Key Takeaways

1. A SOC 1 Bridge Letter, or a SOC 1 gap letter, is vital to fill the gap between the end of an actual SOC report and the customer’s financial reporting period. 

2. While Bridge Letters offer temporary assurance, they cannot replace a complete SOC report. They typically cover a limited validity period, often not exceeding three months.

3. Collaborate with experts like I.S. Partners for SOC 1 audits to streamline SOC compliance and avoid the need for Bridge Letters. 

What is a SOC 1 Bridge Letter?

A SOC 1 Bridge Letter, sometimes called a gap letter, is an important document that fills the gap between the customer’s financial reporting period and the SOC 1 reporting period, providing extended coverage. It serves as interim assurance when aligning your SOC 1 report with the customer’s year-end.

For example, suppose your latest SOC 1 audit report covers through October 31st, but your fiscal year ends on December 31st. In that case, a SOC Bridge Letter confirms that no significant changes occurred from November 1st to December 31st, reassuring clients about their internal control environment.

Overall, the letter assures customers that no significant changes have occurred in the control environment, which supports the integrity of the most recent SOC examination reports.

How Is a Bridge Letter for SOC 1 Used?

The SOC 1 Bridge Letter is used to reassure your customers and prospective clients that your company’s internal controls remain intact and functional during the gap period. 

It confirms the company’s ongoing security measures. It affirms that there have been no significant alterations in internal controls that could impact the findings of the previous SOC report and your operating effectiveness.

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What Industries Use SOC 1 Bridge Letters?

The Bridge Letter for SOC 1 is intended for customers, vendors, and external auditors who need certain assurance during the interim period between the prior and current SOC 1 audits. The management of the audited company creates the letter, and it is normally signed by an executive officer, such as the CEO, CIO, or CFO. However, it is permissible for the project manager of the SOC audit to sign the bridge letter, even if that individual is not an officer. 

However, note that external auditors are not authorized to issue this letter since their assessment of the company’s internal controls is limited to the period covered by the relevant SOC report.

Also, auditors lack awareness of the organization’s internal control adjustments post-audit. Therefore, the responsibility of issuing the Bridge Letter rests solely with the company’s management.

Who Writes the SOC 1 Bridge Letter?

A Bridge Letter isn’t penned by the auditor but rather by the service provider. Once a SOC 1 audit is completed, the auditor lacks insight into any subsequent changes made by the provider until the next audit cycle begins.

Also, the organization’s management crafts and signs Bridge Letters before dispatching them directly to customers. The CPA firm responsible for the SOC audit plays no part in this process.

Is a SOC 1 Bridge Letter Mandatory? 

No, SOC 1 Bridge Letters are not mandatory. However, they are a crucial component of annual due diligence for SOC 1 and SOC 2 examinations. Bridge Letters are necessary when there’s a gap between SOC audits, occurring when an audit has been completed, and a new one has yet to be conducted. 

During this period, a Gap Letter is issued to reassure clients that you’re actively implementing and monitoring controls, maintaining their trust as you continue business operations.

Also, ensure that Bridge Letters are integrated into your SOC 1 and SOC 2 examinations to avoid overlooking them. They reassure clients about your organization’s control environment without adding extra time or cost.

However, if you want to avoid the cost of issuing Bridge Letters altogether, there’s a better way. At I.S. Partners, we excel in conducting expert-led SOC audits so that compliance is straightforward and seamless.

Skip the headache of dealing with Bridge Letters and connect with our experts for a swift SOC audit. 

Schedule a call with us today to streamline your compliance process

What Happens if Significant Changes Occur During the Bridge Period?

If noteworthy changes occur within the service organization during the bridge period, they should be outlined in the Bridge Letter. These changes could impact the organization’s internal controls and may be scrutinized during the next audit period.

In such cases, both the service organization’s management and the audit team should assess the magnitude of these changes and determine if additional testing or adjustments to the audit procedures are necessary. This way, modifications to the organization’s control environment are properly evaluated and reflected in the subsequent audit.

Conducting audits accurately and on schedule is essential to avoid relying on bridge letters too often. 

I.S. Partners specializes in expert-led SOC audits and makes business compliance straightforward. With our help, you can minimize the need for bridge letters and feel confident about your control environment’s stability during the bridge period.

How Long Does a SOC 1 Bridge Letter Last?

Generally, Bridge Letters last three months. If the gap extends beyond this period, another SOC audit to offer stakeholders stronger assurance is advisable.

This is because SOC 1 gap letters serve as temporary measures to bridge the gap between a SOC report’s audit period and an organization’s fiscal year or the date requested by a customer. 

