This research synthesis evaluates relevant research concerning the audit report. For too long, there has been a significant “expectations gap” between what financial statement users expect an audit is delivering and what the audit profession believes it is providing. This gap becomes particularly problematic for auditors when there is a “business crisis” and attention is directed to the role of the auditor. Two related gaps are considered in this synthesis, a communications gap, and an information gap. All of these gaps relate to the demand for, understanding of, and use of auditor communications, which is the focus of this synthesis.

Our synthesis is driven by two primary research questions: What do financial statement users perceive as information that should be communicated, and what does research show to be the effects on users of existing and other auditor communications currently being considered?

As we discuss in detail, prior research does address many aspects of these two questions, but many of the findings are mixed and some important aspects have not been studied. Further research, particularly in areas regarding changes to the audit reporting model currently being considered, could lead to the improvement of the value relevance of auditor services, disclosures, and assurances. The clear interest by regulators and standard setters in such applied research should serve as a strong incentive for academics to conduct such research and for the practicing profession to support it.

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