The following process is followed during a practice review:
- Questionnaires: The firm is notified by email that it has been selected for practice review and will receive a Scheduling Questionnaire and Tax Management Questionnaire for completion. If the firm is a non-assurance office, it will also receive a Confidential Client List used for file selection.
- Schedule Dates/Times: Once the firm has returned the Scheduling Questionnaire, it is reviewed by the Director of Practice Review to determine the length of the time needed to conduct the review. The firm will then be contacted by the Practice Review Coordinator to schedule the dates(s) for the review.
- Candidate Experience Questionnaire (if required): If a firm has Pre-Approved Program Route Provider status, completion of the Candidate Experience Questionnaire is also required.
- These general procedures will be followed before and during the office visit:
- Logistics and Client List: The Practice Reviewer will contact the member in charge of the practice review before the scheduled review date to confirm logistics and request a client list for file selection. The timing of this contact depends on the size of the office. The member should have an up-to-date client list available for the reviewer to assist in the file selection. This list should be organized by partner and indicate the type of engagement.
- File Selection: Files will be selected by the reviewer in consultation with the member in charge. The firm will be given enough time prior to the visit to ensure that the files are either printed and organized in files or transferred onto electronic hardware/software for the reviewer to access. Notice of the selected files is typically given one to two days before the scheduled review date. The files provided normally include the current working paper file(s) for the most recent year-end, financial statements, tax return, permanent file and billing and correspondence.
*For a non-assurance review (desk review): The client list will be requested by the practice review coordinator much earlier in the review process. Files will be selected in-house from the client list and the selected files will then be forwarded electronically or by courier to the CPA Alberta office for review. The coordinator will notify the firm approximately one week prior to the review date as to which files have been selected for review. All physical files will be returned to the firm within a few days of the review.
- Files reviewed: The engagement files will then be reviewed to determine that they meet professional standards and the items noted will be discussed with the member in charge of the engagement. The reviewer will provide copies of their notes on the engagement to that member. The member is encouraged to discuss the reviewer’s findings and, where available, provide additional information to the reviewer.
- Deficiency Report and Compliance Status: The reviewer will summarize the findings on the engagement files and will determine if additional procedures are required. This summary of findings (Deficiency Report) as well as the reviewer’s recommendation of 'Comply' or 'Non-Comply' will be discussed with the practitioner in charge of the review (and, at the practitioner's discretion, with other partners or staff members) at the exit interview. The firm will be asked to sign-off on the Deficiency Report at that time. The firm will be provided a copy of the final Deficiency Report at the end of the practice review for reference.
- Draft Practice Review Report: The reviewer will prepare a Draft Practice Review Report for presentation to the Practice Review Committee with the following features:
- An assessment as to whether anything has come to the attention of the reviewer that causes them to believe that the firm is not in compliance with professional standards;
- A summary of the findings and recommendations for improvement; and
- An office profile.
- Firm review of report: Copies of the Draft Practice Review Report will be forwarded to the firm for review from the Director of Practice Review in advance of presentation to the Practice Review Committee. Prior to submitting the report to the Committee, the firm must acknowledge the contents by signing the last page of the Draft Practice Review Report and returning it to CPA Alberta by the specified deadline.
The Committee encourages members to submit written comments concerning the content of the Draft Practice Review Report. There may also be times when a response from the firm is required and this will be noted in the report. The Committee considers both the Draft Practice Review Report and the firm’s comments when forming its assessment of the firm.
- Committee Assessment: The report is presented to the Committee in a manner which protects the identity of the firm, its members and clients. The Committee makes the decision regarding adherence to professional standards. The Committee may reject, modify or accept the recommendation concerning compliance by the reviewer. The Committee may also request additional information from the firm prior to making its final assessment.
- Committee Decision and Recommendations: The firm will be notified of the Committee's decision and recommendations. The decision regarding re-approval of their Pre-approved Program Route Provider status for training candidates, if applicable, is the decision of the Registration Committee; however, the firm will be notified of the recommendation made to the Registration Committee.
- Canadian Public Accountability Board notified (if required): Firms registered with the Canadian Public Accountability Board (CPAB) with reporting issuer clients will have their Practice Review Report sent to the CPAB directly from the Practice Review Committee.
- Retained and destroyed files: The Practice Review Report, Decision Letter, Scheduling Questionnaire and Tax Questionnaire are retained for a period of four years once a firm has been found to comply and practice review fees are paid. All other working papers, detailed notes, client lists, etc. are destroyed after one year.
- Follow-up scheduled (if required): For firms receiving a non-comply decision, a follow-up Practice Review will be scheduled usually within 12 months of the initial practice review visit. The time frame is at the discretion of the Practice Review Committee.
Tips for a Successful Practice Review
Firms that are compliant generally:
- Encourage members to attend professional development courses
- Are aware of events within the profession
- Are aware of revisions to the CPA Canada Handbook
- Have adequate working paper file documentation
- Maintain a strong system of quality control
- Prepare for the practice review by maintaining high standards of practice on a continual basis
- Have a cooperative attitude that makes the process more time and cost efficient for both parties
If you have any questions or require further information prior to your practice review, please contact Erin Wallish CPA, CA, Director of Practice Review at firstname.lastname@example.org.