So Many Apps, So Little Time

Today, browsing an app store can be overwhelming. This isn’t surprising considering there are more than two million apps on Apple’s iOS App Store and on Google play. Unfortunately, this high number makes some consumer-worthy apps go unnoticed.


For me, it’s very irritating to have apps on my phone that I don’t use. Consumers want efficient, user-friendly apps that they will use on a regular basis.


Take a moment to read about ten apps that are not only great for CPAs, but also great for the average person.

  1. Evernote (iOS & Google play): I thought I’d start out with a really great organizational app that helps you remember everything across all the devices in your everyday life. Take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, and record voice reminders. All of these are completely searchable at home and at work. Not only is this a great free app, it’s getting recognized as a top app by New York Times, Mashable and more.
  2. PCalc Lite (iOS): This free app is a fully-functional scientific calculator. Granted, scientific calculator prices have decreased immensely since I was in college, but they can still run you around $15-30.7K0A0788
  3. Scanner Pro (iOS): Portable scanner at your fingertips! Scans and saves a digital version of a paper document. Also, the PDF Expert app by the same company can read, annotate, sign and fill out PDFs!
  4. DocuSign (iOS & Google play): DocuSign provides a simple and secure way to electronically sign documents and collect signatures from others. DocuSign is the most widely used eSignature and Digital Transaction Management platform in the world.
  5. Jump Desktop (iOS & Google play): I’ve said this many times, “I need to access that document, but it’s on my work computer.” This app is a secure and reliable remote desktop app which lets you connect to any computer, anywhere in the world.
  6. Timesheet (Google play): Time entry taking up your time? No need, this free app allows you to record your work with a simple push of a button. You can easily add breaks, expenses and notes. Manage your projects and export your data to Microsoft Excel. Clear overviews and statistics will give you the best working experience.
  7. Accounting Today (iOS & Google play): This free app brings the magazine’s print content, daily news, analysis, videos, case studies and more to the palm of your hand.
  8. Car Locator (Google play): This app may not be for everyone, but for someone that forgets where your car is parked, nothing could be more helpful. Save your location when you park and Car Locator will help you find your car!
  9. Dragon Dictation (iOS): No need to dictate notes anymore. This free app is a voice recognition application that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text. It’s that simple.
  10. CPAmerica International Events (iOS & Google play): Last, but definitely not least. This is our very own event app. Attending one of our events? Download this free app and connect with fellow attendees email, Linkedin and Twitter, access the event schedule and materials, look at speaker bios and get up-to-date notifications.


Considering the high number of apps out there, feel free to comment on what apps you can’t live without. I’m certain I missed many useful ones.



Sarah Coulson is the Marketing Communications Specialist for CPAmerica International. She manages the association’s external communication, including branding, social media, press releases, event marketing collateral and the website for CPAmerica and CPAConnect.


How to Write a Business Article That Clients Might Actually Read

Writing business articles or blogs isn’t much different than any other kind of writing. You have to realize it all starts with the same premise – nobody really wants to read what you have to say.


You have to drag most people kicking and screaming to read anything. If you think just because you put some thoughts on paper that readers will be salivating over every word, I have some condos in Florida I’d like to sell you.


Good business writing has to be interesting, and it has to be understandable. It should entertain readers and promise them a reward for their effort – information that will help them run their businesses better or make their paychecks stretch a little farther.


Getting started

Find an original topic, or take a novel approach to one that’s already been done.  Do your research. Be sure the content is current, is 100 percent accurate and answers any question a reader might reasonably have. Don’t include your opinion unless you are writing an opinion column or blog. If you do write your opinion, make it clear and strong.


You have to catch your readers’ attention at the very beginning, and if you make one misstep along the way, you’ll lose them. They’ll be gone, bye-bye, better things to do.


Picture your readers – maybe weary executives at the end of a busy day – picking up your newsletter, clicking on your blog, glancing at your e-letter. Then think about how much your little piece of writing is competing with in their world.


The good news is, once they actually have their eyes on your literary effort, that’s half the battle. The bad news is, now you have to keep them there.


