The purpose of this research is to determine whether the type of tax services provided by a public accounting firm to its audit client and the consequence severity of an audit failure impact jurors' assessment of audit quality and auditor liability.
The authors administer a court case to 168 jurors manipulating three levels of tax services provided to an audit client (none, tax preparation, and aggressive tax planning services); two levels of consequence severity of the alleged audit failure, observing the impact on jurors' assessment of audit quality, auditor responsibility for audit failure; and damages awarded the plaintiff.
Consistent with recent US regulations, jurors perceive the quality of the audit to be lower when auditors provide aggressive tax planning services, but not for tax preparation services. Damages are greater when auditors provide aggressive tax planning services across both levels of consequence severity.
The results indicate that the type of tax services provided may impact jurors' views of audit quality and damage assessments against auditors. The questionnaire uses previously validated measures, but the results may not be generalizable to jurors in all jurisdictions.
Though empirical evidence is mixed at best about the impact of auditors providing non-audit services on auditor independence in fact, auditor independence in appearance, and thus audit quality, such impacts may affect the way jurors perceive the situation.
The study directly tests the implications for auditor liability of new restrictions on tax services and more accurately measures the impact of consequence severity, using actual jurors.