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In Finance, What Is an Unqualified Opinion?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2014
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Sometimes referred to as a clean opinion, an unqualified opinion is an affirmation from a qualified accountant that an audit of a business’s financial records indicates that the record keeping is in full compliance with generally accepted accounting principles and procedures. This type of document essentially states that the auditor attests to the fact that there are no irregularities in the accounting books, and that the auditor can make that statement without any type of hesitation or reservation. When an audit is being conducted by an outside entity, this is exactly the type of professional opinion that a business wishes to receive.

It is important to note that an unqualified opinion does not mean that the accounting records are necessarily free of any type of issues that need to be addressed. It does mean that the records do not indicate the presence of any attempts to manipulate financial data in a manner that creates a false impression of the true financial status of the company. There is still the potential for some items to be posted in an incorrect category, or other small issues that can easily be corrected. The unqualified opinion simply attests to the fact that if there are any small errors to correct, they are easily identified and remedied. Overall, these minor issues do not have an impact on the overall integrity of the financial records.

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While the structure of the written unqualified opinion may vary somewhat from one country to another, most basic formats break the opinion down into no more than three paragraphs. The first paragraph documents the type of audit that is performed, and the duties of both the auditor and the entity that is undergoing the audit. The second paragraph provides details about the procedures that were performed by the auditor, usually citing a few examples as well as providing descriptions of each procedure. This paragraph will also affirm that the audit was conducted in a manner that is compliant with commonly accepted accounting principles.

The final paragraph of an unqualified opinion is the section of the document where the auditor affirms the status of the financial statements and records of the auditee. This is considered by some to be the key section of the overall opinion, since it is the final affirmation from the auditor that the accounting records are compliant with generally accepted accounting principles. Depending on the reason for the outside audit and the amount of detail included in the accounting records, the three paragraphs may fit easily onto a single page.

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