same topics as revenue and intangible fixed assets. Most of the key audit matters are generic, and does not narrow the information gab, though examples of elaborate key audit matters narrowing the information gab also exist.

EducationsMSc in Auditing, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageDanish
Publication date2019
Number of pages127