What Are Assurance Services?

Assurance services are a type of independent professional service usually provided by certified or chartered accountants such as CPAs. Assurance services can include a review of any financial document or transaction, such as a loan, contract, or financial website. This review certifies the correctness and validity of the item being reviewed by the CPA.

Providers of assurance services will help clients navigate the complexities, risks and opportunities in their partner networks by proactively managing and monitoring risks presented by third-party relationships. Businesses use assurance services to increase the transparency, relevance and value of information they disclose to the market and their investors. Many find by sharing business performance better; it becomes a sustainable growth and competitive differentiation strategy.

The Basics of Assurance Services

According to the AICPA website, "Assurance Services are defined as 'independent professional services that improve the quality or context of information for decision makers.' Today's business environment is marked by increased competition and the need for quicker and better information for decisions. In addition, the complexity of systems and the anonymity of the Internet present barriers to growth. Businesses and their customers need independent assurance that the information on which decisions are based is reliable. By virtue of their training, experience and reputation for integrity, CPAs are the logical choice to provide this assurance."

Technical guidance for certified accountants who wish to engage in assurance services can be found in the ISAE (International Standard on Assurance Engagements) 3000 and in The Assurance Sourcebook published by the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) that also includes practical advice for firms choosing among different assurance services.

Key Takeaways

  • Assurance services are a type of independent professional service usually provided by certified or chartered accountants such as CPAs.
  • Assurance Services are defined as independent professional services that improve the quality or context of information for decision-makers.
  • Businesses use assurance services to increase the transparency, relevance and value of information they disclose to the market and their investors.

Types of Assurance Services

Assurance services can come in a variety of forms and are meant to provide the firm contracting the CPA with pertinent information to ease decision making. For example, the client could request that the CPA carefully go over all of the numbers and math that are on the client's mortgage website to ensure that all of the calculations and equations are correct. Below is a short list of the most common assurance services.

Risk Assessment

Entities are subjected to greater risks and more precipitous changes in fortune than ever before. Managers and investors are concerned about whether entities have identified the full scope of these risks and taken precautions to mitigate them. This service assures that an entity's profile of business risks is comprehensive and evaluates whether the entity has appropriate systems in place to effectively manage those risks.

Business Performance Measurement

Investors and managers demand a more comprehensive information base than just financial statements; they need a "balanced scorecard." This service evaluates whether an entity's performance measurement system contains relevant and reliable measures for assessing the degree to which the entity's goals and objectives are achieved or how its performance compares to its competitors.

Information Systems Reliability

Managers and other employees are more dependent on good information than ever and are increasingly demanding it online. It must be right in real time. The focus must be on systems that are reliable by design, not correcting the data after the fact. This service assesses whether an entity's internal information systems (financial and non-financial) provide reliable information for operating and financial decisions.

Electronic Commerce

The growth of electronic commerce has been retarded by a lack of confidence in the systems. This service assesses whether systems and tools used in electronic commerce provide appropriate data integrity, security, privacy, and reliability.

Health Care Performance Measurement

The motivations in the $1 trillion health care industry have flipped 180 degrees in the last few years. The old system (fee for service) rewarded those who delivered the most services. The new system (managed care) rewards those who deliver the fewest services.

As a result, health-care recipients and their employers are increasingly concerned about the quality and availability of health care services. This service provides assurance about the effectiveness of health care services provided by HMOs, hospitals, doctors, and other providers.