Even if your target readers are in a field where they’re expected to read mundane, technical information on a regular basis, you can make an impression by writing something that’s interesting and easy to read.


Draw them in with a headline or title that arouses their curiosity, alludes to benefits they’ll receive by reading, and gives them the essence of the content. And then follow through. A headline shouldn’t make promises the content can’t keep.


The first paragraph, or lead, is crucial. Take your time with it, and make it short, interesting and to the point. It should be one or two sentences at most – and it should set the tone for the rest of the piece. A little humor never hurts.


If your lead is boring, you’ve lost them, and they’ll never get to those jewels of wisdom in paragraph seven. So put the most interesting and important information first. Leave chronological order to the historians.


Some dos and don’ts

Basically, just write the way you talk. Keep it conversational, but clean it up a bit and make sure your grammar is correct. A run-on sentence, sentence fragment or misspelled word can wreak havoc with your credibility.


Spice up your writing and add color by using some direct quotes.  “Easy reading is damn hard writing,” Nathaniel Hawthorne once said.


Use action verbs, but don’t go bananas. The same goes for adjectives and adverbs. Overdoing it can make the descriptions less credible.


Keep your writing natural, and remember the writer’s mantra – Write for the reader, not for yourself.


One of the fastest ways to lose your readers is to try to impress them with your vocabulary. Throw in a paradigm, a synergy or a quantifiable, and your readers may suddenly remember that root canal they forgot to schedule.


So keep the $3 words at bay and use the simplest words you can. Note, use not utilize.


And whatever you do, avoid the word whom. Does anybody in the universe like to read that word? Just rewrite the heck out of the sentence so you don’t have to use it.


Acronyms are another killer to readability, especially if you use too many of them. You don’t want your readers scanning down a page that looks like a military field manual (MFM). Use acronyms only when they’re absolutely necessary. Give the reader a break, say group, committee or law, or just write the entire title again if it’s not too long.


Be precise and succinct in your word choice. For instance: for the reason that – because; brought to a conclusion – ended. There’s nothing worse than wordy.


Vary the length of your sentences, and try not to write sentences that need too many commas. Commas stop the eye, and if you’re using a lot of them, the sentence is probably too long anyway.


Dashes – attention-getting dashes – are a much better way to go. Just don’t overdo it.


And try very, very hard not to use parentheses. (They really stop the eye.) If the information is important enough to include, do so without parentheses. If it isn’t, leave it out.


Break up the text and make more detailed information easier to read by using:

  • - Bullets
  • - Numbers
  • - Subheads


As to the conclusion, if you have many readers who get there – Congratulations! But, unless you’re Stephen King or John Grisham, you really don’t need one. A little tie-in back to the beginning is plenty.


If you have a really good conclusion that you think summarizes the article perfectly, put it at the beginning.


Judy Moore, publications director of CPAmerica International, holds an M.A. in journalism from University of Florida. She is a former business editor of a large metropolitan daily, journalism professor and author of hundreds of business articles that have been published in regional and national magazines.

The Rewards of Expanding our Services

I started my career with the Big Eight many years ago.  As a tax practitioner, one of the benefits of being with an international firm was access to its tax resources. For instance, if I had a client call and say, “XYZ just offered to buy my company—what is the most tax-advantageous way to structure the purchase?” I knew I didn’t have to spend hours in the tax library researching all of the alternatives.  I had access to the firm’s National Tax Office which was staffed with experts in Mergers and Acquisitions.


When I joined CPAmerica International several years ago as the Director of Tax, one of my goals was (and continues to be) to bring as many resources to our members as possible.  Over the past few years we have added a number of very skilled member providers and outside providers in many specialized tax areas including:

  1. International Tax
  2. Cost Segregation
  3. State and Local Tax
  4. FATCA and FBAR Experts
  5. Research and Development Tax Credits


This month, we announced to our members a new offering.  CPAmerica and Crowe Horwath LLP National Tax Office are offering an opportunity for CPAmerica member firms to gain access to resources and specialists in the National Tax Office. I am excited that our members will have tax resources very similar to those I had when I started my career, including:

  1. Accounting Methods and Periods
  2. Mergers and Acquisitions
  3. ASC 740
  4. Tax Controversy and Procedures
  5. Information Reporting
  6. Pass through taxation


In addition to the above, members will be able to participate in bimonthly tax update webinars, year-end tax planning webinars and other timely topical subjects.  In fact, in June, we had two individuals from the Crowe Horwath LLP National Tax Office present a four hour webinar to our members entitled “Practical Implementation of the Repair Regulations”.  Frazier & Deeter, LLC’s Meredith Oakley said, “The webinar was excellent!  Probably the best I’ve heard on the topic.”


