The Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), at its 342nd meeting considered and approved the Guidance Note on Reporting Under Section 143(3)(f) and (h) of the Companies Act, 2013, developed by the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (AASB) of ICAI.

The aforesaid Guidance Note is, accordingly, being issued by AASB under the authority of the Council of ICAI.

Text of Guidance Note is as follows :-  

Guidance Note on Reporting under Section 143 (3)(f) and (h) of the Companies Act, 2013*

Introduction

1. Section 143 of the Companies Act, 2013 (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”) deals with the powers and duties of the auditors of companies. Section 143(1) of the Act requires the auditor to make certain specific enquiries during the course of the audit. Section 143(2) of the Act requires the auditor to, inter alia, give his report to the members of company on the accounts examined by him, and on every financial statement which are laid before the company in a general meeting. Sub-section (3) of section 143 of the Act also lays down certain matters required to be reported upon by the auditor in his report. Sub-section (3) of section 143 of Act provides as follows:

“(3) The auditor’s report shall also state – 

(a)      whether he has sought and obtained all the information and explanations which to the best of his knowledge and belief were necessary for the purpose of his audit and if not, the details thereof and the effect of such information on the financial statements;

(b)     whether, in his opinion, proper books of account as required by law have been kept by the company so far as appears from his examination of those books and proper returns adequate for the purposes of his audit have been received from branches not visited by him;

(c)      whether the report on the accounts of any branch office of the company audited under sub-section (8) by a person other than the company’s auditor has been sent to him under the proviso to that sub-section and the manner in which he has dealt with it in preparing his report;

(d)     whether the company’s balance sheet and profit and loss account dealt with in the report are in agreement with the books of account and returns;

(e)     whether, in his opinion, the financial statements comply with the accounting standards;

(f)       the observations or comments of the auditors on financial transactions or matters which have any adverse effect on the functioning of the company;

(g)      whether any director is disqualified from being appointed as a director under sub-section (2) of section 164;

(h)     any qualification, reservation or adverse remark relating to the maintenance of accounts and other matters connected therewith; 

(i)        whether the company has adequate internal financial controls system in place and the operating effectiveness of such controls;

(j)       such other matters as may be prescribed. (See Note-1)   

Scope of the Guidance Note

2. This Guidance Note is intended to assist the auditors in discharging their duties in respect of clauses (f) and (h) of sub-section (3) of section 143 of the Act. Clause (f) of the said sub-section creates a requirement for the auditor to consider observations or comments of the auditor on financial transactions or matters which have an adverse effect on the functioning of the company. Such observations or comments would ordinarily lead to the modification of or an emphasis of matter in the auditor’s report on financial statements. It may be noted that the matters that lead to modification in the auditor’s report on financial statements are matters that give rise to a qualified opinion, adverse opinion or a disclaimer of opinion2. Further, matters that lead to an emphasis of matter paragraphs are matters appropriately presented or disclosed in the financial statements that, in the auditor’s judgement, are of such importance that they are fundamental to the users’ understanding of the financial statements3. If the matter leading to the modification of the auditor’s opinion or an emphasis of matter in the auditor’s report on financial statements is likely to have an adverse effect on the functioning of the company, the auditor is required to report such matter. Under clause (h) of sub-section (3) of section 143 of the Act, the auditor is required to state whether any matter leading to a qualification, reservation or adverse remark, that is, effectively the modification of the auditor’s report on financial statements, relates to the maintenance of accounts and other matters connected therewith.

Reporting under Section 143(3)(f) of the Act

3. The relevant extracts of section143(3)(f)of the Act are reproduced below:

“(3). The auditor’s report shall also state

…………………………………….

(f) the observations or comments of the auditors on financial transactions or matters which have any adverse effect on the functioning of the company;”

4. Clause (f) requires the auditor to report “the observations or comments of the auditors on financial transactions or matters which have any adverse effect on the functioning of the company”.

An auditor’s report may contain matters leading to modifications to the auditor’s opinion or emphasis of matter in the auditor’s report on the financial statements. Such matters may be related to issues which may have an adverse effect on the functioning of the company. The words “observations” or “comments” as appearing in clause (f) of section 143(3) are construed to have the same meaning as referring to “emphasis of matter paragraphs, situations leading to modification in the auditor’s report. Accordingly, the auditor should have made an “observation” or “comment” in the auditor’s report in order to determine the need to report under clause (f) of section 143(3). Therefore, only such “observations” or “comments” of the auditors on financial transactions or matters that have been made by the auditor in the auditor’s report which have an adverse effect on the functioning of the company are required to be reported under this clause. For the sake of clarity, it may be noted that neither the auditor’s observations nor the comments made by him have any adverse effect on the functioning of a company. These observations or comments made by the auditor might contain matters which might have an adverse effect on the functioning of a company.

