TRUSTED ADVISOR AND ADVOCATE
TRUSTED ADVISOR AND ADVOCATE
Accountants in Ontario are regulated by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario (“CPA”). Their mandate is to protect the public interest by, among other things, setting qualifications for membership and continually holding members to those standards. The CPA is governed by a board of directors called “Council”. Their administrative powers derive from the Charted Professional Accountants of Ontario Act, 2017 (“CPA Act”). These powers work together with the Public Accounting Act, 2004, which requires all individuals and corporations practicing public accounting to possess a licence or certification of authorization respectively.
Burokas Law acts as a CPA Lawyer in representing individuals and businesses dealing with the CPA from general advice and advocacy in applying to defending against any administrative action. Services include:
Determining whether a licence or certificate of authorization is required for one's activities depends on whether its considered "public accounting" . “Public accounting” means providing independent services of the following:
To engage in these services without a licence or certificate of authorization (corporation) is an offence under the Public Accounting Act, 2004. Individuals or Corporations found guilty will face fines up to $25,000 for a first offence. Some exceptions to this offence include acting for a public authority, bank, or bookkeeping services.
Licence under the Public Accounting Act
To be eligible for a licence under the Public Accounting Act, an individual must be a member of a designated body, which includes the CPA. The actual licensing of individuals under the Public Accounting Act, is deferred to the membership requirements of the CPA or a similar designated body.
The Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario
Council of the CPA employs a individual called a “Registrar” who is given broad discretion to make administrative decisions regarding who shall be granted membership, and preserve their membership in the CPA.
Membership in the CPA
In addition to the ability to practice public accounting under the Public Accounting Act, membership in the CPA allows individuals to use numerous valuable designations with their names- “Charted Accountant”, “Certified Management Account”, “C.P.A.” etc.
The requirements for membership are outlined in regulation 7-1 and 9-1 (for students) of the CPA’s by-laws. Other than the completion of the CPA program and academic prerequisites (subject to exceptions), individuals who meet the following requirements shall be registered by the Registrar:
The Registrar will not register any applicant who provides false or misleading information or documentation, or fails to provide it at all, if requested. There are various other requirements depending on other factors, such as members of other accounting jurisdictions transferring into Ontario, or “mature” accountants.
Where an applicant does not provide the Registrar with satisfactory evidence of good character, or their credibility requires assessment, they will refer the application to the Admission and Registration Committee for an oral or written hearing. The committee will hear evidence from both the applicant and Registrar, make findings of fact, and provide a determination. Their decisions can be appealed to the Appeal Committee whose decision are final.
The CPA has a Complaints Committee to review every complaint regarding the conduct of a member and will investigate the matter if the member or firm may be guilty of breaching the CPA's Code of Professional Conduct (the "Code"). Following an investigation, the committee will:
The Discipline Committee hears complaints referred to it from the Complaints Committee. It will determine whether the member or firm is guilty of professional misconduct. The Code contains numerous specific rules related to independence, competence, conflicts, among many other things. If found guilty of professional misconduct, the Discipline Committee may do any of the following:
If there is significant risks of harm to members of the public or to the public interest the Discipline Committee may suspend or limit the member’s or firm’s registration pending a hearing.
A member or firm may appeal a final decision or order of the Discipline Committee to the Appeal Committee.
The CPA also uses a Capacity Committee to determine whether a member is “incapacitated”; meaning they are incapable of meeting their obligations as a chartered accountant because of illness (physical and mental) or addiction to alcohol or drugs. The CPA will investigate incapacity concerns and may refer the matter to the Capacity Committee for final determination. The committee may order the member undergo medical or psychological examination under the threat of suspension. If found incapacitated, the committee may order:
A member or the CPA may appeal a decision to the Appeals committee.
Investigators and Inspectors
The CPA may appoint investigators for the purpose of investigation professional misconduct and capacity concerns. They also appoint inspectors to conduct practice inspections to ensure a firm and their members are complying with CPA Act and the CPA’s by-laws. Investigators and inspectors have the power to enter business premises (other than dwellings), questions individuals, require production of documents for examination, and remove documents.
If anyone obstructs an investigator or inspector executing their duties or withholds, conceals, alters, or destroys requested documents, they commit an offence and are liable to a fine up to $25,000, if convicted. Directors or officers of a corporation who authorized, permitted, or acquiesced in such an action can also be found guilty of an offence.
It is an offence under the CPA Act to practice (as either an individual or a firm) as a "Charted Account" or hold out to be one (including using the many designations) if one is not a member of the CPA. There are exceptions related to receiving “authentic professional accounting qualifications” from another jurisdiction outside Ontario. Individuals found guilty of this offence are liable to a fine up to $10,000 for a first offence and $25,000 for each subsequent offence.
Prosecutions under the CPA Act are conducted in the Ontario Court of Justice and will advance similar to a criminal charge where there will be a series of important court appearances before a trial. Notwithstanding any fines or probation, being convicted of an offence under the CPA Act will severely prejudice an individual or firm’s ability to practice accounting in Ontario.
If you have questions regarding applying for your CPA, understanding your professional obligations, or responding to an administrative action, please don't hesitate to contact Burokas Law to ensure your rights and interests are best protected.