It is rewarding to serve our members and I am looking forward to furthering our tax offerings.


Linda Harding is the Director of Tax Services at CPAmerica International. She has more than 30 years of Big 4 tax experience and was a tax shareholder with a large local firm.  Harding manages the technical tax resources, tax practice matters and reviews tax publications for CPAmerica.  Follow her on Twitter @LHardingLin.

Why Do We Make It So Hard?

It’s a good time to stop and ask ourselves as a profession – “why do we make it so hard”? We can also ask the same question to regulators and standard setters that we are required to follow in the conduct of engagements. Before I go too far, I do want to acknowledge those of us in practice, that believe “making what we do hard” can be a good thing. Of course it can. We sure don’t want to get to a point when anyone can do this work we do. That is simply protecting our value. And yes, there is no question about it. That is a good thing.


However, it does seem we consistently make things too hard as a profession. We continually make changes in the rules, laws, regulations and requirements we are professionally bound to follow. There may even be a small group of us that support making these rules hard. When I stop to think about it and organize my thoughts – isn’t life hard enough already? Sure it is. Making the right decisions by Business man and mountainfollowing the rules makes life easier. It’s all of those rules, including being able to sort through them or even finding them, that make decisions more difficult than they need to be for us.


So, what got me started on this idea that we simply make things too hard? I have seen a lot of professional requirement changes over the years I have practiced in this great profession. And make no mistake about it, I love and totally enjoy being an active participant on what we do as CPAs on a day-to-day basis. Now, I fully believe change is both good, and from time to time, can be hard. And I believe CPAs are very good at accepting change and being proactive in dealing and gaining an understanding of the constant changes we meet on a very routine basis.


But that still does not answer my question. What got me started on making things hard? It was the new “Revenue Recognition Accounting Standard Update”. The content itself did not bother me that much. Granted we have had revenue recognition accounting principles and policies that have served us well for a number of years. But the update is comprised of 700 pages. I will readily agree with the FASB, a lot of those changes are conforming changes in content in other parts of the codification. But they are still there and sooner or later we will have to wade through them. And for a lot of entities required to use the new update, they provided a transition period of over two and a half years.


Three volumes, 700 pages and two and a half years – anyone of us can figure that is hard.


This update, to me, is making something that is well proven, well used, and well understood harder than it should be. Here’s a thought. What if Bill Gates and a group of programmers similar to him were given the task of rewriting the revenue recognition principles for contracts with customers? I do not think for a second they would have produced such a document/update similar to the one we have been given. As a matter of fact, I almost feel certain, the update they would produce would be easier to understand, more efficient and therefore easier to use. Would they have taken a “flip phone” and created a device similar to what the flip phone was used for and make it bulky and hard to use as the update we have been given for revenue recognition?


We work hard. We work hard, even with the easy stuff. With that said, we tend to make the easy stuff hard. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s make it user-friendly. And for goodness sake, when we explain it to our clients and peers, let’s not take our frustration out on them and make it even harder than it needs to be.



Art Winstead is the Director of Accounting and Auditing Services for CPAmerica International. He has over 30 years of experience with Davenport, Marvin, Joyce & Co., LLP. He manages technical resources, engagement support, audit practice matters, reviews A&A publications for CPAmerica and is a part of the Expert Services team.

What Should I Do About That Employee?

