Arpine Maghakyan

Abstracts

1 Digitalization and High Audit Fees: An Empirical Study Applied to US Firms

Authors: Arpine Maghakyan

Abstract:

The purpose of this paper is to study the relationship between the level of industry digitalization and audit fees, especially, the relationship between Big 4 auditor fees and industry digitalization level. On the one hand, automation of business processes decreases internal control weakness and manual mistakes; increases work effectiveness and integrations. On the other hand, it may cause serious misstatements, high business risks or even bankruptcy, typically in early stages of automation. Incomplete automation can bring high audit risk especially if the auditor does not fully understand client’s business automation model. Higher audit risk consequently will cause higher audit fees. Higher audit fees for clients with high automation level are more highlighted in Big 4 auditor’s behavior. Using data of US firms from 2005-2015, we found that industry level digitalization is an interaction for the auditor quality on audit fees. Moreover, the choice of Big4 or non-Big4 is correlated with client’s industry digitalization level. Big4 client, which has higher digitalization level, pays more than one with low digitalization level. In addition, a high-digitalized firm that has Big 4 auditor pays higher audit fee than non-Big 4 client. We use audit fees and firm-specific variables from Audit Analytics and Compustat databases. We analyze collected data by using fixed effects regression methods and Wald tests for sensitivity check. We use fixed effects regression models for firms for determination of the connections between technology use in business and audit fees. We control for firm size, complexity, inherent risk, profitability and auditor quality. We chose fixed effects model as it makes possible to control for variables that have not or cannot be measured.

Keywords: Digitalization, audit fees, auditor quality, Big4

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