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Prepopulating Audit Workpapers with Prior Year Assessments: Default Option Effects on Risk Rating Accuracy

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  • SARAH BONNER
  • TRACIE MAJORS
  • STACEY RITTER

Abstract

Risk assessment is a critical audit task, as auditors’ accuracy therein affects audit effectiveness and financial reporting quality, as well as audit efficiency. We propose that risk assessment accuracy for client risks that have changed from the prior year is affected by the manner in which auditors access prior year risk assessments, specifically whether they face a default option created by the prepopulation of current year workpapers with those assessments. We find that auditors with prepopulated (vs. blank) workpapers are less accurate for risks that have changed because they are more likely to stick with last year's assessments, and also to work fast. We then show that auditor characteristics reflecting a preference for accuracy reduce, but do not eliminate, these effects. Finally, we provide exploratory evidence that sticking and working fast are associated with, respectively, motivated reasoning and superficial processing. Collectively, these findings suggest the critical need for an intervention, and also have implications outside auditing.

Suggested Citation

  • Sarah Bonner & Tracie Majors & Stacey Ritter, 2018. "Prepopulating Audit Workpapers with Prior Year Assessments: Default Option Effects on Risk Rating Accuracy," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(5), pages 1453-1481, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:joares:v:56:y:2018:i:5:p:1453-1481
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    File URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-679X.12218
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