Perceived auditor independence and audit firm fees

Kevin Holland, Jennifer Ruth Lane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Regulations requiring the disclosure of fees paid to an auditor for audit and non-audit services (NAS) respond to concerns that such payments are potentially detrimental to auditors actual or perceived independence. Although empirical studies have failed to produce unequivocal evidence of detrimental effects on auditor independence, the actions of regulators, audit firms and companies are consistent with the belief that economic bonding generated by fees can impair perceived levels of auditor independence. Using a sample of UK companies over a six year period to March 2006, we study perceived impairment of auditor independence by examining the relationship between levels of total relative fees (combined audit and NAS fees payable by a company to its auditor as a proportion of the audit firm's UK income) and market value. The paper's methodological innovation is its use of a valuation framework in this setting. A further contribution lies in dropping the assumption of linearity found in most prior empirical studies. We provide evidence that shareholders perceive a threat to auditor independence only at high total relative fee levels. At lower levels, total relative fees are positively related to company value. These results suggest that disclosure of NAS and audit fees are of relevance to investors, as is information about auditor income. Our results support the view that regulation by reference to the threshold at which total relative fees are perceived negatively is more consistent with investor preferences than prohibition of the supply of NAS by auditors to their audit clients. Key words: auditor independence, audit fees, non-audit services, company valuation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-141
JournalAccounting and Business Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2012


  • auditor independence
  • audit fees
  • non-audit services
  • company valuation


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