See The Difference Between Audit & Attestation

If there is one question business owners would love an answer to, it is the difference between audit and attestation.

While both processes are a bit intertwined, a degree of technicalities makes them different.

This article will provide in-depth clarity on the difference between both evaluation techniques and their relationships. 

What is an Audit?

Audits are executed to investigate or evaluate a specific department in an organization.

The process exposes information and data responsible for the brilliance or weak performance of a department and how they affect your company.

What are the Types of Audits?


1. External audit

External audits are third-party evaluations. This type of audit has been proven to be more effective than an internal audit because they feature no discrepancies or bias.

An external auditor has no business with favoritism and will openly express his views regarding financial statements, different procedures, and reported information the way he or she sees fit. They also provide their report with supporting evidence (data).

This type of report is crucial to the survival of any organization as external parties also use them in deciding whether to work with an organization or not.

2. Internal audit

An internal audit, like its name, is an evaluation conducted by an internal employee to spot internal flaws or weaknesses within the company.

The result of this audit may, however, not be as accurate as that of an external audit. 

3. Government audit

Government audits are periodic and compulsory for every organization. They are often conducted by IRS to verify tax compliance.

In other words, this audit confirms if the tax, assets, and deduction declarations align with the government’s record. Depending on the outcome, these audits may lead to an adjustment acceptable or not acceptable by a company.

Forms of Audit

Depending on the section you are investigating, audits can take various forms:

  • Accounting audits
  • Compliance audits
  • Human resource or safety policy audits
  • Operational audits
  • IT procedures audits

How to Execute an Audit

Ideally, an audit should be carried out by an auditor. However, a manager or a business owner can take up this responsibility.

Irrespective of who does it, the process basically involves gathering only the essential information and identifying gaps in an operational system. 

From your data and discovery, you can generate an unbiased report and submit it to the business owner or any high-level executive. This gives them a full brief on where there are lapses and why these gaps occur.

What is an Attestation?

Attestation is the process of assessing the validity of the data or information you used in arriving at a conclusion or generating an audit report.

In other words, if a manager or business owner audits his firm, he or she needs a certified public accountant (CPA) to attest to the authenticity of the data used.

Types of Attestation

Attestation is ideally a third-party function. You cannot execute an audit and attest it yourself – it will be biased. The only exception is when you employ an in-house CPA, which is not common.

Forms of Attestation

Mind you, a CPA can also execute both (audit and attestation) processes. Just like audits, attestations evaluate compliance, internal functions, and all the forms of audits I mentioned earlier.

Steps Involved in an Attestation

In terms of attestation, there are 7 standard steps or processes you must follow. They include:

1. Compliance

Compliance is that process that ensures that all procedures and their mode of incorporation have been certified okay for an engagement. 

If during this process, a CPA spots some non-standard procedures, he or she must note and address them accordingly.

2. Preconditions

Before accepting to execute attestation for a company, preconditions must be disclosed. This should:

  • State the dependent or independent status of assurance
  • Make the client responsible for the accuracy of the data to be attested to.
  • Provide appropriate and sufficient evidence for the sake of drawing the right inferences.

3. Acceptance

Acceptance involves documenting everything regarding an engagement. It is the stage where you decide not to work with a certain client on attestation engagements.

4. Engagement or engagement changes

The engagement process ensures that all standards of operations within an organization are explained to the firm executing the attestation. 

Any (engagement) changes must also be declared openly to the attestation team. Companies can only introduce these modifications only when necessary.

5. Use of other practitioner’s work

An attestor or CPA should be fully aware of his or her client’s mode of operation meets general standards. After confirming, they can apply similar methods used for companies in the same industry.

If there are flaws, you must also correct them and devise the right investigative measure for the company’s standard.

6. Quality control

The engagement team has members whose sole mission is to ensure that all auditors work according to quality control policies.

7. Result

The objective of any attestation is to provide positive assurance regarding the standards or how an organization services consumers per department.

Difference Between Audit And Attestation

I’m sure you already have an idea of what makes an audit different from an attestation. For more clarity, here is a table summarizing the difference between both procedures:

An audit is carried out to spot gaps in the compliance procedure of various departments in line with government and internal regulations.An attestation confirms if the data used in generating an audit falls within or outside compliance standards.
This is a systematic process that calculates the degree of compliance within an established protocol based on evidence (data).An attestation is a written document by CPA firms to express their findings (inference) about the accuracy and reliability of the data used in generating a compliance result.
Setting up risk management policies to avoid a repeat of non-compliance errors after an audit is okay but is not the best.Waiting until after attestation to set up risk management policies guarantees a better (long-term) outcome.


What is the difference between attestation and assurance?

Attestation evaluates the authenticity of the data used in generating an audit report whereas assurance provides substantial evidence to support the data used during any report generation.

Is audit an attestation engagement?

Of course, an audit is a form of attestation engagement. 

The only difference is that it comes before attestation.

What does attestation mean in accounting?

In accounting and finance, an attestation is used to accept or reject the numbers used during any audit or any data-related report.

In other words, it is a third-party opinion that validates or nullifies financial information prepared by internal accountants.

To Wrap Up

Audits and attestations are both investigative processes. The former focuses on spotting non-standard practices or flaws via data while the latter verifies the accuracy of the data used.

In other words, an attestation is the path to knowing if an audit is biased or not. I hope you found this article helpful. 

Perhaps you would like to know how much CPA firms charge for an audit, please see how much an audit costs.

Thanks for reading.