Leveraging Your Team’s Strengths

You know the one.  They have a lot of potential, but there is that one aspect that causes you to waiver when completing their performance appraisal or delegating that special project to them.  Perhaps they are really quick at processing but are sometimes snippy with colleagues, or maybe you see how hard they are working but the numbers on their reports never seem to add up.  Often times these employees can be a great asset to your team if you can give them opportunities to utilize their strengths.


power meeting from above

There are a plethora of personality tests which help identify areas where employees are likely to shine: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Color Code, and DISC, just to name a few.  Matching someone’s personality type with their assignments and roles can be a win-win as people usually enjoy their job more when they are successful, and when individuals are enjoying their job and more successful at it, your firm as a whole is more successful.


The personality program my former company bought into, along with other companies such as Best Buy and Toyota, was called StrengthsQuest.  The foundation of the StrengthsQuest philosophy grew out of a research study from the 1950s which administered speed reading techniques to approximately 6000 participants of various reading skill levels.  Would you guess that the slower readers or the faster readers demonstrated greater progress?  Surprisingly, the faster.  Even though the slower readers seemingly had more room to grow, it was in fact the readers who already excelled that flew off the charts after participating in the program, increasing reading speeds from approximately 300 to 2,900 words per minute.


It is often taught to identify a person’s weaknesses and bringing everybody up to par, however, this program poses that focusing on strengths can actually be of far greater benefit.  So instead of leaving your struggling employee with tasks that they are not well suited for hoping they will grow in those areas, reflect on whether it may benefit everyone to shift some tasks and roles around to those who could perform those best.  Consider having your employees take a personality test and then utilize the results as a team to positively impact office dynamics and allow people to be planted in a place where they can best bloom.


Kaylen Saunders, Member Services Manager for CPAmerica International, holds a masters in Curriculum and Instruction and has experience as a professional development trainer. Saunders is responsible for scheduling and hosting webinars, administering CPE, maintaining the members-only website, and coordinating the CPAConnect Roundtable.

CPAmerica’s Social Media – More Than Just a Pretty Face

Our association offers our members a multitude of dues-funded services and one that I’d like to highlight in this blog post is social media.


CPAmerica offers our social media content not only to our members, but to the entire online world. This content currently consists of five components – our LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Blog sites (where you are probably reading this article right now).


CPAI blog photoThe main reason we continually update and add content to our social media pages is to meet our fundamental aim of “Improving Through Sharing.” This sharing is beneficial to CPAmerica because it increases interest in our association. But do you know what we feel is the most important reason for maintaining our social media presence?


The answer: providing useful information to our members.


Visiting our Twitter page,, is a great way to check in and see what your association colleagues are up to. It is so easy to use your mobile device to get updates, as well. When a member firm submits press releases to us, we will more than likely post the information on our Twitter page (Facebook, too). Some examples of our current Tweets detail our upcoming CPAmerica events; link to an article on micromanaging and productivity; and discuss tips for logo design.


Our Facebook page,, can help you market your firm. This page is another outlet where information submitted to us can be posted by our Marketing Department. This can increase the visibility of your firm by helping you reach a larger audience. We also have a LinkedIn page,, where you can connect with our various featured groups.


Another site that is well worth visiting is our brand new Google + page. It has a very clean and easy-to-navigate format; it is also the second-largest social networking site in the world (after Facebook) and this editor’s choice for seeing what’s new at CPAmerica:


Our social media is rounded off by our blog page,, where we share our posts of original content, penned by your association’s staff and experts. Topics in the past have covered everything from event information to in-depth stories on technical accounting issues.


Utilizing our various social media outlets can be informative, interesting, and can even help you and your firm by helping you connect to both your peers and the business world as a whole. I hope you help our association by checking out our sites.



Oscar Molina, Marketing Editor at CPAmerica International. Molina has a background in graphic design and marketing and has previously worked as a field chemist. As the Marketing Editor, he is responsible for content, layout & design, printing and distribution for print and on-line publications directed at the membership of CPAmerica International.

Register for 2014 CPAmerica International Events

CPAmerica International has a variety of great events during 2014. Take a look below and open up those calendars!



