Top 10 Tax Accountant Certifications

This article explores the top certifications for tax accountants and provides an overview of the requirements, benefits and resources needed to obtain them.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 16 min read

Certifications are important for tax accountants in the job market as they demonstrate a professional level of knowledge and proficiency in the field. Certifications provide employers with an assurance that a potential employee is qualified and competent to handle the tasks associated with the position. Additionally, certifications can lead to higher salaries and better job opportunities. Certified tax accountants often have access to exclusive networking groups, educational resources, and career advancement opportunities that are not available to non-certified professionals. As such, having a certification can be a key factor in gaining employment or advancing professionally within the field of tax accounting.

This article reviews the top certifications for Tax Accountants and explains how they can help to advance a Tax Accountant's career.

What are Tax Accountant Certifications?

Tax accountant certification is a professional credential that demonstrates the holder’s knowledge and expertise in tax preparation and filing. The certification is typically obtained through an accredited program or institution, such as a college or university, which offers courses and examinations that test the individual’s understanding of tax laws and regulations. A tax accountant must have a thorough knowledge of all relevant federal, state, and local taxes in order to correctly prepare returns for individuals, businesses, trusts, estates, charities, and other entities.

Having a certified tax accountant can provide many benefits to both individuals and businesses. Certified tax accountants are knowledgeable about the most up-to-date tax laws and regulations; they are able to provide accurate advice on filing requirements; they understand how to maximize deductions; they can help identify potential areas of noncompliance with current laws; they can ensure compliance with any applicable deadlines; and they can help minimize the amount of taxes owed by their clients. Additionally, having a certified tax accountant provides peace of mind that all filings are done accurately and on time. Furthermore, certified tax accountants often have access to specialized software programs that can streamline the filing process and save time for their clients.

Pro Tip: Make sure your tax accountant certification is up to date and current. Many states require accountants to take continuing education courses or pass a certification exam in order to maintain their license. Stay on top of this and make sure your accountant is up-to-date on the latest tax laws and regulations.

Related: What does a Tax Accountant do?

Top 10 Tax Accountant Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Tax Accountants today.

1. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a professional designation that is awarded to individuals who have met specific educational and experience requirements, passed a national exam, and meet the ethical standards of their state's board of accountancy. A CPA is licensed by their state to provide services such as auditing, tax preparation, financial planning, and consulting.

It typically takes five years to become a CPA. This includes earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, completing 150 semester hours of college coursework (including at least 30 semester hours in accounting), passing the Uniform CPA Examination administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and meeting any additional requirements set forth by individual states.

To get certified as a CPA, you must first meet all the educational and experience requirements for your state. After that you will need to register with your state board of accountancy and apply for the Uniform CPA Examination. Once you pass the examination, you will be eligible for licensure in your state.

The cost of becoming a CPA varies depending on factors such as tuition costs for college courses needed to fulfill the 150-hour requirement, exam fees, application fees to take the exam, and licensing fees paid to your state board of accountancy.

2. Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) is a professional certification awarded by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). It is designed to recognize individuals who demonstrate proficiency in the internal auditing profession and have a commitment to the industry. The CIA designation is recognized worldwide as the premier certification for internal auditors.

To get the CIA, you must first meet certain eligibility requirements, including having a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university and at least two years of professional experience in internal auditing, control, or related areas. After meeting these requirements, you must pass three exams administered by the IIA: Essentials of Internal Auditing; Practice of Internal Auditing; and Business Analysis and Information Technology.

The cost to obtain the CIA designation varies depending on your country of residence and other factors. Generally speaking, it can cost anywhere from $1,000-$2,500 USD to become certified. This includes registration fees for each exam, study materials and other related costs. Additionally, there are annual dues that must be paid in order to maintain your certification status.

The process of becoming certified typically takes around six months to one year depending on how quickly you complete all three exams.

3. Accredited Tax Advisor (ATA)

Accredited Tax Advisor (ATA) is a professional designation offered by the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP). The ATA designation is awarded to tax professionals who have met certain educational, experience and ethical requirements.

To become an ATA, individuals must first complete the NATP’s Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP) program. This program consists of five courses and requires a minimum of 30 hours of study time. After completing the ATP program, individuals must pass a comprehensive exam that covers topics such as individual and business tax preparation, tax research, ethics, and other related areas.

Once an individual has passed the ATP exam and completed the required coursework, they can then apply for the ATA designation. To be eligible for this designation, individuals must also have at least two years of practical experience in preparing taxes or providing tax advice.

