Management assertions are claims made by members of management regarding certain aspects of a business. The concept is primarily used in regard to the audit of a company's financial statements, where the auditors rely upon a variety of assertions regarding the business. The auditors test the validity of these assertions by conducting a number of audit tests. Management assertions fall into the following three classifications:
Transaction-level assertions. The following five items are classified as assertions related to transactions, mostly in regard to the income statement:
- Accuracy. The assertion is that the full amounts of all transactions were recorded, without error.
- Classification. The assertion is that all transactions have been recorded within the correct accounts in the general ledger.
- Completeness. The assertion is that all business events to which the company was subjected were recorded.
- Cutoff. The assertion is that all transactions were recorded within the correct reporting period.
- Occurrence. The assertion is that recorded business transactions actually took place.
Account balance assertions. The following four items are classified as assertions related to the ending balances in accounts, and so relate primarily to the balance sheet:
- Completeness. The assertion is that all reported asset, liability, and equity balances have been fully reported.
- Existence. The assertion is that all account balances exist for assets, liabilities, and equity.
- Rights and obligations. The assertion is that the entity has the rights to the assets it owns and is obligated under its reported liabilities.
- Valuation. The assertion is that all asset, liability, and equity balances have been recorded at their proper valuations.
Presentation and disclosure assertions. The following five items are classified as assertions related to the presentation of information within the financial statements, as well as the accompanying disclosures:
- Accuracy. The assertion is that all information disclosed is in the correct amounts, and which reflect their proper values.
- Completeness. The assertion is that all transactions that should be disclosed have been disclosed.
- Occurrence. The assertion is that disclosed transactions have indeed occurred.
- Rights and obligations. The assertion is that disclosed rights and obligations actually relate to the reporting entity.
- Understandability. The assertion is that the information included in the financial statements has been appropriately presented and is clearly understandable.
There is a fair amount of duplication in the types of assertions across the three categories; however, each assertion type is intended for a different aspect of the financial statements, with the first set related to the income statement, the second set to the balance sheet, and the third set to the accompanying disclosures.
If the auditor is unable to obtain a letter containing management assertions from the senior management of a client, the auditor is unlikely to proceed with audit activities. One reason for not proceeding with an audit is that the inability to obtain a management assertions letter could be an indicator that management has engaged in fraud in producing the financial statements.