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The two areas firms fall short when it comes to peer review

Written on Mar 14, 2024

By Jessica Salerno-Shumaker, OSCPA senior content manager  

Investing time and resources in preparing for peer reviews can make a significant difference during the process, said one CPA.   


“Firms should consider if they have the right staff and what kind of risks they have in the pool of plans they’re auditing,” said Alice Evans, CPA, of AC Evans, LLC.  “It’s important to ensure they do a quality job on these audits throughout the season, and then have a robust review process in place.”  

Evans will present “Peer Review Developments & Findings,” at the Employee Benefit Plan Audit Conference on April 26.   

She said it’s important for members to pay attention to two areas: the DOL’s quality study and the overhaul of the Quality Control Standards, which will not be called Quality Management Standards. 

When it comes to the updated standards, Evans said it’s critical each firm has those in mind as they prepare for their peer review.  

“This period is a stressful time for most firms,” Evans said. “It is for me when it's my peer review time. And one thing I hear is that firms are all trying to do good work, but where they fall short is usually in implementing new standards and in documentation.”  

Concerning implementing the new standards, Evans said firm staff need to stay current on their CPE. Staff need to understand the methodology and how to use their knowledge to comply with the new standards.  

When it comes to documentation, she said that area is about creating good habits and taking the time to look at things carefully.  

“Make sure that you're thinking about the big picture,” she said. “What we find a lot of times is firms will do the work, but they don't necessarily document very well. So, then there are questions asking if they did it or not. And if firms take the time to sit back and self-review their work, I think that many of the documentation struggles could be greatly improved.”  

Quality is of utmost importance when it comes to employee benefit plan audits, Evans said, and firms must avoid getting too comfortable when it comes to their work.  

“Do what you need to do to ensure that you have the quality, training, implementation and documentation,” she said. “And be aware of the pitfalls that are out there.”  

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