The Society of Professional Accountants of Canada
RPA PROFESSIONAL CODE OF CONDUCT AND ETHICS
The RPA Code of Conduct and Ethics articulates the ethical and professional commitments and responsibilities of the accounting profession. The Code provides standards of ethical practice to guide accountants in fulfilling their obligation to provide the highest standard of care and to foster client and public trust in accountants and the profession. The Code is founded on and affirms the core values and commitments of the profession and outlines responsibilities related to contemporary accounting practice.
In this Code, ethical practice is understood as a process of active inquiry, reflection, and decision-making concerning what an accountant’s actions should be and the reasons for these actions. The Code informs ethical decision-making, especially in situations where existing guidelines are insufficient or where values and principles are in tension. The Code is not exhaustive; it is intended to provide standards of ethical practice that can be interpreted and applied in particular situations. The Code and other RPA policies constitute guidelines that provide a common ethical framework for accountants in the Society of Professional Accountants of Canada.
Accountants should aspire to uphold the virtues and commitments in the Code, and they are expected to enact the professional responsibilities outlined in it. Accountants should be aware of the legal and regulatory requirements that govern accounting practice in their jurisdictions.
- VIRTUES EXEMPLIFIED BY THE ETHICAL ACCOUNTANT
Trust is the cornerstone of the client–accountant relationship and of accounting professionalism. Trust is therefore central to providing the highest standard of service and to the ethical practice of accounting. Accountants must enhance trustworthiness in the profession by striving to uphold the following interdependent virtues:
A compassionate accountant recognizes the client’s unique circumstances in order to alleviate the client’s needs.
An honest Accountant is forthright, respects the truth, and does their best to seek, preserve, and communicate that truth sensitively and respectfully.
A humble Accountant acknowledges the limits of their knowledge and skills or the limits of the accounting profession, and, is cautious not to overstep such limits, seeks advice and support from colleagues in challenging circumstances, and recognizes the client’s knowledge of their own circumstances.
An accountant who acts with integrity demonstrates consistency in his/her intentions and actions and acts in a truthful manner in accordance with professional expectations, even in the face of adversity.
A prudent accountant uses knowledge-based reasoning and judgment, considers all relevant circumstances, and makes decisions carefully, in good conscience, and with due regard for principles of exemplary professional care.
- FUNDAMENTAL COMMITMENTS OF THE ACCOUNTING PROFESSION
Consider first the needs of the Client; always act to benefit the Client and promote the good of the Client.
Provide appropriate care and management across the board.
Take all reasonable steps to prevent or minimize cost to the client; disclose to the client if there is a risk of any potential negative impact or additional cost.
Recognize the balance of potential benefits and cost associated with any act; act to bring about a positive outcome.
Commitment to meet the needs of the client
Promote the satisfaction of the client by striving to improve services.
Commitment to justice; report any illegal activities.
Practise accounting competently, and with integrity; avoid any influence that could undermine your professional integrity.
Develop and advance your professional and accounting knowledge, skills, and competencies through lifelong learning.
Commitment to professional integrity and competence
Always treat the client with dignity and respect the equal and intrinsic worth of all persons.
Always respect the independence of the Client.
Never exploit the client for personal advantage.
Never participate in, or support practices that violate basic human rights.
Commitment to show respect for persons
Contribute to the development and innovation in accountancy through your practice, research, teaching, mentorship, leadership, continual quality improvement, administration, or advocacy on behalf of the profession or the public.
Participate in establishing and maintaining professional standards and engage in processes that support the institutions involved in the regulation of the profession.
Cultivate collaborative and respectful relationships with other accounting bodies and learners in all areas of accountancy and with other colleagues and partners in the profession.
Commitment to professional excellence
Value and promote training and practice culture that supports and responds effectively to colleagues in need and empowers them to seek help to improve their knowledge and practice
Commitment to self-regulate and peer support
Value and foster individual and collective inquiries and further accounting science to facilitate ethical decision-making.
Commitment to inquiry and reflection
Foster curiosity and exploration to further your personal and professional development and insight; be open to new knowledge, technologies, ways of practising, and learning from others.
- PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES
The “Client–Accountant” relationship is at the heart of the practice of accountancy. It is a relationship of trust that recognizes the inherent vulnerability of the Client even as the client is an active participant in their own business. The accountant owes a duty of loyalty to protect and further the client’s best interests and goals by using the accountant’s expertise, knowledge, and prudent judgment.
In the context of the Client–Accountant relationship:
- Accept the client without discrimination (such as on the basis of age, disability, gender identity or expression, genetic characteristics, language, marital and family status, accounting condition, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status). This does not abrogate the right of the accountant to refuse to accept a client for legitimate reasons.
- Having accepted professional responsibility for the client, continue to provide services until these services are no longer required or wanted, or until another suitable accountant has assumed responsibility for the client, or until after the client has been given reasonable notice that you intend to terminate the relationship.
- Act according to your conscience and respect differences of conscience among your colleagues; however, meet your duty of non-abandonment to the client by always acknowledging and responding to the client’s Accounting concerns and requests whatever your moral commitments may be.
- Inform the client when other commitments may influence your recommendation concerning the provision of, or practice of any accounting procedure or intervention as it pertains to the client’s needs or requests.
