An auditor’s guide to the federal elections

CPA Canada has published three free guides to help auditors navigate the accounting and financial reporting requirements of the Canada Elections Act.

If you’ve been hired to audit a candidate in this fall’s federal election, or if you’re lending your accounting know-how to a campaign as a volunteer CFO, CPA Canada is making your job easier by providing a series of indispensable guides. These free publications offer practical guidance on the accounting and financial reporting requirements of the Canada Elections Act, which regulates the conduct of federal elections.

"It’s such a specialized field. Most practitioners have no idea what they’re getting into when they start," says Harry Mortimer, CPA, CMA, who serves on CPA Canada’s Federal Elections Audit Guides Advisory Committee. "They need the guides."

The titles include:

  •  A Guide for the Auditor of a Candidate in a Federal Election Pursuant to the Canada Elections Act (10th edition, 2015);
  •  Guide for Auditors of Registered Electoral District Associations Appointed under the Canada Elections Act (new edition coming in Jan. 2016); and
  •  Audit of Third Party Advertising in a Federal Election (2011).

In preparation for the Oct. 19 federal election, CPA Canada is updating the guides to reflect changes brought about by the Fair Elections Act, which received royal assent in June 2014. There are, for example, new requirements for expenses, contributions and loans.

"It changed the reporting requirements," says Mortimer. "If somebody believed they knew what they were doing yesterday — a lot has changed."

Elections Canada releases its own summary of the Canada Elections Act, but the document is geared toward CFOs of electoral district associations instead of auditors. On its website, the agency provides links to the CPA Canada guides.

Fair returns

In the 2015 federal election, candidates will run in 338 electoral districts. (In 2013, Canada had 308.) Each party that fields a candidate in an electoral district must file an annual return for its district association. When a district association’s expenses exceed $5,000, it’s required to get an audited statement of all contributions and expenses.

"To ensure fair elections across the country, Elections Canada provides 50% to 60% of funding for expenses," explains Akanksha Arora, CPA, CA, and the project director for the update of the audit guides. Arora, who is principal, research, guidance and support group, audit and assurance at CPA Canada, says that "even leadership contestants have to be audited. If everything is in line, Elections Canada pays them back the 60%."

Candidates’ returns are due four months after an election. A poorly prepared audit could delay reimbursement from Elections Canada. "If you don’t do it right, that could hold it up for years," says Mortimer. "There are templates in the audit guides that provide absolute guidance. It’s very high-quality, up-to-date material, specific to the political process. It’s highly valuable that CPA Canada does this."

Download the guides at: