Financial Accounting News

U.K. Auditors, Regulators Warn of Brexit Risk

Feb. 26, 2019, 3:56 PM

PwC is joining KPMG LLP in including a Brexit warning in its audit reports, and regulators have released new guidance to auditors on how to handle a no-deal situation.

Both moves come amid news that the parliamentary vote on whether to approve the government’s Brexit deal will be delayed from Feb. 27 to March 12, just 17 days before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union.

Parliament overwhelmingly rejected a deal brokered between the U.K. government and the European Commission in January, and so far Brussels has rejected making any changes to the agreement. That raises the danger of the U.K. leaving the EU on March 29 with no deal in place.

The accounting profession has reacted in two ways: first, by warning against the dangers posed by Brexit uncertainty in audit reports, and second, by issuing regulatory warnings of the impact that a no-deal Brexit could have on the audit profession.

PwC, also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, confirmed in an email to Bloomberg Tax that it had inserted a sentence into its standard audit report to reflect the Brexit uncertainty.

“However, because not all future events or conditions can be predicted, this statement is not a guarantee as to the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” the audit opinions reads, with a new line inserted to say: “For example, the terms on which the United Kingdom may withdraw from the European Union, which is currently due to occur on 29 March 2019, are not clear, and it is difficult to evaluate all of the potential implications on the company’s trade, customers, suppliers and the wider economy.”

KPMG started to insert a similar warning into some of its audit opinions earlier this month, saying that Brexit’s effects “are subject to an unprecedented level of uncertainty.”

Ramping Up Pressure

Regulators are also starting to ramp up the pressure for audit firms to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, with the Financial Reporting Council, an accounting regulator, teaming up with an influential parliamentary panel, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, to tell auditors what they would need to do if the U.K. leaves the EU without a deal in place.

In a Feb. 21 letter to audit firms, they set out the “key actions” auditors would need to take in the event there is no deal.

This reiterated existing government warnings that they would need to check whether their professional status is still recognized outside of the U.K. and whether they are still qualified to work on ongoing audits abroad or to conduct third-party audits of the subsidiaries of foreign companies.

“If you cannot, then you should check what steps you need to take for your audit opinion to be valid,” the letter said.

“We consider that it is important for individuals and firms to make plans without delay so that appropriate arrangements are in place if the UK leaves the EU without having agreed a Withdrawal Agreement,” the letter said.

To contact the reporter for this story: Michael Kapoor in London at correspondents@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeff Harrington at jharrington@bloombergtax.com; Steven Marcy at smarcy@bloombergtax.com

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