Audit vs Review vs Compilation: Understanding Financial Statements Services in the UAE

Published On: 23 November 2023

By Sam Alex

Audit vs Review vs Compilation: Understanding Financial Statements Services in the UAE

Published On: 23 November 2023

In the dynamic business environment of the UAE, financial integrity and transparency are paramount. For businesses, this means understanding and leveraging various financial statement services, namely auditing, review, and compilation. Each offers a distinct level of scrutiny and assurance, catering to diverse needs. Whether it's satisfying stakeholders, complying with regulations, or making informed internal decisions, knowing the intricacies of these services is crucial. As the UAE continues its trajectory as a global business hub, such financial services not only uphold the credibility of businesses but also reinforce the nation's commitment to international standards and best practices.

Types of Financial Statement Services

Within the UAE's financial reporting domain, three primary services emerge--auditing, review, and compilation. Each has its distinct purpose and degree of assurance.

Auditing is the most comprehensive, where external auditors meticulously examine a company's financial statements to affirm their accuracy. They provide an opinion on whether the statements genuinely represent the company's financial position, ensuring the highest level of assurance.

Review, on the other hand, is less intensive. While it assesses the plausibility of financial statements, it doesn't delve as deeply into detailed testing as audits do. Reviews provide limited assurance, essentially ensuring no significant anomalies exist.

Compilation is the least rigorous, where accountants prepare financial statements based on the data provided by the business. There's no verification or testing, so no assurance is provided.

Typically, businesses opt for audits when external stakeholders or regulatory bodies demand high assurance. Reviews are chosen when limited assurance is adequate, often for smaller stakeholders or internal assessments. Compilations are best for internal use or when stakeholders only need to be organized, not verified, financial data.

The Audit Process

The audit process in the UAE is a meticulous three-phase approach. It begins with planning, where auditors identify the scope and key risk areas. This is followed by testing, involving deep analysis of financial data and evaluating internal controls to detect discrepancies. The process culminates in reporting, where findings are communicated, highlighting areas of concern.

The core purpose of an audit is to provide stakeholders with an objective assessment of a company's financial statements, ensuring their accuracy and reliability. This rigorous examination bolsters confidence in the financial health of the business, attracting investors, satisfying regulatory requirements, and fostering overall stakeholder trust.

The Review Process

A financial statement review in the UAE targets ensuring the statements' plausibility. Its objective is to determine if any material misstatements exist, achieved through inquiries and analytical procedures rather than detailed testing. The scope, therefore, is narrower than an audit but more probing than a compilation. Unlike an audit, which delves deep into data verification and provides a high assurance level, a review offers limited assurance. It essentially confirms the absence of significant discrepancies without verifying each data point. In essence, while reviews offer a degree of confidence in financial statements, they don't provide the exhaustive assurance characteristic of audits.

The Compilation Process

The compilation process, especially prevalent in the UAE's business context, entails assembling financial statements based on the data furnished by the business itself. There's no external verification, testing, or validation involved. Instead, the accountant relies solely on the information given, organizing it into standard financial statement formats.

In terms of its role in financial reporting, compilation acts as a basic service, ensuring that financial data is systematically arranged and presented, aiding businesses in internal assessments and decisions.

However, it's pivotal to understand the limited assurance offered by compilations. Since no thorough examination is conducted, no opinion or assurance regarding the accuracy or completeness of the statements is provided. Stakeholders are essentially receiving organized data without any affirmation of its veracity. Thus, while compilations streamline financial data, they don't vouch for its reliability.

Choosing the Right Service

In the complex business environment of the UAE, selecting the appropriate financial statement service is pivotal. Here's a guide to help businesses make an informed choice:

  1. Identify Stakeholder Requirements: If the business has external stakeholders, like investors or lenders, they might necessitate audited financial statements for their peace of mind. Knowing stakeholder expectations can significantly influence the service choice.
  2. Regulatory Obligations: Certain industries or business sizes in the UAE might be mandated by regulatory bodies to undergo specific financial services. Familiarity with these regulations ensures compliance.
  3. Financial Complexity: Businesses with intricate financial transactions or those operating on a larger scale might benefit from an audit's detailed scrutiny. In contrast, smaller entities with straightforward transactions might find a review sufficient.
  4. Purpose of the Statement: If the intent is an internal assessment or creating a foundational financial record, a compilation might suffice. However, for external credibility or strategic decisions, reviews or audits are more apt.
  5. Budget Considerations: Audits, given their depth, are typically more expensive than reviews or compilations. Balancing the need for assurance with budgetary constraints is crucial.
  6. Future Aspirations: Businesses aiming for rapid growth, seeking substantial investments, or considering mergers might opt for an audit to bolster their financial credibility from the onset.

In essence, businesses must introspect on their current needs, future ambitions, and external obligations, weighing them against the benefits and limitations of each service to make an informed decision.

Regulatory Compliance in the UAE

Regulatory compliance in the UAE's financial landscape is marked by its stringent standards, aligning with its vision to foster a robust and transparent business environment. Depending on the nature and scale of the business, specific financial statement services might be mandated. For instance, public joint-stock companies and large-scale entities are often required to have their financial statements audited annually.

Additionally, sectors like banking and insurance have their own tailored requirements. The UAE Commercial Companies Law and other industry-specific regulations dictate these mandates, emphasizing accuracy, transparency, and adherence to international best practices. It's imperative for businesses to be acquainted with these regulations to ensure seamless operations and uphold their corporate reputation.


In the dynamic UAE business domain, understanding the distinctions among financial statement services - auditing, review, and compilation - is indispensable. Auditing offers the highest level of assurance through an exhaustive examination of financial data, ensuring its accuracy and reliability. Reviews, while less rigorous, provide limited assurance by gauging the plausibility of statements, ensuring no major discrepancies. Compilations, on the other hand, offer no assurance, simply organizing the provided data into standard formats.

Given the intricacies and the consequential implications of each service, businesses must navigate this domain with informed precision. To ensure alignment with both regulatory standards and stakeholder expectations, seeking professional guidance is paramount. Embracing the right service not only reinforces a company's financial transparency and credibility but also lays a foundation for sustainable growth in the UAE's competitive landscape.