Understanding the Three Main Types of Audits: External, Internal, and IRS Audits

Audits play a crucial role in ensuring the accuracy and transparency of financial reporting. They provide independent assessments of an organization’s financial statements, internal controls, and compliance with regulations. Different types of audits serve distinct purposes and are conducted by different entities. This article delves into the three main types of audits: external audits, internal audits, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audits.

1. External Audits


External audits are conducted by independent Certified Public Accounting (CPA) firms to provide an objective opinion on the fairness and accuracy of an organization’s financial statements. These audits are often required by law for publicly traded companies and may also be requested by lenders, investors, or other stakeholders.


External auditors follow a rigorous process that involves:

  • Planning the audit scope and objectives
  • Assessing the organization’s internal controls
  • Examining financial records and transactions
  • Testing the accuracy of financial statements
  • Evaluating compliance with accounting standards and regulations


The result of an external audit is an auditor’s opinion, which is included in the audit report. The opinion can be unqualified (clean), qualified, adverse, or disclaimer. An unqualified opinion indicates that the auditor has found no material misstatements in the financial statements.

2. Internal Audits


Internal audits are conducted by employees of the organization itself. They provide management with an independent assessment of the organization’s operations, internal controls, and compliance with policies and procedures. Internal audits are not required by law but are often conducted as a best practice to improve efficiency and mitigate risks.


Internal auditors typically focus on specific areas of the organization, such as:

  • Financial reporting and controls
  • Operational efficiency and effectiveness
  • Compliance with laws and regulations
  • Risk management

Internal auditors use a variety of techniques to gather evidence, including:

  • Reviewing documents and records
  • Conducting interviews
  • Observing processes
  • Performing data analysis


The results of an internal audit are typically reported to management and the board of directors. The report may include recommendations for improvements to internal controls, operations, or compliance.

3. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Audits


IRS audits are conducted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to verify the accuracy of tax returns and ensure compliance with tax laws. IRS audits can be random or triggered by specific factors, such as:

  • Inconsistent or incomplete information on tax returns
  • Large deductions or credits
  • Business expenses claimed by individuals


IRS audits can be conducted through correspondence, office visits, or field examinations. During an audit, the IRS will review tax returns, financial records, and other relevant documents. The auditor may also request additional information or explanations from the taxpayer.


The outcome of an IRS audit can vary depending on the findings. If the IRS finds no errors, the audit will be closed. If errors are found, the taxpayer may be required to pay additional taxes, penalties, and interest.

External audits, internal audits, and IRS audits serve distinct purposes and are conducted by different entities. External audits provide independent assurance on the accuracy of financial statements, while internal audits help organizations improve their operations and compliance. IRS audits ensure compliance with tax laws. Understanding the differences between these three types of audits is essential for organizations and individuals alike.

4 Common Types of Audits Explained


What are the 4 methods of auditing?

Type of audit report
Clean report
Qualified report
Disclaimer of opinion
Disclaimer report
Adverse audit report

What are the most common audits?

A financial audit is one of the most common types of audit. Most types of financial audits are external. During a financial audit, the auditor analyzes the fairness and accuracy of a business’s financial statements. Auditors review transactions, procedures, and balances to conduct a financial audit.

What are the 3 C’s of auditing?

Combining the Three C’s At the intersection of communication, coordination, and culture is an internal auditing system that drives and supports the quality target and the employees working to make it all happen.

What are the 3 types of audits performed by the IRS?

The IRS manages audits either by mail or through an in-person interview to review your records. The interview may be at an IRS office (office audit) or at the taxpayer’s home, place of business, or accountant’s office (field audit). Remember, you will be contacted initially by mail.

What are the different types of auditing?

Types of auditing can vary from business to business. For example, a construction business might conduct an audit to analyze how much they spent on a specific project (e.g., costs for contractors or supplies). Overall, audits help ensure your business is operating smoothly. So, what are the various types of audit? 1. Internal audit

What are the different types of internal audits?

Types of internal audits include financial, operational, compliance, environmental, IT, or for a very specific purpose. Internal audits provide management and the board of directors with a value-added service where flaws in a process may be caught and corrected prior to external audits.

What are the different types of tax audits?

There are three types of tax audits that are conducted by the IRS. 1. Mail Audit Mail audits are documentation requests from the IRS that a taxpayer will receive and respond to via mail. Typically, these requests will be so benign that you may not even realize that you have been audited at all.

What is a company audit?

Audit is the process of examination of the company’s accounts, such as financial reports and other financial information. There are many types of audit which could be performed on the company’s accounts by either internal parties such as internal auditors or by external parties such as external auditors and tax officers.

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