The S&P 500 is one of the most followed equity indices that tracks the largest 500 companies listed on U.S. exchanges. Does this mean they are susceptible to paying higher audit fees overall? There are many factors that affect the general cost of an audit. The amount of time and labor needed to perform the audit, the complexity of the company and its financials, and the potential risk or liability a firm takes on when they provide an audit are all factors evaluated when it comes time to pay external auditors.
Analyzing audit fees of the S&P 500 can highlight similar trends found in our newest annual report for large-accelerated companies. Ideagen Audit Analytics offers a comprehensive overview of the SEC audit fee market examined in our 20-Year Review of Audit Fee Trends Report.
Average Audit Fees
Average audit fees paid by S&P 500 companies reached an all-time high in FY2022 at $10,776,916 – representing a 3% increase from FY2021. Apart from FY2009, average audit fees have been steadily increasing since 2003.
In FY2022, the average amount paid for non-audit services by S&P 500 companies increased 2% from FY2021, reaching $2,778,499. Average audit related fees increased by 10% in FY2022 while average tax fees and average other fees decreased by 7% and 6%, respectively.
Overall, average total fees paid grew 3% in FY2022 to $13.5 million, the highest amount seen over the 20-year period.
Total Audit Fees
Total audit fees paid by the S&P 500 reached an all-time high of nearly $5.38 billion in FY2022- representing a 4% increase from FY2021. Similarly, large accelerated filers followed a similar trend as seen in our report with only four contrasting years since FY2007.
Total audit fees paid by the S&P 500 grew less than 1% during FY2020 and FY2021, revealing the effects of COVID-19 on audit fees during that period.
In FY2022, total audit related fees increased 10% from FY2021, the largest growth of any fee category. Contrarily, both total tax fees and total other fees decreased 7% and 5%, respectively in FY2022. Total tax fees have continued to decline each year since FY2020 after consistent annual increases between FY2009 and FY2019. Meanwhile, total other fees have declined for a seventh consecutive year in FY2022.
Overall, total fees reached $6.76 billion dollars in FY2022, increasing 4% from the previous year.
Audit Fees per Million ($) of Revenue
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, revenue for the S&P 500 has grown at an exceptional rate, comparably to large accelerated filers overall as shared in our report. Total revenue for the S&P 500 has increased 33% since FY2020, reaching nearly $15.7 trillion in FY2022. Consequently, the amount of audit fees these top companies pay as a proportion of their revenue has dramatically decreased.
Although both total audit fees and revenue increased in FY2022, revenue grew at a much greater rate. Revenue increased 12% for the S&P 500 in FY2022, while audit fees paid grew by only 4%. As a result, audit fees per million dollars of revenue dropped to $343 in FY2022. This represents a 7% decrease from FY2021, following the steepest decline of 15% between FY2020 and FY2021.
Auditor Market Share
Typically, large-accelerated companies are audited by one of the Big Four firms. Consequently leading them to dominate the S&P 500 audit fee market share. In FY2022, there were a total of six firms that audited the index: the Big Four, Grant Thornton and BDO USA.
PricewaterhouseCoopers led the audit fee market share, receiving 35.7% of total audit fees paid by S&P 500 companies in FY2022. Collectively, the Big Four constituted 99.7% of the S&P 500 market share. Grant Thornton and BDO together audited only 6 companies in the index, comprising less than one percent of the audit fee market.
When analyzing auditor ranks in terms of average audit fees, PwC led again. In FY2022, PwC received an average of $12.6 million in audit fees per S&P 500 client. There were plenty of shifts in rank compared to total audit fees amongst the remaining firms. Deloitte ranked second in average fees, followed by KPMG and EY.
In terms of audit fees per million dollars of client revenue, BDO USA ranked highest, receiving $606 in audit fees per million dollars of client revenue. Grant Thornton followed second while PwC ranked third, still leading among the Big Four firms.
In FY2022, the manufacturing and finance industries paid the highest amount in total audit fees compared to other industries. Together, S&P 500 manufacturing and finance companies comprised nearly 69% of total audit fees paid by the index. This represents a 9% increase in market share for these industries compared to last year’s analysis.
In FY2022, the top twelve companies that paid the highest amount in audit fees were a part of the manufacturing and finance industries. General Electric was the leading manufacturing company, paying $57.6 million in audit fees for FY2022. Whereas, Goldman Sachs was the leading finance company, paying $78.1 million in audit fees for FY2022.
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