If any of the three bills were to pass, they would repeal existing Ohio law that protects work papers
used to prepare audits of governmental units.
From an accounting firm's perspective, the bottom line is also an issue: unlike state government, IPAs do not enjoy sovereign immunity from lawsuits for information contained in the work papers.
Most IPA audit work papers are not sitting around in file folders, but are prepared and maintained electronically.
Forcing a very senior-level CPA to stand around explaining complex work papers and answering questions is a problem.
What happens if government audit work papers become public records?
Based on comments received from CPA firms across the state, several things will happen should IPA work papers become public records:
The Ohio Society of CPAs succeeded in changes to Ohio law in both 1991 and 1998 to keep work papers private to maintain the free flow of information between the client and auditor and to help contain litigation.
The Ohio Society of CPAs will be working with members of the Ohio Senate to express the strong concerns of the accounting profession over this work paper proposal.
However, most courts allow ajury to infer from a firm's destruction of work papers that those papers would have demonstrated malfeasance.
If your client has been sued with regard to a material misstatement in the financial statements, the work papers related to your client's engagement should be kept indefinitely.
CPAs are known for having detailed documentation in their work papers to meet the standards required for audit work.
Train your employees to prepare documentation beyond the minimum work paper requirements established by professional standards.