Adverse Audit Opinion: Definition, Meaning, Example, vs Disclaimer of Opinion

Auditors provide an audit opinion in their independent auditor’s report. In most cases, it involves an unqualified opinion, also known as a clean opinion. However, if auditors determine the subject matter has some issues, they may change their opinion. One of these opinions includes the adverse audit opinion. It is one of the types of qualified audit opinions.

What is the Adverse Audit Opinion?

The adverse audit opinion is a type of qualified opinion provided in the independent auditor’s report. It states the underlying subject matter has material misstatements that are pervasive. In other words, it implies the financial statements may be misstated or misrepresented by the management. The adverse audit opinion does not assure the user regarding their decisions.

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As the name suggests, the adverse audit opinion sends a negative signal to the users of the financial statements. It implies that auditors found misstatements that can impact the decisions made by those users. On top of that, the adverse audit opinion also signifies those misstatements have a material impact on various areas. If that impact does not spread to other areas, auditors use a qualified audit opinion instead.

How does the Adverse Audit Opinion work?

Auditors perform various audit procedures to test the assertions of the financial statements. During this work, they may find some misstatements. If these misstatements have limited scope, auditors may use the qualified audit opinion. Sometimes, though, the impact may be significantly higher. In auditing terms, this impact may be pervasive. Defining this term is crucial to understanding the adverse audit opinion.

The term pervasive in auditing refers to a misstatement not having a limited impact. Auditors use this term to signify a misstatement not confined to one element, account, or item in the financial statements. In cases with a limited scope, it may affect a substantial portion of the overall subject matter. Essentially, pervasive refers to a misstatement having a widespread impact on the financial statements.

Therefore, auditors use the adverse audit opinion when they deem material misstatements to have a substantial impact. This opinion helps users understand that financial statements are unreliable for effective decision-making. However, auditors use the adverse audit opinion as a last resort. Usually, they try to increase their level of audit work to determine the impact of these misstatements first.

What is the difference between the Disclaimer of Opinion and Adverse Audit Opinion?

The disclaimer of opinion occurs due to pervasive issues in an audit. However, it is when the auditors cannot obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to form an audit opinion. When the impact of that evidence spreads over a substantial area in the subject matter, it becomes pervasive. In those cases, auditors must use the disclaimer of audit opinion.

The primary difference between an adverse audit opinion and a disclaimer is the audit evidence. In the former case, this evidence is available. However, misstatements still exist, which are pervasive. On the other hand, a disclaimer isn’t an audit opinion at all. Instead, it relieves auditors of any liabilities that come from expressing their opinion. It states that auditors cannot obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to form a conclusion.


Auditors provide an audit opinion on the independent auditor’s report. One of these includes the adverse audit opinion, which occurs when pervasive misstatements exist in the subject matter. Usually, auditors use this opinion when substantial areas of the financial statements contain misstatements. The adverse audit opinion warns users of the reliability of the financial statements.

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