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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 By-law, 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 the services that require a public accounting licence and are described in section 2 of the Public Accounting Act, 2004, excluding any exception to services listed in section 3 of that Act."

Providing accounting services to the public is defined in section 1.1.53 of the By-law 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 prepared by the member providing the service will be relied upon or used by a third party, whether or not a licence is required under the Public Accounting Act, 2004.
  • Such other services and activities as may be determined by the Council from time to time. 

These types of services are often referred to as "public accounting". All references in the CPA Code of Professional Conduct to "public accounting" shall be read as though there were also references to "providing accounting services to the public" as defined in the By-law. 


Who can set up an accounting practice?

Any member of CPA Ontario 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.


CPA Logo Usage

Eligibility Requirements:

The CPA Logo is available for download and use only 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 compliance with CPA Ontario's intellectual property licensing requirements. Firms in good standing can obtain the CPA Ontario logo by going to My Portal, selecting Firm Dashboard and Firm Select to choose the appropriate firm. Finally click on CPA Ontario Logos.

*Note: Only the firm representative (local senior officer or LSO) or a delegate they have appointed may access the CPA Logo License 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 10-1.

There are a number of requirements that must be met:

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

 Note: Prior to starting the registration process, members are permitted to request separate approval of a proposed professional practice name. Members should go to My Portal, select Obligations and Requests, and then Applications and Start New Application. Finally click on Firm Name Pre-Approval Application. The request must include all relevant facts such as:

  • The proposed practice name.
  • The nature of the services being provided.
  • The practice structure.
  • The number of members, students, professional colleagues, and non-members involved with the accounting practice.
  • 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). The Registrar's pre-approval of a firm name shall remain valid for a period of 180 days, but shall remain subject to the Registrar's continuing discretion to approve or reject the name. The Registrar's pre-approval of a firm name does not constitute CPA Ontario's reserving the name. 

View Frequently Asked Questions on Firm Names.

Free Customizable Client Brochure For Small Practices

Use this customizable brochure to market your CPA Firm to prospective and current clients. Designed to support your client retention efforts, this brochure has been developed by CPA Ontario and the Small Practices Advisory Committee to help promote CPAs and the unique value-added services they can provide. 

The sample brochure is for illustrative purposes only and contains a CPA Ontario watermark. If your Firm is interested in using this brochure and would like a "clean" copy, please complete the Request for the Small Practices Brochure Form and send to practiceadvisory@cpaontario.ca

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).
  • 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.
  • 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 by-laws and regulations of Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario. Information on certificates of authorization is available in the Professional Corporations section.

Firm Applications and Requests

  • You can log into My Portal to make the following applications or service requests:

    Registration and Updates (all Firms):

    • firm application for registration.
    • firm updates (name, structure)
    • firm name pre-approval
    • firm closure
    • add/update related businesses

    Professional Corporations Only:

    • apply for a Certificate of Authorization
    • request a Certificate of Authorization Cancellation

    Professional Liability Insurance Coverage:

    • professional Liability Insurance (PLI) Declaration
    • discovery Insurance Declaration
    • update Insurance Information