By Taylor Wade

Have you recently joined an accounting firm and been asked to prepare your first "PBC Request List," or perhaps your CPA firm sent you one as they prepare to review your company for the first time?

I, admittingly, didn't understand what a PBC Request List was until a few months ago, but I am here to share what I've learned about the challenges audit, tax, and security professionals encounter when working through an engagement. I hope it helps you on your journey.

What does PBC stand for?

The acronym PBC is short for "provided by client" or "prepared by client." Sometimes the terms "client request list", "information request list" (IRL), "PBC checklist", or "outstanding list" are used interchangeably; however, the accounting profession seems to use PBC Request List most often.

What is the purpose of a PBC Request List?

Audit, tax, and security engagements are complex, and a thoughtfully developed PBC list is like a project plan. It details the list of supporting information and documentation "prepared by a client" that professionals need to gather to perform their review. Professionals and their clients can also use a PBC Request List to track communication, like clarifying questions or comments that may arise throughout an engagement. Supporting documents or files are often requested (e.g., system-generated reports, screenshots, logs, invoices, etc.), but professionals may also use the client request list to perform inquiries, ask questions, and track responses. The exact type of information a professional requests will vary depending on the complexity and type of review. When a PBC Request List is tailored specifically for a client's business, it can help establish clear expectations and make the review process easier for everyone involved.

When is a PBC Request List used?

A good PBC Request List can be a source of truth before, during, and after a client engagement.

Ideally, professionals will send their clients an initial PBC Request List 30 to 60 days before the expected start date of their engagement. Sending the initial PBC Request List in advance helps avoid surprises and ensures clients understand what the professional requires so they can prepare it in advance.

Preferably, professionals will request most information from their clients in advance but will commonly add new requests as they perform the engagement. In addition, clients and professionals may add comments and questions throughout the engagement. Finally, as clients provide the requested information, professionals will update the list to highlight which requests clients have fulfilled and which remain outstanding.

Static Excel-based PBC RequestLists are often manually updated and circulated via email, sometimes multiple times per day throughout an engagement. If all parties do not closely monitor versions, this can cause unnecessary confusion. On the other hand, professionals may give their clients access to a secure dynamic request list at the beginning of an engagement. Dynamic request lists facilitate a single source of truth because automatic updates occur in real-time and allow all parties to view the current status at a glance.

The best PBC Request Lists have three key components:

  1. The first component is specificity and personalization. All requested information should be specific for the type of engagement (e.g., HITRUST, SOC 2, tax, financial statement review or audit)and tailored to the client's specific situation. One of the fastest ways for a professional to show their client that they do not understand their business is by sending them a PBC list with nothing to do with their organization (e.g., sharing an outdated template). Unnecessary requests are a waste of a client's time, be sure the PBC Request List you use is specific and personalized.
  2. The second component is prioritization. One of the best ways for professionals to demonstrate what order information is required is to establish and communicate realistic timelines using due dates. Due dates help professionals set clear expectations and allow clients to know what information is expected and when. In a perfect world, clients will provide everything before the review commences to ensure the professional has what they need to review when they are scheduled to review it.
  3. The third component is about using the right tools and techniques to improve the experience and save clients and professionals time. For example, a professional can manually send a static Excel-based request list or utilize a dynamic request list that automates the process. When using an Excel-based request list, a basic client portal is often also required. Alternatively, information can be securely uploaded directly to the PBC Request List when using a dynamic tool like AuditDashboard.

Audit, tax, and security engagements are complex projects. Thoughtfully developed PBC lists and techniques are critical components of successful client engagements. When professionals and clients use PBC lists correctly, information is requested early to help clients understand what professionals need to perform their review. When clients provide the information requested at the agreed time, it helps ensure professionals have sufficient time to complete their assessment and issue their deliverables on schedule. A dynamic PBC Request List can help professionals and clients save time and improve the overall experience.


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