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Journal of Accounting and Public Policy


Both accounting firms and regulators recognize the importance of human capital in the audit function, yet we know little about whether and how the level of professionally qual-ified human capital varies across offices of an audit firm and whether it is associated with audit quality. In this paper, we examine the association between office professionally qualified human capital and audit quality. Using hand-collected data on Big 4 audit firm office CPA levels from 30 U.S. cities, we find that offices with relatively more professionally qual-ified human capital deliver higher quality audits, with this benefit being more pronounced for audits performed during busy season than for non-busy season audits. The results underscore the importance of the availability of professionally qualified human capital in an audit office to the office’s audit quality. Our finding of CPA levels being an office-level audit quality indicator will potentially help the PCAOB in their ongoing Audit Quality Indicator (AQI) project, whose goal is to assist audit firms, clients, and investors in measur-ing audit quality. Furthermore, the results lend credibility toward the CPA designation, which helps justify the AICPA’s, NASBA’s, and state Accountancy Boards’ regulatory roles of admitting and licensing qualified candidates.

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