Updating tax competencies for new CPAs

What tax and other competencies do today’s newly minted CPAs need to succeed? Find out what updates are being considered for the CPA certification program, and tell us what you think.

The business environment is always changing. That’s why changes to the tax and other competencies for new CPAs are being considered as part of an update to the current CPA Competency Map.

The competency map sets out the expectations for newly certified CPAs and influences the content of CPA exams and university courses. The CPA Competency Map Committee monitors changing business conditions and requirements, so our profession can ensure new CPAs have the competencies they need in the coming years. As part of their work, the Competency Map Committee asked a Tax Competency Map Working Group to study current tax-related requirements and recommend changes to update the competency map.

The working group was led by the University of Waterloo’s James Barnett, and, along with me, its members included a mix of CPAs, tax educators and a Canada Revenue Agency representative. In examining the current tax and accounting landscape, the group identified key changes that are evolving the tax knowledge and skills required of new CPAs. For example:

  • technology is affecting all aspects of tax practice
  • practical work experience in tax is no longer required to obtain the CPA designation
  • virtually every individual and business in Canada now encounters GST/HST and/or QST, however apart from a few GST/HST topics, there is little coverage of GST/HST in the CPA’s education
  • some of the income tax topics in the current map go beyond what today’s new CPA can reasonably be expected to know


The working group then considered the expectations in tax of newly qualified CPAs from the perspectives of employers, the broader public and the public interest. The group concluded that newly qualified CPAs would be expected to perform tax compliance for individuals and corporations and to account for the tax payable and deferred tax for corporations. The public would also expect a newly qualified CPA to be able to determine the GST/HST implications in routine situations.

In our final report, we called for a series of changes that would:

  • reduce the amount of income tax-related content (especially on planning), since much of it is too specialized
  • increase the indirect tax-related content.

The Competency Map Committee is considering these changes as part of a larger update to the competency map, expected to be released in December 2018. The committee is consulting members and other stakeholders in advance and issued an outreach package that describes the proposed changes in detail and invites input.

Whether you’re a student or employer, or in public practice, industry, academia or government, I urge all CPAs to review these proposals and send us your views on whether our profession is setting the right expectations on the tax knowledge and skills that tomorrow’s CPAs will require. Please post a comment below or email taxmatters@cpacanada.ca.


What tax knowledge would you expect a new CPA to be able to apply on earning their certification?

CPA Canada’s Tax Blog is designed to create an exchange of ideas on tax policy and practice issues, and their impact on those who practise tax. Your comments can provide helpful input into the public interest advocacy positions developed by CPA Canada.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Vivian Leung, CPA, CA

Principal, Tax Education, CPA Canada