Research Investigating Accounting Standards and Practices is Breaking New Ground

Dr. Hamilton Elkins (PhD), is an Assistant Professor of Accounting at the Edwards School of Business (Edwards) whose research examines the creation and use of accounting information, a broad and diverse area of research that covers many topics. His research covers two complimentary streams in accounting regulation including standard setting and financial reporting, and auditor behaviour.

Joelena Leader

Elkins’s research is published in peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of International Accounting, Auditing, and Taxation, International Journal of Accounting and Finance, and Nankai Business Review International. He has presented his research internationally at the American Accounting Association and has served as an ad hoc reviewer for journals such as: Issues in Accounting Education, Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising, and Accounting Perspectives.

Sustainability standards in accounting: Canada’s responses are representative of the world

Elkins currently has active projects with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation that oversees the International Accounting Standards Board.

One key project he is working on examines the comment letters to accounting standard setters on the proposal from the IFRS Foundation for the new sustainability standards board. According to Elkins standard setting follows the due process, including the submission of a proposal, responses to the proposal in the form of comment letters, reflection and drafting and redrafting the rules until the rule is instituted. He explained that this process involves “lobbying in accounting, which is the standard setting process, and how it works is by getting buy in from different stakeholders.”

Resulting from this research is a forthcoming paper in Accounting Perspectives in collaboration with Dr. Gary Entwistle (Edwards) that explores whether the responses from Canada are reflective of the responses from the rest of the world based on the interest groups they represent and their demography. In other words, is Canada demographically representative of the world and are the opinions from Canada reflective of the opinions of the rest of the world?

“Canada had the second most responses by nation, which is impressive,” said Elkins. “In our study, we found that Canada is representative of the world with the caveat that it makes it one of the best homes for the sustainability standards board.”

Elkins went on to describe how Canada’s immigration practices means that the country is becoming more diverse such that it is more representative of the world than might be thought and the opinions are aligned with the rest of the world. “Not only is Canada representative, but Canada also has a lot of institutional interest in sustainability,” said Elkins.

“Seven of the fourteen governmental responses to the proposal were from Canada including the Auditor General of the country, our largest provinces and our largest cities,” Elkins shared. “There’s a lot of governmental buy-in and all of our accounting functions such as CPA Canada and the Auditing Association of Canada, responded. Their paper shows that the Canadian response in comment letters is representative of the world and has specific interests in sustainability. “Canada should have a larger voice in setting up the standards than people might think,” he commented.

This research into comment letter and lobbying standard setters helps prior research because it positions the Canadian response as more universally linked to the rest of the world. It is also an area of research that has been underexamined and especially from a qualitative lens. Elkins uses a variety of methods including archival, experimental and econometric modeling methods; however, this recent study has led him to delve into qualitative approaches to interpret and classify comment letters which has broadened his methodological scope and expertise.

Emerging from this research, Elkins is also collaborating with Dr. Regan Schmidt and Dr. Gary Entwistle (Edwards) on a project that looks at responses to comment letters focusing on the three main parties in financial accounting: users, preparers, and the auditing profession. It examines how these groups are responding and whether they agree amongst themselves regarding sustainability standards. Interestingly, while there is agreement that sustainability standards should exist, there is little consensus on the particular aspects outlining these standards within or across these groups.

Another related project is looking at comment letters to the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) in response to recommendations on their five-year agenda to understand the “direction that the different interest groups and different places around the world want to see accounting regulation go,” said Elkins. He explains that this line of research focuses on the creation of accounting information in terms of “what is going to be required of companies to actually disclose and share with their stakeholders.”

This research is a first of its kind to closely examine and classify the opinions found in comment letters to accounting standard setters from various stakeholder groups and is breaking new ground on the direction accounting standards and disclosure are heading including the expansion into sustainability. The reach of this research has broad impact for society, the economy, environment, and in shaping public policy.

Understanding audit behaviour

Registration of auditing firms improve auditing quality

Auditor Behaviour is another area that Elkins is researching, specifically on the PCAOB (Public Company Accounting Oversight Board) which oversees auditing in the United States. Recently, Elkins and his co-authors Drs. Mohapatra, Lobo and Chi published on this topic in a forthcoming paper titled, “The Impact of PCAOB International Registration on Audit Quality and Audit Fees: Evidence from China,” in the Journal of Accounting and Public Policy.

According to Elkins, the PCAOB has regulations that require they inspect firms that are registered with them, yet countries elsewhere such as China do not require this. He is looking at whether registration alone improves audit quality. According to Elkins, it does. Using an extended sample comprising 2005 to 2019 data, Elkins confirms that “there is continued improvement and it is above and beyond any improvement that’s happening in the non-registered auditors. We identified that registration is important.”

This research provides valuable evidence that registration is important in improving audit quality and is something that should be continued even if inspection is not possible or required. According to Elkins, the PCAOB had considered cancelling the registration of firms that do not have any clients that require the audit firm to be inspected, however, he found that the registration alone is making them better auditors and improving their processes. The outcome of this research has the potential to influence not only the field of accounting, but the way investors and stakeholders look at registration and its impact on audit quality.

Does feedback influence junior auditors’ long-term career intentions?

Along a similar line of research on auditor behaviour, Drs. Elkins and Schmidt (Edwards) worked closely with a two Edwards honour’s alumni who investigated whether feedback provided by firms influence junior auditors’ career intentions. Responding to issues around auditor employee retention in large firms, they were specifically looking at two key questions: how does the type of feedback you receive as a junior auditor influence your long-term intentions and how do your long-term intentions influence your response to that feedback? This experimental study will examine how the type of feedback (positive/encouraging vs. negative/discouraging) impacts decisions to stay with a firm and can have valuable insights into the way firms provide feedback and whether there are strategies to better retain employees in the auditing profession.

Impact of board construction on the reliability of accounting information

Elkins is also assessing whether the way boards are constructed have an impact on the reliability of accounting information through investigating the number of restatements, the trend of restatements and looking at new board hires. This research aims to uncover whether hiring board members based on their skill and the need of the company matters and makes a more efficient board. Although in its early stages, this work will have significant implications for how companies should be creating their board membership and responding to the mandates which require equity, diversity and inclusion criteria.

Elkins’s research provides important insights into the creation and use of accounting information that has significant impact on the accounting field, both in academia and in practice, that has implications for a variety of stakeholders, companies, and society in the use of accounting information for decision-making.

Funding Acknowledgment: This research has been funded by the Edwards School of Business, Research Fund and the University of Saskatchewan Recruitment and Retention program.


To learn more about Hamilton Elkins’s research, check out his profile page!



Elkins, H., Entwistle, G., & Schmidt, R.N. (2021). The influence of opportunistic capital structure disclosure in international financial reporting on nonprofessional investors. Journal of International Accounting, Auditing and Taxation, 42.

Elkins, H., & Entwistle, G. (2018). A commentary on accounting standards and the disclosure problem: Exploring a way forward. Journal of International Accounting, Auditing and Taxation, 33.

Mohapatra, P.S., Elkins, H., Lobo, G.J., & Chi, W. (forthcoming). The Impact of PCAOB International Registration on Audit Quality and Audit Fees: Evidence from China. Journal of Accounting and Public Policy. Available at:

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