In order to focus on the needs of users of decision-making information and improve the related services that accountants provide, an AICPA Special Committee on Assurance Services conducted research that consisted of assessing customer needs, external factors, information technology, and needed competencies to offer these new “value-added services.” These services are referred to as “assurance services” and defined by the AICPA Committee as follows:
Assurance services are independent professional services that improve the quality of information, or its context, for decision makers.
Notice that this definition of assurance services implies that the service itself, not necessarily just the report, will add value to the user. In addition, an independent professional must offer the assurance services in order to improve the quality of the information or its context. Current examples of such assurance services proposed by the AICPA include CPA WebTrust, CPA Prime Plus, and CPA Performance View services. These services relate to the integrity of web-based services, the assurance of elder-care services, and assurance related to performance measurement systems, respectively.
These assurance services are considered three-party contracts—the client, the assurer (that is, the accountant), and the third party to whom the accountant is providing assurance. An example of an assurance service engagement is where Consumers Union tests a product and reports the results or ratings ...