US CPA vs Canada CPA

In the dynamic realm of accounting, the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation stands as a testament to professional expertise and commitment. Aspiring accountants often find themselves at a crossroads, contemplating pursuing the US CPA or Canada CPA certification. 

Read on to understand the intricacies of both certifications, exploring licensing requirements, exam structures, fees, and key differentiators.

What Is a US CPA?

In the US, the Certified Public Accounting is the most supreme designation in accounting and finance. It is granted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). US CPAs work in diverse fields of public accounting, corporate finance, government, and nonprofit organizations.

What Is Canada CPA?

The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) provides the coveted designation of Canada CPA. This credential represents the highest standard of Canadian accounting and business knowledge. Because of their expertise in strategic business planning and financial management, CPAs are in great demand in Canada.

Also Read – How Much Does a CPA Earn in the US, India & Big 4?

Licensing Requirements for US CPA

Candidates must complete specified licensing requirements to receive the US CPA designation. This comprises a solid educational foundation, practical accounting experience, passing the CPA Exam, and ongoing Continuing Professional Education (CPE). A bachelor’s degree with a concentration in accounting or a similar subject is required.

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Licensing Requirements for Canada CPA

Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, complete the CPA Professional Education Program (PEP), earn practical experience through the CPA Practical Experience Requirements (PER), and pass the CFE. This all-encompassing strategy ensures that CPAs in Canada have a well-rounded skill set.

US CPA Exam Structure

The US CPA exam is structured into four sections, each with a duration of four hours and covering different areas of accounting. These sections are:

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  1. Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  2. Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
  3. Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  4. Regulation (REG)

Each section has multiple tests, which are groups of test questions. The tests contain operational and pretest questions, with operational questions being scored and pretest questions not scored. The CPA exam includes three main question types:

  1. Multiple-choice questions (MCQs): One-sentence to paragraph-length questions with four potential answers.
  2. Task-based simulations (TBS): These resemble real-world scenarios that a CPA might encounter, requiring candidates to demonstrate their understanding of the topics and concepts and prove their ability to research accounting questions for clients or customers.
  3. Written submissions: These are essay-style questions designed to assess candidates’ abilities to communicate effectively and professionally in a business setting.

Also Read – A List of Changes in the US CPA Exam 2024

Canada CPA Exam Structure

To become a CPA in Canada, candidates must complete three major stages:

  1. Prerequisite education: Candidates must have a baccalaureate or bachelor’s degree in certain related subject matters or gain education through preparatory courses.
  2. CPA Professional Educational Program (CPA PEP): This program consists of core and elective modules, a capstone integrative module, and the Common Final Examination (CFE). The core and elective modules are set nationally and include objective format questions and short cases, which culminate in examinations that candidates must successfully complete to be admitted to the next module. The capstone integrative module includes presentations, team-based assignments, and an integrated business case that candidates complete as part of a team. The CFE is a three-day examination that requires candidates to demonstrate the depth and breadth of their competency development in accordance with The CPA Canada Competency Map.
  3. The Common Final Examination (CFE): This is the final stage to be cleared in order to qualify as a CPA in Canada. It is a three-day exam that covers all the subjects that candidates have learned in the CPA PEP stages. The CFE consists of objective-format questions and cases that assess candidates’ technical and enabling competencies.

The CPA PEP is developed on a national basis, but the program is delivered on a provincial basis. Candidates can register for the CPA PEP through their provincial or regional CPA body. The CPA Exam in Canada consists of the following components:

  1. Core Modules 1 and 2: Candidates must sit for six exams in these modules. Each module ends in an examination, and candidates must pass each module examination to proceed to the next module.
  2. Electives 1 and 2: Candidates must sit for two exams in these modules.
  3. Capstone 1 and 2: Candidates must pass two learning modules.
  4. Common Final Examination (CFE): This is a three-day exam that covers all the subjects that candidates have learned in the CPA PEP stages. It consists of objective-format questions and cases that assess candidates’ technical and enabling competencies.

It is important to note that all the exams and modules required for CPA Canada must be completed in Canada.

Fees for US CPA

The cost of the CPA exam in the United States varies depending on the state and the number of sections taken. The CPA test costs between $2,003 and $5,453, including application, examination, re-examination, and review course expenses. The following are the CPA exam fees:

  1. Application fee: The application fee can range from $50 to $300, depending on the state.
  2. Examination fee: The total cost for all four sections is around $953. can mention a range here since its different for different states, maybe an exact figure like this is not necessary 
  3. Registration fee: It can range from $60 to $340.
  4. Review course fee: These cost an average of $1,000 to $4,000.
  5. Ethics exam fee: The AICPA’s self-study ethics exam costs anywhere from $129 to $189, depending on the course option chosen.

Also Read – What Is the Total Cost of CPA in India?

Fees for Canada CPA

Here’s a breakdown of fees for CPAs in Canada: 

  1. One-time enrollment fee: $450 + Tax
  2. Annual candidate dues: $1,070 + Tax
  3. Module fees: $1,260 per module
  4. Common Final Examination (CFE) fees: $650 to $1,500

The entire cost of CPA PEP is around $12,500. This does not include the cost of any prerequisite courses that may be necessary for enrollment into CPA PEP. Additional expenses may apply if tests are retaken, or late fees are incurred.

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Both the US CPA and Canada CPA designations hold immense value in the accounting profession, each with its unique set of requirements and characteristics. Aspiring accountants should carefully consider their career goals, location preferences, and long-term plans when choosing between the two certifications. 

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Are the accounting standards different for US CPA and Canada CPA?

Yes, the US follows Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), while Canada follows International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). 

Can CPAs from the US and Canada work internationally?

Yes, both US CPA and Canada CPA can work globally. Their expertise in accounting principles is invaluable. However, they should meet certain licensing requirements of the particular country where they work. 

Can I work in public accounting with a US CPA or a Canada CPA designation?

Yes, both US CPAs and Canadian CPAs can work in public accounting in the other country. However, it may be necessary to meet additional licensing or equivalency requirements, and understanding the local accounting and auditing standards is crucial.