What are Working Papers?

Definition: Working papers are informational reports prepared by accountants and auditors as supporting documents for formal reports and financial statements. In other words, working papers are reports prepared by accountants that summarize evidence found in client documents and are used by accountants to prepare financial statements.

What Does Working Papers Mean?

One of the most common forms of working papers is a worksheet. Worksheets are used to summarize year-end accounting processes, post adjusting journal entries, create trial balances, and prepare financial statements.

Other working papers are used to track and record client records for accounts receivable, fixed asset purchases, and liabilities. In most cases, accountant working papers are extremely detailed because the working papers represent the accountants’ findings and evidence in the engagement.


Auditors must keep detailed work paper for every aspect of their audits. The Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 requires that auditors audit, test, and document not only the internal control structure of publicly traded entities but also the efficiency and effectiveness of the internal controls.

Accountants and auditors are required to retain their work papers for a number of years as evidence to base their audit and engagement findings on. These working papers are not only created by the accountants and auditors they are also the property of the accountants.

There have been many court cases of clients suing CPA firms to obtain the firms working papers. In most instances, the CPA firms retain the rights to their working papers except in the instance of legal fraud cases. Judges can subpoena CPA firms and require them to provide their working papers as evidence in fraud cases or auditor negligence cases.