This paper introduces an auditor reliability framework that repositions the role of auditor independence in the accounting profession. The framework is motivated in part by widespread confusion about independence and the auditing profession's continuing problems with managing independence and inspiring public confidence. We use philosophical, theoretical, and professional arguments to argue that the public interest will be best served by reprioritizing professional and ethical objectives to establish reliability in fact and appearance as the cornerstone of the profession, rather than relationship‐based independence in fact and appearance. This revised framework requires three foundation elements to control subjectivity in auditors' judgments and decisions: independence, integrity, and expertise. Each element is a necessary but not sufficient condition for maximizing objectivity. Objectivity, in turn, is a necessary and sufficient condition for achieving and maintaining reliability in fact and appearance.

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