5. The Act does not specify the meaning of the phrase ‘adverse effect on the functioning of the company’. The expression should not be interpreted to mean that any event affecting the functioning of the company, observed by the auditor, should be reported upon even though it does not affect the financial statements, e.g., revocation of a license to manufacture one out of the many products during the year to which the financial statements relate, where such product that does not have any material contribution to the revenues of the company, etc. Such an interpretation would not only be beyond the scope of the audit of financial statements of the company but would also not be in accordance with the objective and concept of audit stipulated under the Act. A more logical and harmonious interpretation is that this reporting requirement does not intend to change the basic objective and the concept of audit of financial statements of a company, which is to examine the financial statements with a view to express an opinion thereon.

6. The scope of the audit and auditor’s role remains as contemplated under the Standards on Auditing (SAs) and other relevant pronouncements issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India as well as laid down in the Act, i.e., to lend credibility to the financial statements by reporting whether they reflect a true and fair view. SA 200, Objective of the Independent Auditor and the Conduct of an Audit in Accordance with Standards of Auditing, specifies that the purpose of an audit is to enhance the degree of confidence of intended users in the financial statements. This is achieved by the expression of an opinion by the auditor on whether the financial statements are prepared, in all material respects, in accordance with an applicable financial reporting framework. An audit conducted in accordance with SAs and relevant ethical requirements enables the auditor to form the opinion of the true and fair view of the financial position and operating result of an enterprise. The auditor’s opinion, therefore, does not assure, for example, the future viability of the entity nor the efficiency or effectiveness with which management has conducted the affairs of the entity. SAs require auditor to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements as a whole are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error. Reasonable assurance is a high level of assurance. It is obtained when the auditor has obtained sufficient appropriate audit evidence to reduce audit risk (i.e., the risk that the auditor expresses an inappropriate opinion when the financial statements are materially misstated) to an acceptably low level. However, reasonable assurance is not an absolute level of assurance because there are inherent limitations of an audit which result in most of the audit evidence on which the auditor draws conclusions and bases the auditor’s opinion being persuasive rather than conclusive. At this juncture, it may also be noted that SA 200 also clearly states that the concept of materiality is applied by the auditor both in planning and performing the audit, and in evaluating the effect of identified misstatements on the audit and of uncorrected misstatements, if any, on the financial statements.

7. There is no change in the objective and scope of an audit of financial statements because of inclusion of clause (f) in sub-section (3) of section 143 of the Act. The auditor expresses his opinion on the true and fair view presented by the financial statements through his report which may be modified in certain circumstances. However, the auditor would now have to evaluate the subject matters leading to modification of the audit report or emphasis of matter in the auditor’s report to make judgement as to which of them has an adverse effect on the functioning of the company within the overall context of audit of financial statements of the company. Only such matters which, in the opinion of the auditor, have an adverse effect on the functioning of the company should be reported under this clause. Conversely, such qualifications or adverse opinions or disclaimer of opinion or emphasis of matters of the auditor, which do not deal with matters that have adverse effect on the functioning of the company, need not be reported under this clause.

8. As far as inquiries under section 143(1) are concerned, the auditor is not required to report on these matters unless he has any comments to make on any of the items referred to therein. If the auditor has any comments or observations on any of the matters stated in section 143(1), the auditor should consider such comments or observations when reporting under this clause if they contain matters that mayhave any adverse effect on the functioning of the company.

9. Auditor’s will need to apply professional judgement in considering matters of emphasis that may have an adverse effect on the functioning of the company. Ordinarily matters that are pervasive in nature such as going concern or matters that will significantly impact the operations of the company due to its size and nature will need to be reported under clause (f) of sub-section (3) of section 143 of the Act. Examples of emphasis of matter which may have an adverse effect on the functioning of the company include situations where:

  • the going concern assumption is appropriate but there are several factors leading to a material uncertainty that may cast a significant doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern; or
  • a material uncertainty regarding the outcome of a litigation wherein an unfavourable decision could result in a significant outflow of resources for the company, etc.

