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In a decision rendered in October 2015, the Ordre des comptables professionels agrees du Québec’s disciplinary council explained that an expert opinion is not necessary in order to determine whether or not a delay is reasonable or not, as this subject matter does not require any specialized knowledge (Maurer, ès qualités de syndic adjoint de l’Ordre des comptables professionnels agrees du Québec v. Cloutier Cabana, 2015 CanLII 69930 (QC CPA)). ** This decision is currently on appeal before the Professions Tribunal.
The syndic of l’Ordre des comptables professionnels agréés du Québec lodged a disciplinary complaint against a chartered professional accountant for having, among other things, neglected to file her clients’ income tax returns before the deadline and having failed to inform her clients that she was unable to file their income tax returns before the deadline.
Seeing as the chartered professional accountant’s absence at the hearing before the Disciplinary council had not been explained, the Council proceeded as if she had pled not guilty to the complaint lodged against her.
The evidence on file showed that despite the numerous infractions with which the chartered professional accountant was charged, no tax penalties had been imposed on her clients. Furthermore, the clients admitted to having sent her their documents on March 23rd, 2012 and then having sent her additional documents on March 26th, 2012. The clients in question received their completed income tax returns on May 23rd, 2012, even though the deadline to file such returns was set to April 30th, 2012.
In hopes of meeting his burden of proof, the syndic presented an expert report before the Disciplinary council, in which the expert concluded that the late filing of income tax returns would not result in interest or tax penalties. This, however, was not an excuse for a CPA to prepare a client’s income tax returns late, unless the delay was attributable to the client, which, the expert explained, was not true in this particular case.
THE DISCIPLIANARY COUNCIL’S DECISION
After having considered the arguments presented by the syndic, notably those found within the expert report, the Ordre des comptables professionnels agrees du Québec’s disciplinary council draws the following conclusions :
1. An expert opinion is not admissible in proof unless it is needed to provide scientific or technical information that otherwise, could not be known by the court.
2. An expert opinion is not necessary if any given judge could, without any additional information, consider the evidence administered before the court and draw his own conclusions.
3. An expert report discussing only the logical consequences that may result from a late filing of income tax returns is not admissible before a disciplinary council.
THE LESSONS TO BE LEARNED
1. The role of an expert is to provide the court with conclusions that a judge, given the technicality of the facts, is unable to formulate himself.
2. A court has the necessary competence and experience to pronounce itself on the reasonability of a delay or on the seriousness of the consequences that may result from this delay Dubé Légal inc., Montréal disciplinary law lawyers.