Having properly compiled financial statements is important both to the buyer and the seller. The seller needs to have a clear understanding of the profitability of the business and a way in which to calculate the expected value of any potential sale transaction.
The buyer needs to have valid financial statements on which the buyer can determine their interest in any sales transaction and to determine how much they're willing to pay for the business being sold.
In order to satisfy the needs of both the buyer and the seller, there are three types of financial statements that can be prepared:
- Compiled Financial Statements
This type of financial statements represent the most basic level of service CPAs provide with respect to financial statements. In a compilation, the CPA must comply with certain basic requirements of professional standards, such as having a knowledge of the client's industry and applicable accounting principles, having a clear understanding with the client as to the services to be provided, and reading the financial statements to determine whether there are any obvious departures from generally accepted accounting principles (or, in some cases, another comprehensive basis of accounting used by the entity). It may be necessary for the CPA to perform "other accounting services" - such as creating your general ledger, or assisting you with adjusting entries for your books - before the financial statements can be prepared. Upon completion, a report on the financial statements is issued that states a compilation was performed in accordance with AICPA professional standards, but no assurance is expressed that the statements are in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles. This is known as the expression of "no assurance." Compiled financial statements are often prepared for privately held entities that do not need a higher level of assurance expressed by the CPA.
- Reviewed Financial Statements
These statements require that the CPA perform inquiry and analytical procedures in addition to the procedures described above for a compilation. Upon completion, a report is issued stating that a review has been performed in accordance with AICPA professional standards, that a review is less in scope than an audit, and that the CPA did not become aware of any material modifications that should be made in order for the statements to be in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles, or if applicable, another comprehensive basis of accounting. This is known as the expression of "limited assurance." Reviewed financial statements are often prepared for entities that have bank loans, outside investors, or trade creditors, but those third parties do not require audited statements.
- Audited Financial Statements
A company's financial statements which have been prepared and certified by a Certified Public Accountant (the auditor) are referred to a Audited Financial Statements. In the U.S., the auditor certifies that the financial statements meet the requirements of the U.S. GAAP. An auditor can have an unqualified opinion, in which he or she agrees with how the company prepared the statements, or a qualified opinion, in which he or she states which aspects of the company's statements he or she does not agree with. In extreme cases, the auditor may express no opinion on financial statements at all, in the case that the scope of the audit was insufficient.