If you wish to practise as an auditor, you must meet certain conditions for access and practice.
The internship - access to the profession
To be able to exercise the profession of company auditor, you must first follow a course organised by the Institute of Registered Auditors (IRE in French).
The duration of the internship is at least three years and the internship must include at least one thousand hours of audit assignments each year.
By way of derogation, the period of three years may be reduced if you already have at least fifteen years' experience practising the profession of auditor.
At least two thirds of the internship take place within an audit company.
The IRE ensures that the full internship is carried out with persons offering sufficient guarantees concerning their ability to provide practical training.
To be admitted to the internship, you must meet the following conditions:
- be a national of a Member State of the European Union and have an establishment in a Member State or have an establishment in Belgium;
- be reputable, i.e. not have been deprived of your civil and political rights, not have been declared bankrupt without having obtained a pardon and not have been sentenced to a prison term, even on parole, of at least three months;
- hold a master's degree, awarded by a Belgian university or a Belgian institution of higher education of the long type at university level;
- be no more than sixty years of age;
- have concluded an internship agreement, for the total duration of the internship, with an auditor with at least five years' registration in the public register, who undertakes to guide the intern and assist them in their training as an auditor.
An entrance examination is held once a year.
At the end of the internship, you must submit an aptitude test. Each year, two examination sessions are held. The examination consists of an oral and a written test.
Candidates who, in a Member State of the European Union, possess a quality equivalent to that of a company auditor may be exempted from the admission examination, the internship and the aptitude examination provided that they pass a test, the programme and procedure of which are laid down by the King, in order to demonstrate their adequate knowledge of the laws and regulations in force in Belgium.
Additional information about the internship is available on the website of the IRE.
Registration in the public register
Under the final responsibility of the Supervisory Board for Auditors, the IRE ensures a public register is kept and updated, in which are registered the persons and entities that have been granted the status of auditor. Only persons and entities listed in the public register may use the title of auditor and perform all audit assignments.
Audit firms approved in another Member State, third country auditors and third country audit entities may be registered in the public register if they meet the conditions laid down by law. They will be listed separately as such in the public register.
The registration of an audit firm in the public register authorises the performance of statutory audit assignments.
Auditors who are natural persons, audit firms and registered audit firms are identified in the public register by a personal number.
The public register exists only in electronic form and is continually updated by the auditors themselves. In addition, auditors must inform the Institute of Registered Auditors as soon as possible of any change in the details in the public register.
The obligation of independence
The independence of the auditor is one of the main conditions for the correct performance of audit assignments. Various conditions relating to their independence are, therefore, defined by law.
The auditor may not carry out audit assignments in the following situations:
- if they are an employee, except with another auditor or auditing firm;
- if they exercise a commercial activity directly or indirectly, inter alia as a director of a commercial company. This incompatibility does not apply to the exercise of a director's mandate in civil companies with a commercial form;
- if they hold the office of Minister or Secretary of State.
The first point does not apply to functions performed in education.
With regard to point 1 and point 2, the King may make exceptions. The King may also determine the terms and conditions for the granting of a derogation by the Supervisory Board for Auditors.
An auditor who finds him or herself in one of these three situations of incompatibility (and who does not benefit from an exception or derogation), must declare him or herself to the Institute of Registered Auditors as unable to carry out audit assignments. In such cases, an auditor who is unable to carry out their duties will remain registered in the public register as a "temporarily indisposed auditor" for the duration of their impediment.
The auditor must respect the following principles:
- they must perform the auditing tasks entrusted to them in complete independence;
- they may not be involved in the decision-making process of the entity for which they perform the audit assignment;
- they may not accept or continue an audit assignment if there is, directly or indirectly, a financial, personal, business, employment or other relationship between them, the audit firm or the network to which they belong and the entity for which the audit assignment is carried out is of such a nature that it would lead a third party to conclude that the auditor's independence is compromised;
- before accepting an assignment, they must verify and document that they have the necessary capacity, collaboration, resources and time required for the proper accomplishment of the assignment;
- they may not accept missions under conditions likely to call into question the objectivity of their work;
- they may not engage in activities incompatible with the independence of their work. In this context, in the event of an audit assignment, the auditor must verify and document whether they meet the independence requirements and whether there are any risks to them independence and the safeguards taken to mitigate those risks;
- they must record in their working documents all significant risks to their independence, as well as the safeguards applied to limit these risks. they must verify and record in writing that they have no influence on the outcome of the audit assignment if they hold financial instruments of that entity or of a related entity, or if they were related to that entity, during the two years preceding the audit assignment, by an employment contract, a business relationship or any other type of relationship that could cause a conflict of interest;
- they may not hold a financial interest in the entity for which they performs an audit assignment.
