Canada’s Top 10 Accounting Stories for 2020

Good riddance to 2020, a year like no other in the accounting profession, says Colin Ellis of the news source, Canadian Accountants.

Despite the chaos of the pandemic and economic turmoil it created, the Canadian accounting professionals proved their value as providers of “essential services,” he writes, “keeping the payroll and relief checks rolling.”

He cited the top 10 stories for Canada’s accountants (in no particular order):

  • Bill Morneau finally resigns – Wealthy Finance Minister Bill Morneau stepped down in August after being tainted by his close ties to the WE Charity, which offered him an all-expenses paid trip to Ecuador. After the trip, he did not recuse himself from the government’s decision to award WE a $900-million contract. Widely criticized for his tax reform campaign of 2017, Canadians viewed him as “a hypocrite, a virtue-signaling, self-serving member of the infamous 1%,” the publication opined.
  • The hotel room exam works well ­– Although the Common Final Examination (CFE) was canceled in May 2020, the September 2020 session “went off without a hitch,” with no major software issues. “Requiring students to write the exam in individual hotel rooms across Canada was a stroke of genius,” Ellis writes.
  • Traditional firms finally go virtual – As in the U.S., the pandemic accelerated the move to the cloud and remote work.
  • Virtual shift leads to hacking, ransomware – With accountants working from home, criminals took advantage of imperfect data sharing, hitting CPA Canada and firms with cyberattacks and ransomware.
  • The Canadian Big 4 lays off thousands – Apparently accounting is not a recession-proof profession, Ellis writes. The layoffs prompted law firms to offer severance litigation services. However, those who remain received significant bonuses at the end of the year.
  • Canada rolls out financial relief – Billions of dollars in pandemic relief provided new opportunities for Canadian accountants as advisors.
  • Debt and deficit backlash begins ­– Criticism of the pandemic relief package emerged in the spring, as accountants, estate advisors and wealth managers began publicly worrying about tax increases to pay for it.
  • The CRA loses big transfer pricing cases – The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) lost four transfer pricing cases involving AgraCity, Bank of Montreal, Cameco and Loblaw when the courts ruled the arrangements were legal.
  • Tax Court of Canada signals virtual shift – The Tax Court of Canada (TCC) shut twice during 2020 due to technology limitations, prompting a move to digitize files and hold virtual hearings.
  • Canadian accountants give back – “Canadian accountants kept the lights on in hundreds of ways throughout the pandemic,” Ellis writes. CPA Canada took a “balanced policy position to pandemic relief and its consequences,” and accounting leaders persuaded the government to waive sales tax on Personal Protective Equipment.