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Determinants of going concern opinions and audit fees for development stage enterprises

Advances in Accounting. June 1, 2016

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Abstract

Startup entities have been the focus of much political and academic interest recently. Development stage enterprises (DSEs), as defined by SFAS 7, are startup entities for which some publicly available information exists. New accounting standards have removed the DSE designation and related extra reporting requirements, and placed more responsibility on owners and managers to assess the ability of entities to continue as a going concern. We examined information from financial statements and audit reports of companies previously reporting as DSEs to investigate what increases the likelihood of receiving a going concern modification in auditors’ opinions (GCO) and what affects audit fees. Our overall analyses indicate that the asset size of DSEs, negative working capital, and prior-year going concern modifications consistently influence going concern modifications to auditors’ opinions. Managers should clearly consider these conditions when making their assessment of their companies’ future going concern status. Our results indicate that the size of the audit firm did not influence the going concern modification decision, but Big4 auditors charge significantly higher fees than other auditors. Thus, managers/owners of DSEs should weigh the benefits of having a Big4 firm audit on their financial statements against the higher fees charged by those firms.

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