For context, I am one pending signature away from receiving the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation. I don't mean that as an appeal to authority, but I'm about to say a bunch of stuff without any reference so I think it's important to point out that I'm not speaking from a position of ignorance at the very least.
Accountants are a specific profession overseen by provincially governed bodies (similar to professional engineers, lawyers, doctors, nurses etc.).
Not accurate. CPA is a specific profession, legislated (federally and provincially) and governed by a national body (CPA Canada) and administered by provincial bodies (CPA Alberta, CPA Ontario, etc.).
However, anybody can call themselves an "accountant" and there are many "accountant" positions that are not CPAs. Go to any job board posting and Accounting analyst, junior accountant, accountant, and senior accountants don't require a CPA. It's generally "Accounting Manager" positions that you'll see a CPA being required (and that's up to the organization). Or when you get into "Audit Manager," "Tax Manager," etc. you will see it requires a CPA.
This misunderstanding is exactly why CPA Canada is pushing for rules on the use of the word "accountant" vice right now where only "CPA" is protected.
That's a totally different job then an accounts receivable clerk or the others you listed (maybe with the exception of book keeper; sometimes that's used interchangeably for accountants that have small businesses as clients).
All of those jobs are part of accounting operations, and so if you're looking at someone that does accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, book-keeping, assurance activities (inspections, post-payment verifications), budget management, etc., particularly when you get the Sgt FSA
level where you are supervising numerous accounting operations, it is not at all inaccurate to say that it's an accountant
. So if you're looking for a general umbrella term to encompass what an FSA trade does, accountant is the as accurate as anything I can think of.
For example, when a tax accountant certifies they've completed your return, there are professional obligations where they are liable for following the tax laws, so there can be repercussions for them if they did something greasy. If you do get audited, part of what you pay for is for them to be the meat shield when CRA comes calling, and usually they have professional insurance/guarantees to cover any penalties if you are reassessed.
Also not true. Anybody can do tax compilations. You simply need to register with CRA as a tax preparer. It's not until you get into tax planning
and some other activities that you have to be a CPA and have professional obligations. Yes, a tax preparer will certify that they've completed the return with all information provided by the client, and are not aware of anything that is being withheld, but if they screw up the return to the point of being fraudulent, it will have nothing to do with the CPA Canada (unless, of course, they are an actual CPA... then the professional body will get involved as well).
Not positive, but generally you aren't legally allowed to use the specific designation
You are not allowed to use the CPA designation unless you are a CPA, that is correct. But is not correct that you have be a CPA to be an accountant, a tax preparer, etc.
but it's a different skillset then an accountant.
Disagree. Our FSAs are executing (Cpl/Pte) and supervising (Sgt/MCpl) accounting operations. At least, if you read the Master Task List for FSAs they are. Whether we are employing them IAW that direction is a different problem, and goes back to what I am saying that nomenclature can often influence the end results.
Personally if I read a job application with an overblown title that doesn't have relevant education, training, or experience, I'm going to assume they are blowing smoke and discount what it says.
You mean like nearly every Comptroller in the Canadian Armed Forces? And I don't say that to pump my own tires, just that those running our financial frameworks are generally woefully unprepared by the CAF, and it hurts the CAF in the long-run. ADM(RS) has had a string of audits over a multiple year period which have recognized a pattern in a need for "significant improvements" in the areas of governance over financial management.