The cost to become an ATA varies depending on how many courses you take and how much time you spend studying for the exam. Generally speaking, it will cost around $1,000-$2,000 to become an ATA. The process typically takes around six months from start to finish.

4. Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is a professional designation given by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board). The CFP designation is the most recognized and respected certification for financial planning professionals. It signifies that an individual has met rigorous education, examination, experience and ethical requirements established by the CFP Board.

The CFP designation requires individuals to complete a minimum of three years of full-time financial planning related experience or equivalent part-time experience, pass the comprehensive CFP Certification Examination and agree to adhere to the CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility.

It typically takes two to three years to become certified as a CFP. During this time, individuals must complete a bachelor's degree in finance or economics, take additional coursework in financial planning topics such as taxes, investments, retirement planning and estate planning, and gain at least three years of professional experience in financial planning.

To become certified as a CFP, individuals must first apply to the CFP Board for approval. Once approved, they must then register for and pass the comprehensive two-day CFP Certification Examination. After passing the exam, applicants must submit proof of their educational background and professional experience to be eligible for certification.

The cost of becoming a Certified Financial Planner varies depending on several factors including where you live and what type of education you choose. Generally speaking however, it can cost anywhere from $2,000 - $7,000 USD for tuition fees alone. Additional costs may include exam fees ($695 USD), study materials ($300 - $500 USD), application fees ($50 - $150 USD) and membership dues ($155 USD).

5. Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)

Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) is a professional designation for management accountants and financial professionals. It is awarded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

The CGMA designation is designed to help individuals demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and expertise in business finance, strategy, and operations. The CGMA program provides recognition to those who have achieved a high level of proficiency in the areas of accounting, finance, strategy, operations, analytics, and leadership.

It typically takes three years to obtain the CGMA designation. To get it you must first become a member of AICPA or CIMA. You then need to pass the CGMAP exam which consists of two parts: Strategic Business Leader and Performance Management. Once you pass the exam you will receive your CGMA designation.

The cost for obtaining the CGMA designation varies depending on which organization you join first; AICPA or CIMA. The cost for joining AICPA is $250 per year plus a one-time application fee of $50; while joining CIMA costs $320 per year plus an initial registration fee of $150. In addition to these fees there are also fees associated with taking the CGMAP exam which range from $200 - $500 depending on where you take it.

6. Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is a professional certification granted by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). It is designed to demonstrate expertise in financial planning, analysis, control, decision support and professional ethics. The CMA credential is held by accountants who have met stringent education, experience and examination requirements set by the IMA.

To become a CMA, an individual must meet the following criteria:

1. Have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university;

2. Complete two years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management;

3. Pass the CMA exam which consists of four parts: Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance & Control; Financial Decision Making; and Strategic Financial Management.

The total cost of becoming a CMA can vary depending on the individual’s educational background and experience level. Generally speaking, it will cost between $1,000-$2,000 for all fees associated with taking and passing the CMA exam. This includes registration fees for both parts of the exam as well as study materials such as textbooks and practice tests.

It typically takes about one year to complete all requirements for becoming a CMA. This includes studying for and taking both parts of the exam as well as completing any necessary work experience requirements.

7. Enrolled Agent (EA)

An Enrolled Agent (EA) is a federally-authorized tax practitioner who has technical expertise in the field of taxation and is empowered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for audits, collections, and appeals. EAs are required to demonstrate their competence by passing a three-part examination administered by the IRS, or through experience as a former IRS employee.

The process to become an EA typically takes between 6-12 months depending on how quickly you can complete the necessary requirements. To become an EA, you must first pass an IRS Special Enrollment Examination (SEE). The SEE consists of three parts: individual tax returns, business tax returns, and representation practices & procedures. After passing these exams, you will need to submit an application with the IRS along with proof that you have passed your exams and have completed 72 hours of continuing education credits related to taxation and representation every three years.

The cost for becoming an EA varies depending on which materials you use to study for the exam and whether or not you decide to take any review courses or classes offered by private companies or organizations. In addition, there are fees associated with taking the exam itself and submitting your application with the IRS. These fees range from $50-$200 depending on where you take your exams and when you submit your application.

8. Accredited Business Valuator (ABV)

Accredited Business Valuator (ABV) is a professional designation that is awarded to individuals who have demonstrated expertise in the field of business valuation. The ABV credential is administered by the American Society of Appraisers (ASA). To become an ABV, candidates must pass a rigorous examination and demonstrate their knowledge and experience in business valuation.

