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Knowledge & Insights

Mastering Independence Rules in Auditing


Auditing is a cornerstone of financial integrity, and independence is its foundation. At GreenGrowth CPAs, we are committed to upholding the highest standards of independence to ensure the credibility of our audits. This article delves into the critical aspects of independence rules, covering PCAOB, SEC, and AICPA guidelines, and highlights our firm’s policies and procedures to maintain this essential principle.

The Goal of Independence Rules

The primary goal of independence training is to educate our team on the vital independence rules and the firm’s policies and procedures. By understanding these standards, our team can ensure that all engagements are conducted with the utmost integrity, maintaining public trust in our work.

AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has established a Code of Professional Conduct that outlines the ethical responsibilities of CPAs. One of the key standards in this code is AS 1005: Independence. This standard emphasizes that auditors must remain free from conflicts of interest that could compromise their professional judgment.


The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) has specific rules to ensure auditor independence. PCAOB Rule 3520 requires that a registered public accounting firm or its associated persons must be independent of the client during the audit and professional engagement period. This rule defines “associated persons” as individuals involved in the preparation or issuance of any audit report who receive compensation or participate in the firm’s activities, excluding those performing only clerical tasks.

Additional PCAOB rules include:

  • Rule 3521: Contingent Fees – Prohibits receiving contingent fees or commissions for audit-related services.
  • Rule 3522: Tax Transactions – Restricts auditors from engaging in confidential or aggressive tax transactions that could compromise independence.
  • Rule 3523: Tax Services for Persons in Financial Reporting Roles – Limits providing tax services to individuals in financial reporting roles, with certain exceptions.
  • Rule 3524: Audit Committee Pre-approval of Certain Tax Services – Requires audit committee pre-approval for certain tax services, documenting the scope, fee structure, and independence impacts.
  • Rule 3525: Audit Committee Pre-Approval of Non-Auditing Services – Similar pre-approval requirements for non-auditing services related to internal controls over financial reporting.
  • Rule 3526: Communications with Audit Committee Concerning Independence – Mandates annual communication with the audit committee regarding the auditor’s independence.
  • SEC Rule 2.01: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Rule 2.01 is another critical guideline for auditor independence. This rule stipulates that auditors must avoid relationships that might impair their objectivity and judgment, such as: mutual or conflicting interests with the audit client; auditing their own work; acting as management or an employee of the audit client, and being an advocate for the audit client.

Key Independence Rules

To maintain independence, auditors must adhere to specific rules regarding:

  • Financial Relationships – Prohibitions on investments in audit clients, certain loans, and broker-dealer accounts, among others.
  • Employment Relationships – Restrictions on employment relationships between audit firm employees and audit clients.
  • Business Relationships – Prohibitions on direct or material indirect business relationships with audit clients.
  • Non-Attest Services – Prohibited services include bookkeeping, financial systems design, internal audit outsourcing, and more.

Maintaining Independence in Practice

Understanding and adhering to independence rules is crucial for maintaining the integrity of our audits. At GreenGrowth CPAs, we are committed to upholding these standards to provide reliable and trustworthy services to our clients. If you have any questions about our audit services or would like to learn more about how we can help your business, book a free consultation with us today.

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