They do not substitute for a current SOC 1 report but can enhance your clients’ trust in your company’s control environment during interim periods.

What are the Limitations of the SOC 1 Bridge Letter?

The limitations of SOC 1 Bridge Letters are crucial for understanding their effectiveness in keeping up with regulatory compliance. 

While one significant constraint revolves around their temporary validity, there are several other important limitations worth exploring in this section, and they are:

Limited Validity Period

Bridge Letters typically cover three months. They only offer limited assurance between two SOC examinations. Their validity expires upon the release of subsequent SOC reports from recently completed SOC examinations.

Limited Application and Effect

A Bridge Letter is not a substitute for an updated SOC report. Instead, it is a temporary measure designed to offer clients some reassurance while they await the next audit.

Limited Assurance

Bridge letters provide a snapshot of an organization’s control environment for a specific period between SOC audits. However, unlike a full SOC 1 report, which undergoes rigorous examination and testing by auditors, Bridge Letters offers a more abbreviated assessment.

As a result, the assurance provided by Bridge Letters is limited in scope and depth compared to the detailed insights offered by a complete SOC 1 report.

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Lack of Real-Time Assurance

Unlike real-time assurance mechanisms or ongoing monitoring tools, which actively track and assess control effectiveness regularly, Bridge Letters offer a limited assurance scope confined to the specified timeframe.

This lack of real-time assurance means that any changes or developments occurring after the Bridge Letter’s issuance may not be captured or addressed until the subsequent SOC audit.

Main Components of the SOC 1 Bridge Letter

At the heart of the SOC 1 Bridge Letter lies one key element: the coverage period, which specifies when the audit starts and ends. However, the letter has more important components; below, we’ll closely examine each component.

Components of SOC 1 bridge letter 1
  1. Coverage period. The recently completed SOC report covers a specific timeframe. The letter must specify the exact start and end dates of the internal audit period during which the service organization controls were monitored.
  2. Material Changes. This section highlights any major changes to the company’s internal processes since the last audit. It could include updates to processes, systems, or rules that might affect our controls. 
  3. Statement of Awareness. Here, you need to confirm that you, as the service organization, haven’t noticed any other big changes besides those you mentioned in the Bridge Letter. This reassures everyone involved that you’re being transparent and keeping them in the loop about any significant updates or developments.
  4. User Responsibility Reminder. It’s important to gently remind user organizations of their responsibility to adhere to the complementary user entity controls outlined in the SOC report. Reinforcing this expectation encourages proper risk management and compliance among clients.
  5. Request For Review. Encourage user organizations to review the most recent SOC report for insights into the service organization’s controls and processes. This promotes transparency and understanding between parties.
  6. Disclaimer. Clearly state that the Bridge Letter does not substitute for the official SOC 1 report. This disclaimer helps manage expectations and underscores the importance of referring to the complete audit findings.
  7. Limitation of Reliance. Highlight that the Bridge Letter pertains solely to the specific organization and may not be relied upon by any other entity. This disclaimer safeguards against potential misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the letter’s scope.

SOC 1 Bridge Letter Example

A SOC Bridge Letter is a way to show your clients and partners that you’re following best practices and keeping their interests in mind. Sending out a Bridge Letter quickly lets you update everyone on your control system and provide some reassurance.

If you’re interested, our experts at I.S. Partners have created a workable template that you can refer to. Download it below!

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Download our FREE SOC 1 Bridge letter example and get a clear path to compliance.

Pursue SOC 1 Audit with I.S. Partners

As mentioned earlier, Bridge Letters are issued by the service organizations directly and usually cover a period of up to three months. Auditors provide an independent perspective when completing the SOC report, assessing the effectiveness of controls through rigorous testing.

It’s important to understand that Bridge Letters can’t replace the credibility of an auditor’s SOC report. They only serve as a temporary solution to bridge the gap period, and any mistakes or oversights are the organization’s responsibility.

Ideally, companies should aim to avoid the need for Bridge Letters by conducting audits efficiently and on schedule. I.S. Partners specializes in expert-led SOC 1 audits, making compliance simple and efficient.

With 20 years of experience, we help service organizations navigate transitions and adapt to changing requirements. Partner with us to create a comprehensive plan for your SOC 1 audit and achieve compliance hassle-free.

Learn more about achieving SOC 1 compliance with ease, or schedule a meeting with our experts to start your compliance journey!

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SOC 1®, SOC 2® and SOC 3® are registered trademarks of the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants). The AICPA® Trust Services Criteria for Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy is copyrighted by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. All rights reserved.

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