This study identifies the ethical pathways of chief audit executive reporting lines that describe internal auditing relationships with different authorities in the organisation (e.g., the board of directors, audit committee, chief executive officer, and chief financial officer). The literature has placed importance of these lines as determinants for the objectivity and independence of internal auditing. Recent studies have reported inconsistent findings regarding whether reporting to high authority is the optimal reporting line compared to reporting to low authority. For this reason, there is a need for further investigation. Thus, this study harnesses the strengths and weaknesses of three ethical pathways in a decision-making model (described as the Ethical Process Thinking Model). In this way, we provide an explanation of the complex situations of internal audit reporting line in reality. The findings highlight that individuals’ different perceptions and judgments, as well as information signals can lead to different reporting lines (decision choices). The three dominant ethical pathways (i.e., preference-based, rule-based and principle-based) advance the literature by providing a clearer picture for practitioners, researchers and regulators to facilitate independence and objectivity requirements.