Are accounting standards public enough?

CA Magazine might be freely giving away their content for the benefit of all stakeholders in the CA profession and public accounting in general, but the goodwill doesn’t extend to the CICA when it comes to Canadian accounting and auditing standards.

The CICA, through the Accounting Standards Board (AcSB), develops public accounting standards through a remarkably public process of consultation and comment, but once the standard makes it into the Handbook, it is rarely seen in public again. The Handbook is available online, if you’re a member of the Institute. That is, only if you’re a CA do you get access to the goods.

Additionally, when one Googles “CICA Handbook”, the first result is a link to “Enhanced online access to CICA Handbook”! (This the access available only to CICA members.) A link to the protected Handbook is featured prominently on the CICA homepage. “Great,” a new visitor thinks, “the Handbook is only a mouse click away!” But that click takes you again to the paywall.

I posed the question directly to the Institute, and later in the day received my response: “The CICA Handbook is only granted to members as a part of their annual dues thru their Provincial Institute. You may be able to come across a copy in print in a local Library, assuming the Library has one for public use.” Pay the dues, get access to the public standards.

The profession exists to protect the public interest, so I have to question whether access to the fruits of the profession’s labour, the standards themselves, are holding up this ideal. What do you think?

11 thoughts on “Are accounting standards public enough?

  1. I am a first-year teacher of a highschool accounting course and was surpised/horrified to find how difficult it is to access such a supposedly public document. So far no luck!

  2. Yeah there’s really no excuse for it, especially when educators can’t get access to the standards.

    The situation isn’t much better for international standards, as this recent post by Dennis Howlett indicates.

  3. Transparency in the 21st century? Not when it comes to Accounting Standards.

    Why can’t Sharron have free access for educational purposes? Why can’t businesses have free access? Why can’t the public have free access?

    This old style thinking just makes the profession look backward.

  4. I’m currently completing my CGA designation and I think it would be extremely helpful if I could have access to the standards.

  5. Philip – There is no good reason why we can’t all have access to the standards, but I’m pretty sure that was your point!

    Joan – Let’s hope the profession can change their ways and provide you and everyone access to these important “public” standards! Thanks for commenting!

  6. Chartered Accountants shouldn’t even be setting the standards. The standards should be set by CGA’s, CMA’s, and CA’s together since the Standards impact all three designations. THAT IS CALLED DEMOCRACY.

  7. If these are as stated Public Standards, then why are the very group of Accounting services hiding it behind closed doors? Though I am not an accountant or a teacher but a business person with concerns that I have been trying to find out regarding an accountants actions ,that is unable to give me copies of the filings he provided CRA because he allowed his computer to become infected with a Virus and lost my filings I want to know what can be done. I would like to know just what is written in those standards so that I have some recourse in this matter.
    An open book provids all the information required to learn, but as we see here a closed book protects the very ones that wrote the Public Standards. If they are public standards then provide the public access free and clear.
    David Newman
    Forgive me if I’m wrong but why should these standards be subjected to Only CGA, CMA’s, and CA? I’m thinking that these standards should be written by by all concerned as well as those very people that teach in our Colleges and Universities I think that those that are not attached to the Accountanting firms should also be able to input the Standards. Right now it looks to me that its like sending a policeman to investigate a police wrong doing.

  8. Sorry to hear about your problems – is your accountant licensed? If so, you can file a complaint with the relevant licensing board.

    Representatives from all sectors of the profession – not just big Four people – have input into how they are drafted – all CAs, for example, are asked to submit their input when standards are being revised.

    That part of the process is open enough, really.

  9. David, Yes, CMAs are able to perform audits, in Ontario and Quebec (not sure of the other provinces), if by that you mean “audits for external reporting purposes”, provided that they have been licensed to do so by completing the necessary requirements.
    Just having the CMA designation alone will not allow you to sign off on audits, so you will have to look into that. CGAs are in the same boat, they can complete the requirements to sign off…

    As far as the “Public” nature of the handbook, I am also frustrated and appalled that we as Canadians still allow this blatant protectionist maneuver to exist.

    It’s high time that accounting and other business professionals have full access to the laws (ahem, recommendations) that so heavily impact our bottom lines. It’s time to trim the slack out of our sluggish economies (we just recently endured a $100,000 audit, at a company where NI came out to $400,000, before the the bill… I have no way of knowing what to compare these adjusting entries to, unless of course we fork up more money…)

    Time to cut out these ridiculous measures that are put into place to protect the public!

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