Profession National Profiles

The 10 most popular Canadian Accountant stories of 2023

From ChatGPT to foreign firms to Big Four layoffs, which story did readers click on the most in the past year? And which story came out on top?

Author: Colin Ellis

TORONTO, December 10, 2023 – It was a year when the very foundation of the Canadian accounting profession split apart and threatened to swallow up the CPA brand. A year when regulators got tough and accounting firms made headlines — for all the wrong reasons. And a year when new technologies presented big opportunities and new ways of working caused big challenges. 

Presenting, in reverse order, the top 10 most popular stories on Canadian Accountant in 2023. Some of these stories benefited from publication early on in the year. But who knows? Maybe a new story will capture top spot before the year is over. 

10.  How to use ChatGPT to study accounting

In June, CPA PEP coach and mentor Gevorg Grigoryan, CPA, presented five tips for using ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence resources to study for Canadian accounting exams. Let’s face it: Students in the CPA program are always looking for ways to ace the CFE and other tests. It was inevitable that some would explore ChatGPT. But first: Study responsibly! 

9.  The Foix decision: The long and uncertain reach of subsection 84(2)

In March, Allan Lanthier wrote an opinion piece that sparked a lot of debate, and kickback from tax experts who argue that tax decisions should be based on text rather than context. The Foix decision was the first indication of the year that Canadian courts were beginning to question past tax decisions. Are you a fan of Clarence Thomas and legal originalism? Then 2023 was definitely not your year.

8.  Canadian audit regulator issues enforcement action against US accounting firm

Little did we know, back in March, that publicly censuring an American accounting firm would be a sign of bigger things to come. Under new transparency rules, the Canadian Public Accountability Board punished Marcum LLP, which is based in New York and has no offices in Canada. To some, it seemed a cosmic joke — CPAB punishing an American firm instead of one of our own — but in fact it opened the floodgates and Marcum would pay again for its transgressions. 

7.  It's over! CPA CFE writers complete September 2023 national accounting exam/Congratulations! 1,571 aspiring Canadian accountants pass the May 2023 CFE

We stuck these two stories together but they were very popular separately. CFE results days bring hours of joy or sadness to aspiring accountants across Canada. It’s only natural that they spend hours online, surfing the internet for information and commentary, regardless of their score. We do our best to provide some commentary and the results speak for themselves. 

6.  How would a CRA strike impact Canadian accountants and tax preparers?

Did a strike at the Canada Revenue Agency really happen? It all seems so long ago now. But the Union of Taxation Employees at the Canada Revenue Agency did indeed walk off the job — and then tempted fate by not signing the same contract as its parent union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Sure, it was an inconvenience but, as we predicted, it wasn’t the catastrophe that some forewarned, and technology saved the day. 

5.  To mandate or not to mandate? Why hybrid work should be favoured, not feared

Back in May, the future of hybrid work (or remote work, if you choose) was still in doubt. Six months later, it seems like the debate has been settled, and hybrid work has won. Helping to settle the debate were thought leaders like Pamela Steer, the top boss at CPA Canada, whose editorial on the front page of Canadian Accountant was one of our top stories of the year.

Pamela Steer
"To me, the idea of trying to bring back the old normal is a non-starter — reality and expectations have changed," wrote Pamela Steer last spring. The president and CEO of CPA Canada was right: hybrid work has become the new normal for many in the professional class, including Canadian accountants.

4.  Special Report: Foreign accounting firms dominated Canadian mid-tiers in 2022 and the audit regulator is concerned

What the heck is going on in the audit profession? At least, that was the subtext of this article back in May, which asked why American firms were gaining more new public clients than Canadian firms. The sad answer would start to emerge from audit regulators on both sides of the border as the year wore on.

3.  Special Report: Deloitte Canada tops rival Canadian accounting firms in annual revenue

Who gets bragging rights among the Big Four? To the best of our knowledge, no one had ever crunched the Canadian numbers, or provided as much insight into the revenue of the Big Four as we do (or did). So we took the bull by the horns. Honestly, reading some of the Big Four's "transparency reports" was like nailing jello to the wall. But in the end, what we found was that, after Deloitte (no surprise), KPMG (number four elsewhere in the world) punches far above its weight in Canada. 

2.  Layoffs at Big Four accounting firm PwC Canada face media scrutiny over severance

Look no further than this story, published two weeks ago, to prove that the right story draws eyeballs no matter when it's published. Much of the work on the PwC story was done by the Globe and Mail, to its credit, although we were happy as usual to add our own twist. Canadian accountants know they have a source of independent journalism that tells them the truth — regardless of the subject.

1.  Ontario, Quebec accounting bodies announce planned split from CPA Canada

Well, duh. Right?

I mean, what other story dominated conversation among Canadian accountants to this degree in 2023? While the standoff continues between the factions, the recent news of an agreement over the CPA program was a good sign. At least the sides are still talking. And if you're looking for more background on the story, read our five-part CPA Standoff series.

Of course, these were our top 10 most popular stories, not the most important stories of the year. For that, you'll have to wait a little longer. But if you're looking for a few laughs and a bit of nostalgia, go no further than the Top 10 Canadian accounting stories of 2020 or, even further back, The Top 10 Canadian Accountant stories of 2017, from our first year of operation.

My, how we've grown. 

Colin Ellis is a contributing editor to Canadian Accountant.

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