Public Accounting Licence

A public accounting licence (PAL) from CPA Ontario demonstrates an additional depth of experience and expertise.

CPA Ontario is the authorized designated body to license and govern our members in the practice of public accounting.

Further details on PAL requirements can be found in our Member’s Handbook.

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At a glance

When a Public Accounting Licence (PAL) is required

A PAL is required if you:

  • practice public accounting as described in section 2 of the Public Accounting Act and are the lead engagement person responsible for signing reports or statements regarding:
    • assurance engagement (including an audit or review engagement) relating to a financial statement or any part of a financial statement or any statement attached to a financial statement
    • 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
    • a report is issued in Ontario
    • the work for the engagement is primarily performed in Ontario

A PAL is not required if you:

  • are not the lead engagement person responsible for signing the report or statement (members of the engagement team who are not the lead engagement person, including the quality control review partner, are not required to be licensed)
  • do not provide any assurance services (including audit or review engagements) but do provide other services including:
    • compilations in which the services may be relied upon or used by a third party and the prescribed wording for the Notice to Reader is used
    • taxation
    • accounting
    • internal audit
    • controllership
    • insolvency services
    • business advisory services

Eligibility requirements

You can obtain a PAL if you are a member in good standing with CPA Ontario and have met the eligibility requirements (including practice inspection and continuing professional development).

If you wish to engage in the practice of public accounting after obtaining a PAL, you must be employed at a CPA Ontario registered firm or register your own firm with CPA Ontario.

For the full list of eligibility requirements, please review Regulation 17-1.

CPA Ontario students are not eligible to obtain a PAL prior to admission to membership. Learn more about the public accounting path in order to be eligible to apply for a PAL upon admission to membership.

CPA Ontario members who do not have the educational requirements for licensure can complete the Post Designation Public Accounting (PDPA).

Apply for a Public Accounting Licence

If you fulfil the licensing eligibility requirements, you can apply and pay your fee by logging into My Portal, selecting Obligations and Requests ► Applications ► Start New Application ► PAL Application.

The Public Accounting Licensing Board (PALB) reviews your application. You should receive a response within four to six weeks, but timelines depend on having completed all components of the application and volume.

If you are granted a PAL, you will receive a digital certificate by email, along with a letter of approval from the Public Accounting Licensing Board. Your name will be added to CPA Ontario’s public accounting directories.

To maintain your public accounting rights in Ontario, you must renew your PAL annually through My Portal. Licences expire on October 31 each year. You must complete the PAL renewal process by October 1 in order to maintain the licence.

Read about further PAL disclosure requirements for licensees and firms.

Exemptions for Public Accountants

You are exempt from licensing if you provide public accounting services exclusively through:

  • any public authority or any commission, committee or emanation of a public authority, including a Crown corporation
  • any bank, loan or trust company
  • any transportation company incorporated by an Act of the Parliament of Canada
  • any other publicly-owned or publicly-controlled public utility organization

You may be exempt from licensing if you practice public accounting without reward. However, you are still required to provide these services through a registered firm and hold professional liability insurance. You can apply for insurance coverage at no cost if you provide free assurance services to small charitable and not-for-profit organizations with annual gross revenue of $100,000 or less.

Internationally Trained Accountants

Interested in becoming a member of CPA Ontario through a mutual recognition agreement (MRA) or a Reciprocal Membership Agreement (RMA) and obtaining a PAL? Check out our CPA Reciprocity Education and Examination (CPARE) Program.

Please note that the MRA and RMA are for admission to membership only. Members who wish to obtain a PAL must meet additional specific requirements. Please see Regulation 17-1 for more information on licensing eligibility.

PAL FAQs