Midwest Partners Meeting—August 1

Partners from across the Midwest will be meeting in Cleveland, Ohio on August 1st. At this meeting, partners share best practices and discuss issues that are unique or pressing both regionally and in the profession. Partner facilitated sessions include “Organic Growth”, “Niche Development”, “Building Strength”, and “Leveraging Cooperation and Expertise within the Firm”.

Next Generation Conference—August 14-15

This is a NEW leadership event that is being offered to support firm staff retention, growth and succession planning.  This conference will be open to up and coming leaders within our firms. They will learn about business development, leadership skills, and details of firm management and have the opportunity to network with other member firms.  In addition to a full day of sessions from Sam Allred, Upstream Academy, attendees will learn from Michael Platt of Platt Consulting Group, LLC, Heather Sunderlin of Wall Einhorn & Chernitzer P.C., Alan Deichler of CPAmerica International, and participate in a Q&A session with a panel of well-regarded CPAmerica member firm partners.

Southeast Partners Meeting—August 22

Partners in our Southeast region will get together in Atlanta again this year to discuss best practices and network with colleagues from fellow member firms. This meeting will be held again at the popular Mandarin Oriental. Session titles include “Staff Development and Building Core Strength”, “Recruiting”, “Organic Growth, Part II”, “CPAConnect Success Story”, “The Firm Administrators Role – What it can bring to your firm” and  up close member sharing with a breakout session with a variety of topics.


2014 Leading Partners Retreat—September 17-19

This premier event will focus on Finding, Growing and Keeping Your Talent featuring informative sessions and notable speakers, including Tom Hood, MACPA, Economist Bill Conerly, Lean Six Sigma blackbelt Chris Liebtag, Kris McMasters, McMasters Consulting, Randy Johnston, NMGI, Kristie Van Leeuwen, People Reader, Steve Knebel of member firm Maxwell, Locke & Ritter, and multiple highly charged member sharing sessions.  This event is being held at the Hilton in downtown Portland, Ore.

2014 Firm Administration Roundtable—September 17-19

This event runs alongside Leading Partners Retreat at the Hilton Portland, and will enjoy a few joint sessions such as Tom Hood, keynote speaker with MACPA speaking on “A New Era in Talent Development & Learning and Preparing for the Shift Change in Accounting”, and Kris McMasters, McMasters Consulting, “Lessons in Leadership”.  There are other popular speakers, including consultant Tamara Loerzel, and always valuable member sharing sessions.  Guests of both meetings will enjoy networking at the special event at Lan Su Chinese Gardens.


2014 CPAConnect Roundtable—October 22-24

This year’s roundtable will take place in the Windy City, Chicago, Ill.  The chair for the meeting is Ramin Karimi, JBSK CPAS LLP, and the vice chair is Richard Kasperski, Kasperski Owen & Dinan CPAs, LLC.  Since this is the premier event for CPAConnect members, the chair and vice chair have been working with the planning committee to discuss topics for the agenda.  The agenda will focus on topics such as succession planning, sales and technology.


 NovemberPerla View of Beach

2014 Tax Conference—November 10-12*

CPAmerica Tax Director, Linda Harding, has worked with meeting chair, Karen Thurman, Frazier & Deeter, LLC and vice chair, Mike Abramson, Frankel Zacharia, LLC, to create a powerful agenda for November’s meeting in Puerto Rico.

Just a few of the speakers on board include Chuck Rettig, SALT expert Jordan Goodman, Sean King, Laura Edgerton, Patricia Moran and Nina Olson of the Office of the National Taxpayer Advocate.  This event will be held at the landmark La Concha Resort in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

* Please note that the date for The Tax Conference has changed.  It was previously scheduled for November 3-5. Please update your calendar.


International Business Development – December 3-4

This meeting will be held at the Marriott Gateway in Atlanta; just an easy skytram ride away from Hartsfield Jackson Airport.  “Building and Expanding Relationships” will drive this intense day and a half meeting designed to pave the two way street on cross border business between member firms of CPAmerica and Crowe Horwath International.


For more information on each event and to register, just click here, or contact Lisa Browne at (352) 727-4160 or email at

2014 events have come together through the participation in planning from our members.  As a member-driven association, we are always looking for member input to make these events better every year! Please log in to the members’ only website to access the planning call information for each event.


