Audit Definition

Learn more about what an audit is in business.

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audit definition

An audit takes place when an independent person or group inspects a person’s or business’s accounts. Audits happen in a variety of contexts. A small business owner will likely encounter audits for their taxes, finances, and even their contractual dealings. And depending on your industry, your business might regularly engage in internal audits. For all those reasons, it’s important to know the definition of audit, as well as audit advantages and disadvantages.  

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What is an Audit?

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary lists an audit’s business definition as “a formal examination of an organization’s or individual’s accounts or financial situation.” Another audit definition for a more general context is a methodical examination and review.

Audit Examples and Types

It’s critical to audit your business because it’s a legal entity with all kinds of financial and administrative responsibilities. That said, there are more than a dozen kinds of audits that businesses frequently encounter. Let’s review a few examples of different types of audits. 

Tax Audit

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents regularly conduct taxes audits of individuals and businesses. Therefore, it’s one of the more common types of audits you’ll encounter. During a tax audit, IRS agents review all of your financial records to ensure that your business’s tax returns are accurate. The IRS doesn’t necessarily audit organizations because it suspects them of wrongdoing. Rather, they take a variety of circumstances into account when selecting a business to audit. Keeping thorough and well-organized records can help make a tax audit relatively painless. 

Operational Audit

Businesses conduct internal operational audits to evaluate their own policies, culture, and corporate goals. Alternatively, businesses can hire independent consultants to carry out an operational audit. The general purpose of an operational audit is to evaluate aspects of the business that result in inefficiencies. Examples include things like unpopular employee policies, poor-fitting business goals, and out-of-date procedures. 

Payroll Audit

Any business with employees will need to undertake an occasional payroll audit. These kinds of audits ensure that all payroll-related information is accurate. Covered items include tax withholding amounts, employee pay rates, leave amounts, and personal information. 

Audit Considerations

As you can imagine, audits have both advantages and drawbacks. These advantages and disadvantages may vary based on whether the company is auditing itself or hiring an independent outfit to execute the audit. 

Audit Benefits

For one, auditing ensures that your company is meeting all legal and financial obligations. It also helps your business improve itself by pointing out problems or less-than-ideal practices. In some situations, an audit can provide your business with additional credibility. This fact can be helpful for customers, business partners, and government organizations alike. 

Audit Disadvantages

Very few people enjoy the idea of an audit, and for good reason. Audits take time and money to carry out. As a result, they can be a major drag on your business’s operations and a hit on employee morale. Furthermore, audits often require dedicated specialists. Sometimes, these professionals can be found within the company’s human resources department. But more often, your business will have to hire expensive third-party consultants.

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Summary

An audit is an important way businesses can maximize their efficiency and stay in compliance with their obligations. Audits take a variety of forms but are common in the world of business. 

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Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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