Alternative procedures are those additional audit tests used when the original set of planned audit procedures cannot be performed or prove to be ineffective. For example, an auditor sends out receivable confirmations to a client's customers, but there are so few responses that the auditor must use alternative procedures, such as comparing subsequent cash receipts to the year-end receivable balances. Similarly, an auditor is unable to attend a client's year-end physical inventory count, and so decides to use an alternative procedure, which is tracing subsequent sales of finished goods back to the year-end inventory records.
After alternative procedures have been performed, the auditor must determine whether sufficient additional audit evidence has been collected. If not, further alternative procedures must be performed. Once all audit tests have been concluded, the auditor should document them in the audit working papers.