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How to Set Up a Public Accounting Practice

How to Set Up a Public Accounting Practice

Learn the basics of opening your accounting practice

When to Set Up a Public Accounting Practice

If you are "providing accounting services to the public" or engaged in the "practice of public accounting" as defined in CPA Ontario's bylaws, you must register your professional accounting practice with CPA Ontario. Providing accounting services to the public, or practising public accounting, can be done on a full-time, part-time, subcontract or consulting basis.

The practice of public accounting is defined as “the provision of any services described in Section 2 of the Public Accounting Act, 2004, excluding any exceptions to services listed in Section 3 of that Act. This basically covers any services that require a public accounting licence in accordance with this Act.

Providing accounting services to the public is defined in Bylaw 1.1.31 and includes:

  • The performance of any engagement addressed by standards in the CPA Canada Handbook - Assurance for which a licence is not required under the Public Accounting Act, 2004 to perform the engagement.
  • Accounting that involves analysis, advice and interpretation in an expert capacity, but excluding record keeping.
  • Taxation that involves advice and counselling in an expert capacity, but excluding mechanical processing of returns.
  • Compilation services, if it can reasonably be expected that all or any portion of the compilation or associated materials will be relied upon or used by a third party, whether or not a licence is required under the Public Accounting Act, 2004; and the provisions of the services described in Section 2 of the Public Accounting Act, 2004 excluding any exceptions to services listed in Section 3 of that Act.

Both types of services are often referred to as "public accounting".


Who Can Set Up an Accounting Practice?

Any CPA Ontario member in good standing may register an accounting practice. Students and those who are awaiting their CPA designation or membership in Ontario must wait until they are members of CPA Ontario to begin the registration process. Retired members may still register and operate an accounting practice as long as they maintain their membership in good standing.


Firm Forms

All the accounting firm forms you'll need to complete can be downloaded.


CPA Logo Usage

Eligibility Requirements:

The CPA Logo is available for download and use by firms in good standing registered with CPA Ontario to practise public accounting or provide accounting services to the public. The CPA Logo is a certification mark, and the firm, and members of the firm, may only use the CPA Logo in accordance with the terms of the CPA Logo Licence Agreement.

Steps to obtain the CPA Logo:

  • Log in to Firm Secure Area *
  • Under CPA Logo, click on CPA Logo Licence Agreement.
  • Sign the CPA Logo Licence Agreement to obtain the CPA Logo Artwork and Guidelines for the Licensed Use of the CPA Logo.

 *Note: Only the firm LSO or a delegate appointed by the firm LSO on the Firm Secure Site may access the CPA Logo Licence Agreement.

Firms that provide certain services are subject to inspection.

Are you ready for a practice inspection?
Learn more about them and how to prepare.

Opening a Public Accounting Practice 101

The allowable practice structures, registration and ongoing requirements are summarized below. For more information, refer to Regulation 4-6.

There are a number of requirements that must be met:

Members will need to ensure that they are in compliance with the bylaws and regulations of CPA Ontario, as well as various other acts, and, accordingly, may need to consult with legal counsel.

 Note: Prior to submitting these forms, members are permitted to request separate approval of a proposed professional practice name, in writing, to the attention of the registrar at cpaoregistrar@cpaontario.ca. The request must include all relevant facts such as: the nature of the request; the nature of the services being provided; the corporate structure; the number of members, students, professional colleagues, and non-members involved with the accounting practice; and the names of the members involved in the accounting practice. Responses will be provided in writing. (See CPA Code of Professional Conduct Rules 401 and 404 and related guidance concerning the use of firm names).

View Frequently Asked Questions on Firm Names.

Providing Services Requiring a Public Accounting Licence

If you are registering a firm that is performing public accounting services requiring a licence, you must obtain a public accounting licence. A public accounting licence is required when you are the lead engagement person responsible for signing the report or statement issued in respect of any:

  • assurance engagement (including an audit or review engagement), or
  • any compilation engagement in respect of which it can be reasonably expected that the services will be relied upon or used by a third party and the prescribed wording for the notice to reader is not used; and
  • the report is issued in Ontario or the work for the engagement is primarily performed in Ontario.

For more information regarding obtaining a public accounting licence, please visit Public Accounting Licensing.

If you intend to perform public accounting services requiring a licence through a professional corporation, the professional corporation will need a certificate of authorization to practise as a public accountant in accordance with the Public Accounting Act, 2004, and the bylaws and regulations of Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario. Information on certificates of authorization is available in the Professional Corporations section.

Firm Forms