Examples of emphasis of matter which may not have an adverse effect on the functioning of the company include a situation where there is an emphasis of matter:

  • on managerial remuneration which is subject to the approval of the Central Government;
  • relating to accrual of a contractually receivable claim based on management estimate where the ultimate realisation could be different from the amount accrued;
  • on frauds that have been dealt with in the financial statements of the company and would not have any continuing effect on the financial statements.

10. Another issue which arises is whether any observations or comments made by the auditor under clause (i) of section 143(3) in respect of the company’s internal financial controls over financial reporting, which may have any adverse effect on the functioning of the company, should also be reported in terms of this clause. In this regard, it is noted that reporting under section 143(3)(i) is part of the auditor’s report though it may be reported in an annexure to the auditor’s report. Accordingly, if any observations or comments made by the auditor on the adequacy or operating effectiveness of internal financial controls over financial reporting contain such matters, which, in his opinion, may have any adverse effect on the functioning of the company, should also be reported under clause (f) of section 143(3) even if such observation did not result in a modification to the audit opinion on the financial statements of the company. An example in this regard may be where an auditor reports that the company did not have an appropriate internal control system for inventory with regard to receipts, issue for production and physical verification.

Reporting under Section 143(3)(h) of the Act

12. The relevant extracts of section 143(3)(h) of the Act are reproduced below:

“(3).The auditor’s report shall also state –

…………………………………….

(h) any qualification, reservation or adverse remark relating to the maintenance of accounts and other matters connected therewith;”

13. Clause (h) requires the auditor to report “any qualification, reservation or adverse remark” relating to the maintenance of accounts and other matters connected therewith. An auditor’s report may contain matters leading to modifications in the auditor’s report on financial statements. The matters that cause such modification may have a consequential effects or possible effects on the books of account maintained by the company and other matters connected therewith.

14.  Section 128 of the Act, inter alia, states that every company shall prepare and keep its books of account and other relevant books and papers and financial statements that give a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the company. Section 129(1) of the Act, inter alia, states that the financial statements shall comply with the accounting standards notified under section 133 of the Act. Section 2(13) of the Act defines “books of account” to include records maintained in respect of—

(i)  all sums of money received and expended by a company and matters in relation to which the receipts and expenditure take place;

(ii)  all sales and purchases of goods and services by the company;

(iii)  the assets and liabilities of the company; and

(iv)   the items of cost as may be prescribed under section 148 in the case of a company which belongs to any class of companies specified under that section;

Clause (b) of section 143(3) requires the auditor to, inter alia, state whether, in his opinion, proper books of account as required by law have been kept by the company so far as appears from his examination of those books.

15. Matters to be reported under clause (h) of section 143(3) needs to be evaluated based on the financial statements prepared under the Act. This is also consistent with the other reporting responsibilities of the auditor on books of account and compliance with notified/specified accounting standards that are reported by him under section 143(3). Accordingly, reporting under this clause is determined based on the financial statements prepared i.e., as at the balance sheet date.

16. The words “qualification”, “adverse remark” and “reservation” used in clause (h) of section 143(3) should be considered to be similar to the terms “qualified opinion”, “adverse opinion” and “disclaimer of opinion”, respectively, referred to in SA 705 “Modifications to the Opinion in the Independent Auditor’s Report”.

17. Accordingly, the auditor would need to report under clause (h) of section 143(3) any matter that causes a qualification, adverse remark or disclaimer of opinion on the financial statements since such matters will or possibly will have an effect on the books of account maintained by the company.

18. Further, reporting under clause (h) of section 143(3) will be required if the auditor makes any observation under clause (b) of section 143(3) relating to whether proper books of account as required by law have been kept by the company. For example, the auditor may have made an observation on maintenance of cost records under clause (b) of section 143(3) and this may not have had an effect on the financial statements of the company or the auditor’s opinion on the financial statements.

19. As a corollary, reporting under clause (h) of section 143(3) will not be required if there are no modifications, i.e., no qualified, adverse or disclaimer of opinion, and there are no such observations under clause (b) of section 143(3) regarding books of account kept by the company.

20. Since clause (h) of section 143(3) requires the auditor to report under this clause only if the auditor has “any qualification, reservation or adverse remark”, it is appropriate to conclude that a matter reported under emphasis of matter paragraph in the audit report need not be considered for reporting under this clause as an emphasis of matter is not in the nature of a qualification, reservation (disclaimer) or adverse remark.

21. Any material weakness in internal financial controls that is reported by the auditor under clause (i) of section 143(3) may not have an impact on the maintenance of books of account if such material weakness did not result in a modification to the opinion on the financial statements of the company. However, if the material weakness in internal financial controls resulted in a modification to the audit opinion on the financial statements, then such modification may be covered for reporting under clause (h) of section 143(3) as stated in paragraph 17 above.

