Free US Law DictionaryBETA
The most general definition of an audit is an evaluation of a person, organization, system, process, project or product. Audits are performed to ascertain the validity and reliability of information, and also provide an assessment of a system's internal control. The goal of an audit is to express an opinion on the person/organization/system etc. under evaluation based on work done on a test basis. Due to practical constraints, an audit seeks to provide only reasonable assurance that the statements are free from material error. Hence, statistical sampling is often adopted in audits. In the case of financial audits, a set of financial statements are said to be true and fair when they are free of material misstatements - a concept influenced by both quantitative and qualitative factors.
Traditionally audits were mainly associated with gaining information about financial systems and the financial records of a company or a business (see financial audit). However recently auditing has begun to include other information about the system, such as information about environmental performance. As a result there are now professions that conduct environmental audits.
In financial accounting, an audit is an independent assessment of the fairness by which a company's financial statements are presented by its management. It is performed by competent, independent and objective person or persons, known as auditors or accountants, who then issue an auditor's report on the results of the audit.
Such systems must adhere to generally accepted standards set by governing bodies that regulate businesses. It simply provides assurance for third parties or external users that such statements present 'fairly' a company's financial condition and results of operations.