From Expert-Comptable to Chartered Professional Accountant: Mobility between France and Quebec
Accounting professionals are quite often involved in international business development. This is not only the case in France, but also in Quebec. As financial markets have become more global, single accounting standards (IAS/IFRS) have been created to ease financial statement comparisons between companies based in different countries.
However, according to France's national statistics and economic research institute (INSEE), "there is still not much openness to internationalizing self-employed occupations" in France. In the field of accounting, mainly large groups export their services because they have more employees and offices than smaller-sized firms. France has only about twenty companies that provide accounting services internationally, out of a total of about 22,000 firms.
The internationalization of accounting professionals
Indeed, the French accounting profession is not very internationally mobile, even though the global conditions are favourable. There are two reasons for this situation. The first is the language barrier. The second boils down to differences in accounting standards. For instance, large companies are more prone to prepare their financial statements according to the IAS/IFRS international standards than other companies. For obvious reasons related to their financial or human resources, only large French or international firms can get anywhere close to them. The potential foreign clients of most other accounting firms are SMEs, whose financial statements are prepared according to local accounting standards. This requires accounting firms to know the local standards, which is often a major obstacle for French accounting professionals.
Yet, the internationalization of the accounting profession has been supported for years by French institutions, such as the Conseil supérieur of the Ordre des experts-comptables and the Compagnie nationale des commissaires aux comptes. The partnership agreement with Business France or the Délégation internationale pour l’audit et la comptabilité, which was created in 2005, are examples of such initiatives.
Quebec: a unique situation
Thanks to a shared official language and the mutual recognition arrangement (MRA) between Quebec and France, Quebec offers very attractive career opportunities to French accounting professionals. In fact, the MRA between the Ordre des comptables professionnels agréés du Québec (Quebec CPA Order) and the Ordre des experts-comptables de France allows holders of a French public accountancy degree (diplôme d’expert-comptable), whether or not they are registered on the roll of the Ordre des experts-comptables de France, to acquire the CPA or CPA auditor designation and practice their profession in Quebec, subject to certain conditions.Still, to date, very few French accounting professionals have seized the opportunity created by this agreement, as demonstrated by the data published in the 2018-2019 annual report of the Quebec CPA Order. According to this report, only ten new mutual recognition applications had been received in the last fiscal year, merely six CPA permits had been issued and just 14 candidates were on the path to acquiring their CPA designation.
Nevertheless, the mutual recognition of professional qualifications offers incredible opportunities to French accounting professionals, at a time where there is a workforce shortage in Quebec organizations, which are actively seeking accounting professionals.
This is an opportunity that should be seized!
About the author
Lionel Sirerol is an expert-comptable from France who lives in Quebec. He has acquired his professional accounting and audit experience in France, French Polynesia and Quebec. He obtained his Diplôme d'expertise comptable in France in 2021 and he acquired the CPA auditor designation in Quebec in 2022, thanks to the Mutual Recognition Arrangement between France and Quebec.