Lisa Browne, Events Manager for CPAmerica International. As a part of the Events department, Lisa plans and organizes all of CPAmerica’s conferences and roundtables, including the Partner Meetings, Marketing Roundtable, A&A Conference, Technology Roundtable, Leading Partner’s Retreat, Firm Administration Roundtable and Tax Conference.

Want to sponsor a CPAmerica event?

Doing the Right Thing

I thought you might like to hear a story of honesty and “doing the right thing,” all with a positive ending.

Last October, I was in Rio de Janeiro for the Crowe Horwath International annual meeting with four other managing partners of CPAmerica International firms. I had arranged for a car and driver to pick me up at the airport and take me to my hotel. Of course, I didn’t know the driver, but felt a bit better about a pre-arranged car than just hopping in a cab in an unknown country.

Rio1When traveling internationally, I often will pay with a credit card and eliminate the need to carry cash and to exchange US dollars for local currency. I offered the driver my credit card and he swiped my card. His handheld machine was not functioning properly and after a number of unsuccessful attempts he could not process my payment. I paid in cash, though wondered about all those swipes.

After checking into the hotel and checking my e-mails, I received a note from the credit card company about a foreign transaction and as I suspected, the transaction had been made…plus my cash payment. I thought that was probably the last I would see of that driver, though I knew I had some recourse. I knew it was not going to be easy and it would take a lot of time. I would deal with it later.

It had been a long trip and I decided to lie down prior to my first official function, a dinner later that night. Just as I got to sleep the phone rang. It was the driver, who introduced himself as Idel. He explained that he had just seen how his portable machine had accepted my credit card and he was on his way back to the hotel to return my cash. I was half asleep and not in a position to just run downstairs. Idel said he would leave my cash with the concierge.

I was to meet guests in the lobby before we headed to dinner, so I thought that was a good time to see if Idel had fulfilled his commitment. I was half prepared for no envelope, but to my surprise, the concierge not only handed me the envelope, but explained that Idel was very upset about the chance that he was suspected of any inappropriate deed. I was impressed. Idel had also left his card in the envelope along with my cash.

I called the number and thanked Idel. I asked him if he would like to take me back to the airport in a couple of days when I had a departing flight. He agreed and we set the appointment.

It was interesting that I was a bit early for my return trip, waiting for Idel outside the hotel. I had time, but also had a number of drivers come up and ask if I would like to go to the airport. It was pretty obvious, I would wait for Idel.


Alan Deichler is the president of CPAmerica International and oversees the association’s growth and development. Prior to being named CPAmerica president, Deichler was most recently chief marketing officer at talent management software provider HRsmart in Richardson, Texas, where he headed worldwide sales and marketing efforts. Deichler has more than 35 years of corporate experience, having held previous management and executive positions with Capital Formation Counselors, Inc., IBM and Ernst & Young, LLP.

The Perks of Attending Conferences

One of my favorite perks of my job is the traveling that I get to do throughout the year.  I’m fortunate to attend many of the CPAmerica International conferences, regional meetings and member firm orientations. I have developed wonderful relationships with members of the association, which only get stronger by each and every event I attend.

Many of you attend conferences other than CPAmerica facilitated ones, such as AICPA or specific niche- related events.  Since my background is in firm administration, one of the outside conferences that I attend is the Association for Accounting Administrators (AAA) National Practice Management Conference ( It’s a very large conference packed full of valuable shared information. Professional development is vital for my personal growth and it assists me in my role by helping me learn current trends of the profession, know what firms are dealing with outside of our association, and to know what tricks of the trade may be available to share. I’ve been attending the AAA conference since 2007.  I have relationships I’ve established from my very first conference that I still cherish today.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When you go to a conference where you don’t know anyone, you have to step outside of your comfort zone and force yourself to meet fellow colleagues. That can be tough for a lot of professionals out there. When I am attending a conference where I may or may not know a lot of the people, I like to remind myself of the following helpful tips:

  1. Many of the attendees are in the same boat as I am – they do not know many people at the event.
  2. 100 percent of the attendees are at this conference for the very same reasons that I am. They want to learn, learn and learn!
  3. Vendors are a great gateway to meeting your fellow colleagues.  When in doubt – visit a booth, learn about the product or service that they are offering, and ask if they can point out people that may use that product that you can approach.
  4. Lastly – people like to talk about themselves.  Make contact and be a good listener.