22. The Appendix to this Guidance Note contains illustrations on matters that may give rise to reporting under section 143(3)(f) and/or section 143(3)(h) of the Companies Act, 2013.

APPENDIX

ILLUSTRATIVE MATTERS FORMING BASIS FOR MODIFIED OPINION OR EMPHASIS OF MATTER PARAGRAPH IN THE AUDITOR’S REPORT AND REQURIING REPORTING UNDER SECTION 143(3)(f) and/or SECTION 143(3)(h) OF THE COMPANIES ACT, 2013

ILLUSTRATION 1

Basis for Qualified Opinion

The Company’s inventories are carried in the Balance Sheet at Rs. XXX (As at 31st March 20YY: Rs. YYY). The Management has not stated the inventories at the lower of cost and net realisable value but has stated them solely at cost, which constitutes a departure from the Accounting Standard – 2 “Valuation of Inventories”. The Company’s records indicate that had the Management stated the inventories at the lower of cost and net realisable value, an amount of Rs. XXX (As at 31st March 20YY: Rs. YYY) would have been required to write the inventories down to their net realisable value. Accordingly, cost of sales would have been increased by Rs. XXX (Previous year ended 31st March, 20YY: Rs.YYY), and income tax, profit for the year and shareholders’ funds would have been reduced by Rs. X, Rs. XX and Rs. XXX, respectively (Previous year ended 31st March, 20YY: Rs.Y, Rs.YY and Rs.YYY, respectively). This matter was also qualified in our report/ the report of the predecessor auditors on the financial statements for the year ended 31st March 20YY.4

Qualified Opinion

In our opinion and to the best of our information and according to the explanations given to us, except for the effects of the matter described in the Basis for Qualified Opinion paragraph above, the aforesaid standalone financial statements give the information required by the Act in the manner so required and give a true and fair view in conformity with the accounting principles generally accepted in India, of the state of affairs of the Company as at 31st March, 20XX, and its profit/loss and its cash flows for the year ended on that date.

……………………..

………………………

Report on Other Legal and Regulatory Requirements

As required by Section 143 (3) of the Act, we report that:

(a) We have sought and obtained all the information and explanations which to the best of our knowledge and belief were necessary for the purposes of our audit;

…………………………………………….

………………………………………………….

(f) The matter described in the Basis for Qualified Opinion paragraph above, in our opinion, may have an adverse effect on the functioning of the Company.

……………………………

(h) The qualification relating to the maintenance of accounts and other matters connected therewith are as stated in the Basis for Qualified Opinion paragraph above.”

ILLUSTRATION 2#

Opinion

In our opinion and to the best of our information and according to the explanations given to us, the aforesaid standalone financial statements give the information required by the Act in the manner so required and give a true and fair view in conformity with the accounting principles generally accepted in India, of the state of affairs of the Company as at 31st March, 20XX, and its profit/loss and its cash flows for the year ended on that date.

Emphasis of Matters

We draw attention to the following matters in the Notes to the financial statements:

a) Note X to the financial statements which, describes the uncertainty related to the outcome of the lawsuit filed against the Company by XYZ Company.

b) Note Y in the financial statements which indicates that the Company has accumulated losses and its net worth has been fully / substantially eroded, the Company has incurred a net loss/net cash loss during the current and previous year(s) and, the Company’s current liabilities exceeded its current assets as at the balance sheet date. These conditions, along with other matters set forth in Note Y, indicate the existence of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. However, the financial statements of the Company have been prepared on a going concern basis for the reasons stated in the said Note.

Our opinion is not modified in respect of these matters.

……………

Report on Other Legal and Regulatory Requirements

As required by Section 143 (3) of the Act, we report that:

………

(f) The going concern matter described in sub-paragraph (b) under the Emphasis of Matters paragraph above, in our opinion, may have an adverse effect on the functioning of the Company.

#  (In this case there is nothing reportable under sec 143(3)(h))

ILLUSTRATION 3

Basis for Qualified Opinion

ABC Company Limited’s investment in XYZ Company, a foreign associate whose net worth has been fully/substantially eroded, is carried at Rs. XXX in the Balance Sheet as at March 31, 20XX. We were unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence about the carrying amount of ABC Company Limited’s investment in XYZ Company as at March 31, 20XX because we were denied access to the financial information, management, and the auditors of XYZ Company. Consequently, we were unable to determine whether any adjustments to these amounts were necessary.

