The purpose of this paper is to challenge the conceptual basis upon which the current auditing standards are based.
The paper critically appraises the Auditors' Code published by the Auditing Practices Board and containing the nine fundamental and enduring principles upon which current auditing standards are based.
It is argued that the nine enduring principles should be replaced by seven enduring tensions – the fault lines of auditing – so as to rethink the conceptual basis of auditing standards. Five of these are drawn from the paper's analysis of the Auditors' Code and two are based upon the author's experience of the issues arising in the preparation of the Code and the ensuing debate.
Further research should be carried out to test the robustness of the seven enduring tensions as the basis for standard setting. A first step might be to map the existing standards onto the new conceptual basis.
Standard setters can deploy a new architecture for auditing standards and one that addresses the tensions inherent in auditing. Standard setting should be recognised as an activity dominated by ethical choices and concerns.
The new conceptual basis should provide us with a much closer reading of what auditing is, and its potential for development without expectation gaps.
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