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Perceived auditor independence and audit firm fees

Holland, Kevin ORCID: and Lane, Jennifer 2012. Perceived auditor independence and audit firm fees. Accounting and Business Research 42 (2) , pp. 115-141. 10.1080/00014788.2012.628157

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Regulations requiring the disclosure of fees paid to an auditor for audit and non-audit services (NAS) respond to concerns that such payments are potentially detrimental to auditors' actual or perceived independence. Although empirical studies have failed to produce unequivocal evidence of detrimental effects on auditor independence, the actions of regulators, audit firms and companies are consistent with the belief that economic bonding generated by fees can impair perceived levels of auditor independence. Using a sample of UK companies over a six year period to March 2006, we study perceived impairment of auditor independence by examining the relationship between levels of total relative fees (combined audit and NAS fees payable by a company to its auditor as a proportion of the audit firm's UK income) and market value. This paper's methodological innovation is its use of a valuation framework in this setting. A further contribution lies in dropping the assumption of linearity found in most prior empirical studies. We provide evidence that shareholders perceive a threat to auditor independence only at high total relative fee levels. At lower levels, total relative fees are positively related to company value. These results suggest that disclosure of NAS and audit fees are of relevance to investors, as is information about auditor income. Our results support the view that regulation by reference to the threshold at which total relative fees are perceived negatively is more consistent with investor preferences than prohibition of the supply of NAS by auditors to their audit clients.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5601 Accounting
Uncontrolled Keywords: auditor independence; audit fees; non-audit services; company valuation
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 0001-4788
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2022 09:09

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