Once, while stepping out of my comfort zone (all those years ago in 2007), I met an individual that is one of the primary reasons I am fortunate enough to work at CPAmerica today.  Moral of the story – you never know what can come out of the relationships that develop by attending professional conferences and events.  Go in with enthusiasm, don’t underestimate the power of being nice, and leave with a huge amount of shared professional knowledge and perhaps a few people that will remain lifelong friends.


Joyce Arthur, Senior Member Services Manager at CPAmerica International. Arthur was previously a Firm Administrator and has worked in the accounting profession for over 20 years. In her role within the Member Services team, she is responsible for the sharing calls, orientations, member communications and is a valuable resource for member firms.

Canada’s New Anti-Spam Legislation: What You Need to Know If You Send Commercial Electronic Messages to Canada

InFocus-Spring2014-CASL-header2Much of Canada’s new anti-spam legislation, known as “CASL,” will come into force on July 1, 2014. Despite its name, CASL encompasses much more than spamming mass emails. It is broad-reaching legislation thought to be the most stringent legislation of its type in the world. Although intended to promote e-commerce by deterring spam, identity theft, spyware, viruses, phishing and the like, it may impact individuals or organizations (in Canada and elsewhere) who send emails, texts, social media messages or other forms of commercial electronic messages (“CEMs”) to people and computers in Canada. It also applies to software downloads, including updates to mobile applications and other programs.

You may not consider yourself a “spammer”; however, at the heart of this legislation is the regulation of CEMs. The Canadian Government defines CEMs as “any electronic message that encourages participation in a commercial activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit.” These include common electronic activities such as sending emails, newsletters, invitations, texts, in mail and so on. Failure to comply with CASL may lead to significant consequences and administrative monetary penalties of up to $1 million per violation for individuals and $10 million per violation for corporations. There could be vicarious liability for organizations for acts by their employees or agents and corporate officers. Officers or Directors could also be held personally liable for corporate violations. On July 1, 2017, the private right of action will come into force, which has potential to lead to prosecutions and class action lawsuits.apply-cakemail-050614

There are three basic rules for organizations to follow when sending CEMs to Canada. Organizations must:

  1. Have expressed or implied consent from the recipient. Implied consent may be time limited, and you should understand the various time limitations for different types of communications. And, unlike most privacy laws that permit “opt out consent,” positive, “opt-in consent” is required under CASL. After July 1, 2014, emailing contacts to ask for consent will be considered to be a CEM.
  2. Clearly and simply identify who is sending the CEM or if someone is sending the CEM on another’s behalf.
  3. Provide a way for the recipient to easily unsubscribe from receiving messages in the future and within 10 days of receipt of the unsubscribe message.

Where CASL gets more complex are in the various exceptions to the rules and the range of interpretations to many of the provisions. I have described many of them in my general informational article in our inFocus publication.

Based in Toronto, Crowe Soberman LLP is taking a number of steps to ensure that we are upholding this law, such as requesting express consent from our contacts, providing training to our people and revising processes and policies and so on.

CASL could complicate business processes at your firm. If you think it might, we strongly recommend you get up to speed on CASL immediately to determine how it will affect you; July 1 is not that far away. Awareness is the first step: a good starting place would be the Government of Canada website ( There are many other good resources online including articles about how CASL could impact American organizations with cross-border clients. Spend a little time educating yourself about it; then evaluate what action, if any, makes sense for your firm.


Heather MacDonald-Santiago is the Business Development Manager at Crowe Soberman LLP. Heather has over 19 years experience within professional services having worked with lawyers, architects and presently, accountants. In addition to her usual business development and marketing roles, Heather is currently Managing the “CASL Preparedness Committee” at her firm.