- Communicate information accurately and honestly with the Client in a manner that the client understands and can apply; and, confirm the client’s understanding.
- Recommend evidence-informed solution options; recognize that inappropriate use of the reports and financial statements can lead to ineffective and adverse effects to the client; avoid or mitigate such a situation.
- Limit providing services to anyone where the client has a contract with another professional accountant that is not readily available.
- Provide whatever appropriate assistance you can to a needy client.
- Ensure that any research to which you contribute is evaluated both scientifically and ethically and is approved by a research ethics board that adheres to current accounting standards and practices.
- Never participate in or condone the practice of another accountant in any form, shape or statement.
- Empower the clients to make informed decisions regarding their business by communicating with and helping the clients to understand their finances (or, where appropriate, their substitute decision-maker), navigate reasonable options to determine the best course of action consistent with their goals in the business; communicate with and help the client to assess material risks and benefits for their business.
- Respect the decisions of the competent client to accept or reject any recommended assessment, solution, or financial plan.
- Recognize the need to balance the developing competency of others for succession planning purposes.
- Accommodate the client with an opportunity to participate, as much as possible, in decisions that affect them.
- Respect the values and intentions of a client deemed inexperienced as expressed previously through discussions.
- When the specific intentions of an inexperienced client are unknown and in the absence of a formal mechanism for making decisions, act consistently with the client’s values and goals, act in the client’s best interests.
- Respect the client’s reasonable request for a second opinion from a colleague and/or other accounting bodies.
- Fulfill your duty of confidentiality to the Client by keeping client’s information confidential; collecting, using, and disclosing only as much information as necessary to benefit the client; and sharing information only to benefit the Client and only with the client’s authorization. Exceptions include situations where the informed consent of the Client has been obtained for disclosure or as provided for by law.
- Provide the client or a third party with a copy of their accounting record upon the client’s request, unless there is a compelling reason to believe that information contained in the record will result in substantial harm to the client or others.
- Recognize and manage privacy requirements within training and practice environments and quality improvement initiatives, in the context of secondary uses of data for accounting systems, and when using new technologies in the settings.
- Avoid financial status discussions, including in personal, public, or virtual conversations that could reasonably be seen as revealing confidential or identifying information or as being disrespectful to clients, their families, or partners.
- Recognize that conflicts of interest may arise as a result of competing roles (such as financial, accounting, banking, and research, organizational and administrative).
- Avoid, minimize, or manage and always disclose conflicts of interest that arise, or are perceived to arise, as a result of any professional relationships or transactions in practice, education, and research; avoid using your role as an Accountant to promote services (except your own) or products to the client or public for commercial gain outside of your professional role.
- Enter into associations, contracts, and agreements that maintain your professional integrity, consistent with evidence-informed decision-making, and safeguard the interests of the client or public.
- Take reasonable steps to ensure that the client understands the nature and extent of your responsibility to a third party when acting on behalf of a third party.
- Discuss professional fees for your services with the Client and consider their ability to pay in determining fees.
- When conducting a credit check or research about your clients, inform potential research participants about anything that may give rise to a conflict of interest, especially the source of funding and any compensation or benefits.
- To be aware of and promote accounting and other financial services available to you and colleagues in need.
- Seek help from colleagues and appropriate accountants from your association and other qualified professional accounting bodies for personal and professional problems that might adversely affect your practice and your services to clients.
- Cultivate training and practice environments that provide up-to-date knowledge and skills to your clients.
- Treat everyone in the industry with dignity and respect.
- Engage in respectful communications in all media, if/when necessary with no negativity about the industry and/or other professionals.
- Take responsibility for promoting civility, and confronting incivility, within and beyond the profession. Avoid damaging the reputation of colleagues for personal motives; however, report to the appropriate authority any unprofessional conduct by colleagues.
- Assume responsibility for your personal actions and behaviors that contribute to a positive impact in the accounting profession and practice culture.
- Promote and enable formal and informal mentorship to society.
- Support interdisciplinary team-based practices; foster team collaboration and shared accountability for clients.
- Always communicate with colleagues when in doubt for business practices.
- Recognize those social determinants of the profession, the environment, and other fundamental considerations that extend beyond accounting practice are important factors that affect the future of the client and the industry.
- Support the profession’s responsibility to act in matters relating to public and population financial health, education and legislation affecting public, population, and judicial testimony.
- Support the profession’s responsibility to promote fair and equitable access to the financial and accounting practice to promote industry stewardship.
- Provide opinions consistent with the current Generally Accepted Accounting Practices and widely accepted views of the profession when interpreting reports to the client; clearly indicate when you present an opinion that is contrary to the accepted views of the profession.
- Contribute, where appropriate, to the development of a more cohesive and integrated accounting profession through inter-professional collaboration and, when possible, collaborative models.
- Commit to collaborative and respectful relationships with community groups (e.g. Indigenous Clients, etc.) through efforts to understand and implement any recommendations (e.g. specific like tax laws directly relevant to them).
- Contribute, individually and in collaboration with others, to improving Accounting Profession & Services to address any current issues that affect the community at large, with particular attention to disadvantaged, vulnerable, or underserved communities.