INVITATION TO COMMENT. ED/Code of Ethics (Revised)

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1 INVITATION TO COMMENT ED/Code of Ethics (Revised) The Professional Standards Board (PSB) of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants is in the process of revising the Code of Ethics and has issued an Exposure Draft for comment. The PSB has also issued ED/ Code of Ethics: Independence in Assurance Engagements separately and is in the process of considering the submissions received on that exposure draft. Comments should be addressed to: The Director Professional Standards New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants PO Box 3334 Shortland Street Auckland 1140 Fax: (09) Comments are requested by March 28,

2 EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM 1. Introduction The current Code of Ethics is substantially different in structure but not in content to the Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (the IFAC Code) issued by the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA). NZICA is a member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and, as part of its membership obligations, is required to apply no less stringent standards than those stated in the IFAC Code of Ethics 1. The PSB s objective as a national standard setter is to uphold the public interest through setting high quality ethical and professional standards. This objective is aligned with that of the IESBA (i.e. to serve the public interest by setting high-quality ethical standards and by facilitating the convergence of international and national standards, thereby enhancing the quality and consistency of services provided by professional accountants throughout the world and strengthening public confidence in the global accounting profession). 2. Background International The IESBA began a project in March 2007 to consider the applicability of the clarity conventions adopted by the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) 2 on the IFAC Code. The objective of the project was to improve the clarity and understandability of the IFAC Code s provisions. After IFAC s due process, the revised IFAC Code was approved by the IESBA in April 2009 and issued in July 2009 following the approval and consideration of due process by the Public Interest Oversight Board. The IFAC Code is effective on January 1, NZICA The last significant revision of the Institute s Code of Ethics was in One of the principles agreed at an early stage in the 2003 project was that the format, structure and authority of the Institute s Code of Ethics and Ethical Guidelines be considered to ensure that it is clear, logical and appropriate. In this light, the current Code was developed after much consultation and analysis, with the aim of encouraging member buy in and acceptance of the Code. The PSB is now seeking to revise the Code of Ethics to converge more closely with the IFAC Code. The objectives of the PSB s exposure of the Code are: to ensure reasonable steps are taken to obtain submissions from persons or organisations who will be affected by the changes to the Code; to alert constituents to changes in the Code as a result of adopting the revised IFAC Code; and to identify issues in relation to the Code that the PSB should raise with the IESBA. 3. Overview of the proposed changes The following summarises key differences between the exposure draft and the current Code. Readers should not rely on this summary of significant differences to determine what changes, if any, they may have to make to their current practices, policies or methodologies. Rather, readers should read the full exposure draft to determine the significance of its proposals. 1 Statements of Membership Obligations, IFAC Board, November 2006, SMO4, paragraph 4. 2 The IAASB is the Standards Setting Board of IFAC that is responsible for developing auditing and assurance standards, other pronouncements and guidance. 2

3 a) New structure The existing Code applies to all members and links all Rules and application material to a fundamental principle. The PSB proposes to adopt the IFAC Code structure. The proposed Code contains three parts: Part A: General Application of the Code. This part introduces the fundamental principles and conceptual framework and applies to all members. Part B: Describes how the conceptual framework applies in certain situations facing members in public practice 3. Part C: Describes how the conceptual framework applies in certain situations facing members in business 4. b) Revised fundamental principles The fundamental principles in the existing NZ Code are expressed slightly differently from the IFAC Code, but are all contained in and covered by the existing Code. It is proposed that the NZ Code adopt the IFAC fundamental principles. Most significantly, confidentiality is now a separate fundamental principle (see below). Proposed Code (aligned with the IFAC Code) Integrity Objectivity Current New Zealand Code Integrity Objectivity and Independence (independence is only required when performing certain types of engagements) Competence Professional Competence and Due Care Confidentiality Professional Behaviour Quality Performance (includes due care and diligence, timeliness, compliance with technical and professional standards) Professional Behaviour (includes confidentiality) 3 A member in public practice is defined to be a member, irrespective of functional classification (e.g., audit, tax or consulting) in a firm that provides professional services. This term is also used to refer to a firm of members in public practice. 4 A member in business is defined as a member employed or engaged in an executive or non-executive capacity in such areas as commerce, industry, service, the public sector, education, the not for profit sector, regulatory bodies or professional bodies, or a member contracted by such entities. 3