Qualified Opinion

In our opinion and to the best of our information and according to the explanations given to us, except for the possible effects5 of the matter described in the Basis for Qualified Opinion paragraph, the aforesaid standalone financial statements give the information required by the Act in the manner so required and give a true and fair view in conformity with the accounting principles generally accepted in India of the state of affairs of the Company as at 31st March 20XX, and its profit/loss and its cash flows for the year ended on that date.

Report on Other Legal and Regulatory Requirements

As required by section 143 (3) of the Act, we report that:

……………………………….

………………………………..

(f) The matter described in the Basis for Qualified Opinion paragraph above, in our opinion, may have an adverse effect on the functioning of the Company.

……………………..

(h) The qualification relating to the maintenance of accounts and other matters connected therewith are as stated in the Basis for Qualified Opinion paragraph above.

Illustration 4

Basis for Adverse Opinion

The Company’s financing arrangements expired and the amount outstanding was payable on March 31, 20XX. The Company has been unable to re-negotiateor obtain replacement financing and is considering filing for bankruptcy. These events indicate a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt on the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern and, therefore, it may be unable to realise its assets and discharge its liabilities in the normal course of business. The financial statements (and notes thereto) do not disclose this fact.

Adverse Opinion

In our opinion, because of the omission of the information mentioned in the Basis for Adverse Opinion paragraph, the financial statements do not give the information required by the Companies Act, 2013 in the manner so required and also do not give a true and fair view in conformity with the accounting principles generally accepted in India of the state of affairs of the Company as at 31st March, 20XX, and its profit/loss and its cash flows for the year ended on that date.

…………………………

Report on Other Legal and Regulatory Requirements

As required by section 143 (3) of the Act, we report that:

………………….

(f) The matter described in the Basis for Adverse Opinion paragraph above, in our opinion, may have an adverse effect on the functioning of the Company.

………………

(h) The adverse remarks relating to the maintenance of accounts and other matters connected therewith areas stated in the Basis for Adverse Opinion paragraph above.

Illustration 5

Basis for Disclaimer of Opinion

We were appointed as auditors of the Company after March 31, 20X1 and thus could not observe the counting of physical inventories at the beginning and end of the year. Accordingly, we were unable to satisfy ourselves by alternative means concerning the inventory quantities held at March 31, 20X0 and March 31, 20X1 which are stated in the Balance Sheet at Rs. XXX and Rs. XXX, respectively.

In addition, the introduction of a new computerised accounts receivable system in September 20X0 resulted in numerous errors in accounts receivable. As of the date of our audit report, Management was still in the process of rectifying the system deficiencies and correcting the errors. We were unable to confirm or verify by alternative means accounts receivable included in the Balance Sheet at a total amount of Rs. XXX as at March 31, 20X1.

As a result of these matters, we were unable to determine whether any adjustments might have been found necessary in respect of recorded or unrecorded inventories and accounts receivable in the Balance Sheet, and the corresponding elements making up the Statement of Profit and Loss and Cash Flow Statement.

Opinion

Because of the significance of the matters described in the Basis for Disclaimer of Opinion paragraph, we have not been able to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to provide a basis for an audit opinion. Accordingly, we do not express an opinion on the financial statements.

Report on Other Legal and Regulatory Requirements

As required by section 143 (3) of the Act, we report that:

………………………….

………………………….

(f) The matter described in the Basis for Disclaimer of Opinion paragraph above, in our opinion, may have an adverse effect on the functioning of the Company.

………………………

(h) The reservation relating to the maintenance of accounts and other matters connected therewith are as stated in the Basis for Disclaimer of Opinion paragraph above.

* This Guidance Note was approved by the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India at its 342nd meeting held on 15-16 April, 2015.

Note-

1. Refer Rule 11 of Companies (Audit and Auditors) Rules, 2014

2. Reference may be made to Standard on Auditing (SA) 705, “Modifications to the Opinion in the Independent Auditor’s Report.”

3. Reference may be made to paragraphs 6 and 7 of Standard on Auditing (SA) 706, “Emphasis of Matter Paragraphs and Other Matter Paragraphs in the Independent Auditor’s Report.”

4 Where applicable and only in such case, disclosure of previous year figures is required – Attention of the readers is drawn to the provisions of Standard on Auditing (SA) 710, Comparative Information—Corresponding Figures And Comparative Financial Statements .

5 Note the use of words “possible effects” as the auditor was unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence.

Source- ICAI

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