Proper Use of Accounting Designations: A Reminder to Members

By CPABC; Published in CPABC in Focus
Last Revision: 11/1/2020

Proper use of the CPA designation is a matter of public protection. If an individual uses an accounting designation in BC, the public expects them to be regulated in BC. Proper use is so important, in fact, that our legislation provides for the designation’s protection. Accordingly, the following reminder is intended to help all members and firms stay onside of the rules.


Members in BC who became CPAs through either a legacy certification program or legacy international agreement may only use or display the CPA designation if it is followed by their applicable legacy designation (i.e., “CPA, CA”; “CPA, CGA”; or “CPA, CMA”). Members who became CPAs by passing the Common Final Exam or through a newly negotiated international CPA membership agreement may use “CPA” only.
CPAs who are members of another provincial body are not permitted to use the CPA designation in BC unless they are a member of CPABC. Similarly, any CPABC member working in another province must contact the local CPA provincial body to determine whether they are permitted to use the CPA designation in that jurisdiction.

Use of foreign designations

The completion of a foreign accounting body’s certification program does not ensure that the individual is subject to regulations that are consistent with BC’s regulatory standards. Therefore, there is risk of public confusion if a CPABC member fails to use their foreign accounting designation appropriately or if a foreign accounting designation is used by someone who is not a member of CPABC.

  1. CPABC members A foreign accounting designation may be used by a CPABC member in good standing, provided that the foreign designation is displayed together with, and after, the Canadian CPA designation. If the member chooses to display a foreign designation, they must also show the jurisdiction where the authority to use the non-Canadian accounting designation was granted.

    For example:

    Acceptable – Jane Smith, CPA, CA, CPA (Illinois)
    Not acceptable – Jane Smith, CPA, CA, CPA (US) – US state boards grant the US CPA designation; therefore, the applicable state is the correct jurisdiction to display.
    Acceptable – Mary Jones, CPA, CGA, ACCA (UK)
    Not acceptable – Mary Jones, ACCA (UK)
  2. Non-CPABC members An individual holding a foreign accounting designation who is not a member of CPABC is not permitted to display that foreign designation after their name to signify membership with a professional accounting organization while working in BC, regardless of whether the jurisdiction is displayed.

    For example:

    Not acceptable – Robert Smith, CA (New Zealand)
    Not acceptable – Robert Smith, CA
    Not acceptable – Tracy Lee, CPA (Illinois)
    Not acceptable – David Jones, CPA (Alberta)
    Not acceptable – Lisa Chan, ACCA (UK)
    Not acceptable – Lisa Chan, ACCA

However, the individual may refer to their foreign accounting credentials in the body of their resumé or in their biography on a firm or company website, provided that any such reference is factually correct.

We are aware that some organizations are listing the names and foreign designations of foreign-designated staff in their firm or company directories. Please note it is only appropriate to list foreign designations for staff members who are also members of CPABC, and the disclosure of these designations must comply with the requirements noted above.

A final note

If you come across a non-member using the CPA designation in BC, please email CPABC at so that appropriate action can be taken. Again, our legislation provides for the protection of the CPA designation, and we rely on members and firms to be vigilant with regard to its use.

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