This last restriction on holding a financial interest in the entity for which an audit assignment is carried out is also applicable:
- to the audit firm to which the natural person auditor belongs, to the partners, shareholders, members of the management body and employees of the audit firm with regard to those employees of the entities subject to an audit assignment in the performance of which they are directly involved;
- to all other persons on whom the auditor relies and who are directly involved in the audit activities of the company concerned;
- to the persons who are closely related to the auditor.
Neither the shareholders of statutory auditors or a registered audit firm, nor the members of the management body of that firm or related persons can interfere in the execution of a statutory audit or other audit assignment in a way that may compromise the independence or objectivity of the auditor carrying out the statutory audit or other audit assignment. The auditor is also obliged to observe the general ethical principles and is subject to other obligations such as communicating changes to the public register, the payment of fees, attendance at continuing education courses, etc.
Compliance with standards and recommendations
Without prejudice to international auditing standards, auditors are required to comply with the standards and recommendations relating to the performance of audit assignments formulated by the Institute of Registered Auditors.
The Institute makes public the contents of any draft standard or recommendation. The Higher Council of Economic Professions deliberates on draft standards or recommendations after hearing the representative of the Institute. The Higher Council of the Economic Professions may also consult the Supervisory Board for Auditors in this respect and, where appropriate, the FSMA and the National Bank of Belgium for all aspects of the draft standards or recommendations relating to public interest entities. The standards and recommendations only take effect after approval by the Higher Council of Economic Professions and the Minister responsible for the Economy. The approval of the Higher Council of Economic Professions is given within three months of the request made to it by the Institute. The Higher Council for Economic Professions or the Minister responsible for the Economy may instruct the Institute of Registered Auditors to formulate a draft standard or recommendation dealing with a subject that is not yet covered, insufficiently covered or needs to be adapted to changes in the applicable legislative or regulatory provisions or international audit standards.
Failing this, the Higher Council of Economic Professions may formulate a draft standard or recommendation and, if necessary after consulting the Supervisory Board for Auditors and/or the Institute of Registered Auditors, then submit this draft to the Minister responsible for the Economy for approval.
The standards are mandatory for auditors.
The standards and recommendations, as well as any updates, are published on the website of the Institute of Registered Auditors and the Higher Council of Economic Professions. The approval, by the Minister responsible for the Economy, of the standards and recommendations and their subsequent amendments is the subject of a notice published in the Belgian Official Gazette.
In accordance with the law of 7 December 2016 on the organisation of the profession and the public supervision of auditors, the Supervisory Board for Auditors is ultimately responsible for the public supervision of auditors.
The Board assumes final responsibility for:
- supervision of the granting of the status of auditor as well as the registration, recording, keeping and updating of the public register;
- supervision of the continuing education;
- supervision of quality control systems;
The Board subjects auditors to quality control, and adopts the conclusions thereof. It also provides supervision and may take various measures against auditors in urgent cases (such as an injunction to comply with specific provisions, an injunction to refrain from repeating a given behaviour, the imposition of a periodic penalty payment, etc.).
If the Board considers that the grievances against the auditor are likely to lead to the application of an administrative measure or an administrative fine, it may in such a case refer the matter to the enforcement committee of the FSMA (which is competent to take various measures against auditors, such as a warning, a reprimand, a temporary ban on practising the profession, an administrative fine, withdrawal of the auditors' status, etc.).
The Board cooperates with the competent authorities of other Member States of the European Union responsible for granting the status, registration, quality control, monitoring and administrative measures and sanctions. In particular, the Board exchanges information and cooperates with other competent authorities in the context of investigations or supervisory activities, including verification in company premises.