An independent auditor is a person with an accounting credential who does not have any affiliations with the company upon which he or she offers an opinion. Independent auditors are often used for audits to increase the integrity of the audit by ensuring that conflicts of interest do not taint it. Some accounts make the focus of their careers the provision of auditing services while others may offer an assortment of accounting services including audits. People who need to find an independent auditor can check with a certifying or professional organization for accountants to find listings of practitioners in their area.
When an audit is performed, the goal is an honest examination of financial records, whether the audit is being done to resolve discrepancies, investigate fraud, check for compliance with standard and recognized accounting practices, or for the purpose of determining whether or not the company is reporting financial information accurately on taxes. Companies can request audits themselves and an audit may also be ordered by an external party. While it is possible to use an auditor who is affiliated with the company being audited, an independent auditor is preferred.
The independent auditor must have an accounting certification and is often a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with experience in the field which makes the accountant competent and capable of offering an opinion. Many independent auditors belong to professional organizations of auditors which promote high standards of performance among their members and provide referrals to members of the public who are in need of an auditor.
Independent auditors have no interest in the outcome of an audit either way. Whether the audit reveals wrongdoing or a clean bill of financial health, the auditor is not personally invested in it because the auditor has no connections with the company. Thus, the auditor can write a clear and unbiased accountant's statement which accompanies the audit results, outlining the findings and discussing their ramifications.
Auditors who are not independent may have conflicts of interest. An auditor might be concerned, for example, about the value of stock, the future direction of the company, or future employment prospects if he or she is connected with the company in some way. While auditors do have very high ethical standards which should allow even an auditor with connections to provide an honest report, conflicts of interest can undermine the authority of the report and are avoided, if possible, by using an independent auditor.