Skip to main content

The Ethical Implications of Using Artificial Intelligence in Auditing


Accounting firms are reporting the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in their auditing and advisory functions, citing benefits such as time savings, faster data analysis, increased levels of accuracy, more in-depth insight into business processes, and enhanced client service. AI, an emerging technology that aims to mimic the cognitive skills and judgment of humans, promises competitive advantages to the adopter. As a result, all the Big 4 firms are reporting its use and their plans to continue with this innovation in areas such as audit planning risk assessments, tests of transactions, analytics, and the preparation of audit work-papers, among other uses. As the uses and benefits of AI continue to emerge within the auditing profession, there is a gradual awakening to the fact that unintended consequences may also arise. Thus, we heed to the call of numerous researchers to not only explore the benefits of AI but also investigate the ethical implications of the use of this emerging technology. By combining two futuristic ethical frameworks, we forecast the ethical implications of the use of AI in auditing, given its inherent features, nature, and intended functions. We provide a conceptual analysis of the practical ethical and social issues surrounding AI, using past studies as well as our inferences based on the reported use of the technology by auditing firms. Beyond the exploration of these issues, we also discuss the responsibility for the policy and governance of emerging technology.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. The data collected from the small/medium-sized firms were part of a separate research project that is exploring the use of AI by small- and medium-sized CPA firms. For this study, we used the responses to one question in the administered questionnaire which probed the respondents on how they/their firm used AI for auditing purposes.

  2. Bibliometrics is “the application of mathematics and statistical methods to books and other media of communication” (Pritchard 1969).

  3. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, AICPA Code of Professional Responsibility: Sect. 53, Article II, The Public Interest, and Sect. 54, Article III, Integrity.

  4. The European Parliament (2017) is exploring options to tax or charge a fee for the use of robots and AI, citing “the potential for increased inequality in the distribution of wealth and influence” if current taxation policies remain.

  5. Early attempts have been made by a European Commission body to develop an ethical assessment checklist for trustworthy AI (HLEG 2018).


Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Helen L. Brown-Liburd.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research Involved in Human or Animal Rights

We obtained IRB approval from Rutgers University before administering the questionnaire to the participants.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.



See Table 6.

Table 6 Description of how ethical values at risk were identified at the three levels of analysis

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Munoko, I., Brown-Liburd, H.L. & Vasarhelyi, M. The Ethical Implications of Using Artificial Intelligence in Auditing. J Bus Ethics 167, 209–234 (2020).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Ethics
  • Audit