SUMMARY: The proliferation of electronic workpapers at audit firms allows audit managers and partners the choice of interacting electronically with their audit teams, as opposed to communicating with them in person. Prior research indicates that in-person discussion during review positively impacts audit effectiveness, while electronic review may improve audit efficiency. Thus, the choice of review format can be viewed as both a crucial and controllable audit input that can affect audit quality and, in turn, the reliability of financial statements. Still, little is known about how this decision is made. We conduct a survey and an experiment to extend the audit literature by examining reviewers’ choice of review format and by considering factors that influence this important choice. Survey evidence suggests that reviewers perceive in-person interaction during review as more effective and electronic interaction as more convenient. Given these findings, we conduct an experiment that explores whether misstatement risk and workload pressure influence the choice of review method. We find that these factors interact to affect reviewer behavior. Specifically, workload pressure can increase the likelihood of electronic review, but only when misstatement risk is low. When risk is high, reviewers choose to employ in-person reviews regardless of workload pressures. These findings are particularly relevant in light of changes in the regulatory environment that both emphasize the auditor’s role in detecting fraud/errors and exacerbate traditional workload pressures during busy times of the year. Our results suggest that reviewers cope with these conflicting pressures by choosing alternative review formats.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.