The auditing “expectation gap” refers to the difference between (1) what the public and other financial statement users perceive auditors' responsibilities to be and (2) what auditors believe their responsibilities entail. The notion of this divergence receives much attention in the accounting literature (i.e., Commission on Auditors' Responsibilities 1978; Guy and Sullivan 1988; AICPA 1993; U.S. Government Accounting Office 1996). Although prior empirical studies encompass certain expectations associated with a range of audit services, these papers often involve the opinions of bankers as the primary user group employed in the research (Nair and Rittenberg 1987; Lowe and Pany 1995). In contrast, this study extends the prior research by directly comparing audit partners' and investors' perceptions of auditors' responsibilities involving various dimensions of the attest function. We conducted the study to determine if an expectation gap currently exists and we find that it does; investors have higher expectations for various facets and/or assurances of the audit than do auditors. Our findings serve as evidence that the accounting profession should engage in appropriate measures to reduce this expectation gap.

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