ABSTRACT Auditors must ensure that their audit plans budget sufficient time for key audit steps. Research has shown that insufficient audit time budgets can be detrimental to audit quality. We examine whether framing audit steps negatively (e.g., assess whether management's assumptions are not appropriate) increases time budgets—particularly for steps in which the auditor perceives that performance quality is less verifiable, and thus most at risk of being performed with low quality. First, we report the results of analyses indicating that, in practice, audit steps are predominantly framed positively, potentially resulting in smaller time budgets. We then report the results of an experiment in which 50 experienced audit managers budget time for an audit program that tests a Level-3 fair-value estimate. Prior research and Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) inspections indicate that this is a challenging audit area, vulnerable to allegations of low audit quality. The results support our predictions and suggest that reframing audit steps negatively would increase audit time budgets—an audit quality indicator—particularly for less-verifiable steps.