4 c) Conceptual framework The proposed Code provides a much fuller description of the conceptual framework for complying with the fundamental principles, and requires a member to identify, evaluate, and address threats to compliance with the fundamental principles. A member is required to take qualitative and quantitative factors into this evaluation. A member must evaluate threats when the member knows, or could reasonably be expected to know of circumstances or relationships that compromise the fundamental principles. Where threats are not at a level at which a reasonable and informed third party would be likely to conclude, weighing all the specific facts and circumstances available at that time, that compliance with the fundamental principles is compromised, it is necessary to determine whether appropriate safeguards are available and can be applied to eliminate the threats or reduce them to an acceptable level. The proposed Code includes an identification and description of the categories of threats and categories of safeguards. A member must decline to offer a service, stop providing a service or resign where threats cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level. d) Mandatory requirements The proposed Code identifies a mandatory requirement by the use of the word shall which is in line with the IFAC Code, with the wording adopted by the IAASB in the ISAs and with that used in the more recent professional standards. Mandatory requirements in the existing NZ Code are indicated by the use of must. e) Definitions A number of the definitions have been revised and some new definitions have been included. f) New requirements and guidance The requirements and guidance in the proposed Code are expressed differently from the requirements in the existing NZ Code. Most of the new requirements, identified from shall statements, are implied in the current New Zealand Code rather than explicitly stated. The more significant changes include: Requirements to resolve ethical conflict. (Paragraphs , and ) Where appropriate, requiring members to make others aware of limitations inherent in their services. (Paragraph 130.6) The PSB proposes to require a member in public practice to agree the terms of the engagement with the client in writing. (Paragraph NZ ) The absence of such a requirement has been identified as a significant weakness in the current Code and is inconsistent with the Engagement Standards. A softening of the requirements for a proposed accountant, when superseding an existing accountant. It is proposed that a member will only be required to determine whether there are any reasons for not accepting an engagement, which may, depending on the engagement, require direct communication with the existing accountant. (Paragraphs and ) The following requirements, when superseding another member in public practice, for the member in public practice have been removed: o To ascertain if the prospective client has advised the existing accountant of the change and whether permission to discuss the client s affairs has been given; 4

5 o o To communicate with the existing accountant; and To request, in writing, information of any professional matters of which the proposed accountant should be aware. The PSB note that these steps may still be in the best interest of the proposed accountant, but in line with the IFAC Code, the proposed Code no longer mandates nor recommends that these requirements are followed. The requirement for the existing accountant to reply to such a request within seven days has been removed and replaced by more general requirements, including the need to be bound by confidentiality but that when providing information, to do so honestly and unambiguously. (Paragraphs and ) When facing a conflict of interest, a member in public practice is required to explain the nature and effects of the conflict to the client in terms that the client can understand, to ensure a proper appreciation of the conflict and its implications so that the client is able to make an informed decision. (Paragraph NZ ) A prohibition on members in business from offering an inducement to influence a third party improperly. (Paragraph 350.7) A mapping document 5 which compares the exposure draft to the existing Code is being prepared to assist in identifying all of the differences. 4. Differences to the IFAC Code of Ethics The PSB has decided to follow an IFAC-plus approach to the adoption of the IFAC Code. This will mean moving closer to the IFAC Code by including all of the material in the IFAC Code in the revised New Zealand Code and aligning the format and numbering of sections and paragraphs. However, there are numerous additional requirements in the current New Zealand Code which are considered to remain appropriate for the New Zealand environment and which will be retained by incorporating them into the appropriate sections. New Zealand additions are clearly labelled and numbered as such. (a) Application The proposed Code makes it clear that Part B Members in Public Practice must be applied by members in business if they perform engagements (for example an audit of financial statements for a not-for-profit entity). (b) Fundamental Principles The proposed Code adds self-assessment questions to Part A after each fundamental principle, to assist members to ensure that they comply with the fundamental principles. (c) Additional Requirements It is proposed to retain the additional or stronger requirements currently in the New Zealand Code. The New Zealand paragraphs are clearly labelled as such. 5 This will be available in the Ethical and Professional Standards/Current exposure drafts section on NZICA s website. 5

6 (d) Independence The IFAC Code includes detailed Independence requirements in Sections 290 and 291. These sections are included in the Exposure Draft Code of Ethics: Independence in Assurance Engagements, issued by the PSB in April Specific matter on which the PSB is seeking comment: Prohibition from charging contingent fees to prepare and lodge tax returns The current and proposed Codes both prohibit a member from charging a contingent fee to prepare and lodge tax returns. The PSB, on request, has been considering whether this prohibition is still appropriate as it is inconsistent with current acceptable practice outside of the Institute. The PSB consider that charging a contingent fee could threaten compliance with the fundamental principles and propose to retain this prohibition, as stated in paragraph NZ Effective Date It is proposed that the revised Code be effective on January 1, REQUEST FOR COMMENT The PSB is seeking comments on all matters addressed in the exposure draft. The PSB regards both critical and supporting comments as essential to a balanced review and will consider all submissions, whether they address all specific matters, additional issues or only one issue. All submissions received will be considered in accordance with the PSB s due process. Respondents should bear in mind, however, that under IFAC s Member Obligations the PSB s ability to make changes to some of the requirements in the exposure draft is limited. Specific Matters for Comment Respondents are asked particularly to respond to the following questions: 1. Do you agree with the decision to converge with the IFAC Code by including all of the material as is in the IFAC Code in the revised New Zealand Code, and adopting the IFAC Code structure and paragraph numbering? If not, please provide reasons or identify specific paragraphs. 2. Do you agree with the decision to add additional New Zealand paragraphs to the IFAC Code, clearly labelled and numbered as such, which are considered to remain appropriate for the New Zealand environment? If not, please identify the specific paragraphs and provide reasons. 3. Do you agree with the proposed requirement in paragraph NZ to obtain a written agreement of the terms of the engagement with the client? 4. Do you agree that it is still appropriate to prohibit the use of contingent fees for engagements to prepare and lodge tax returns, as stated in paragraph NZ ? 5. Are you aware of any regulatory or other issues in the New Zealand environment that may affect the implementation of the Code as proposed? If so, please provide details. 6. Are there any issues arising from the proposed Code that you consider the PSB should raise with the IESBA when the IFAC Code is next updated? If so, please provide details. 6

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