Accounting attestation standards define the basic standards for representing attestation engagements. Attestation is defined as an engagement in which a practitioner is hired to issue written communication that expresses a conclusion about the reliability of written assertions prepared by a separate party. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants identified a number of different engagements that fall under the scope of attestation standards, including: examining financial forecasts and projections, examining pro forma financial statements, evaluating internal control, assessing compliance with rules, regulations, and contractual obligations, as well as evaluating management discussions and analysis of financial results.
The formation of attestation standards was an early attempt to not only provide guidance for engagement practices, but also aid the expansion of assurance services provided by accountants and other related professionals.
Attestation standards have a lot of information in common with generally accepted auditing standards, but in general, auditing standards are much lengthier and comprehensive.
Attestation standards are broken up into three different categories: general standards, standards of fieldwork, and standards of reporting. General standards define the minimum qualifications that a professional should possess in order to accept an attest engagement. Minimum qualifications include technical competence, independence, and the ability to exercise due care. In addition, adequate knowledge of the subject matter being attested to is required under general attest standards.
The standards of fieldwork outline how a particular engagement should be performed. A solid engagement requires adequate planning, supervision of the engagement, and gathering sufficient competent evidential matter as a reasonable basis for conclusions expressed. Consideration of internal control is not included in the Attestation Standards because not all attestation engagements require doing so (e.g. A compilation engagement does not consider internal control).
The standards of reporting provide professionals guidelines for communicating findings from attestation engagement to the necessary parties. The nature of the assertions examined, the standard of comparison, and overall conclusions about the assertions examined are outlined in the attest reporting standards. A positive report prepared by a practitioner signifies that all applicable general and fieldwork standards have been met and all professionals assigned to the engagement are convinced the assertions are fairly and accurately presented.