The process to become an ABV typically takes between one and two years. Candidates must first complete an approved course of study in business valuation, which may include online courses, seminars, or other educational programs. After completing the coursework, applicants must then pass a comprehensive written examination that covers topics such as financial statement analysis, industry trends, valuation methods and approaches, legal and tax considerations, and more.

Once the written exam has been passed, applicants must then submit a portfolio of completed business valuations for review by the ASA’s Accreditation Committee. This portfolio should include at least three completed business valuations that demonstrate the candidate’s ability to accurately assess businesses according to accepted standards. Once this portfolio has been reviewed and approved by the Accreditation Committee, candidates may be awarded their ABV credential.

The cost of becoming an ABV varies depending on how much training and education is required for each individual applicant. Generally speaking, it can cost anywhere from $2,000 - $10,000 USD to become an ABV depending on various factors such as course fees and exam fees.

9. Certified Tax Preparer (CTP)

A Certified Tax Preparer (CTP) is an individual who has completed a comprehensive course of study in tax preparation and passed an examination administered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The CTP designation indicates that the individual has demonstrated a high level of knowledge and competence in preparing tax returns.

It typically takes between 30-90 days to complete the CTP program, depending on how quickly you can complete the required coursework. To become a CTP, you must first complete an approved tax preparation course from an accredited institution. Once you have completed the course, you must then pass a comprehensive exam administered by the IRS.

The cost of becoming a CTP varies depending on which institution you choose to take your courses from, but it typically ranges from $400-$1,000. Additionally, there may be additional fees associated with taking and passing the exam.

10. Master Tax Advisor (MTA)

Master Tax Advisor (MTA) is a professional designation for tax professionals who have demonstrated a high level of expertise in the field of taxation. It is offered by the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) and requires a comprehensive examination to obtain.

To become an MTA, individuals must have at least 5 years of experience in tax preparation and/or consulting services, complete a minimum number of continuing education hours each year, and pass the MTA exam. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions covering topics such as individual income taxes, business taxes, estate and gift taxes, trusts and estates, international taxation, ethics, and more.

The exam can be taken either online or in person at an approved testing center. It typically takes about 4-6 hours to complete the exam. The cost of taking the MTA exam varies depending on your location but generally ranges from $200-$400.

Once you have passed the exam, you will receive your MTA certification which is valid for five years. During this time you must maintain your continuing education requirements in order to keep your certification active.

Do You Really Need a Tax Accountant Certificate?

Whether or not you need a tax accountant certificate depends on what you want to do in the field of accounting and taxes. If you are interested in becoming a professional tax accountant and working for an accounting firm, then it would be wise to obtain a certificate from an accredited institution. A certificate will demonstrate that you have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to perform the job, and can give employers confidence that you understand the complexities of taxation.

On the other hand, if you simply want to do your own taxes or those of family members, then a certificate is probably not necessary. Most people can learn how to properly file their taxes with some basic instruction or by consulting online resources such as TurboTax or H&R Block. Of course, if you are unsure of how to properly file your taxes, it’s always best to seek advice from a certified public accountant or other qualified professional.

Ultimately, obtaining a tax accountant certificate may be beneficial for those who wish to pursue a career in the field of accounting and taxation. However, if you just need help filing taxes for yourself or loved ones, then it likely isn’t necessary.

Related: Tax Accountant Resume Examples

FAQs About Tax Accountant Certifications

1. What is a tax accountant certification?

Answer: A tax accountant certification is a professional credential that demonstrates an individual has the knowledge and skills to prepare, analyze, and review financial documents related to taxes.

2. What type of certifications are available?

Answer: There are several types of certifications available, including Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Enrolled Agent (EA), Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP), and Certified Tax Consultant (CTC).

3. How do I become certified?

Answer: To become certified, you must meet the educational requirements for each certification you wish to obtain and pass the required exams. Each certification requires different qualifications and exams, so it is important to research each option thoroughly before deciding which one is right for you.

4. How long does it take to get certified?

Answer: The amount of time needed for certification varies depending on which type of certification you are pursuing. Generally speaking, it can take anywhere from two months to several years to complete all of the necessary requirements for certification.

5. Is there ongoing education required after getting certified?

Answer: Yes, most tax accountant certifications require continuing education in order to maintain your credential status. This typically involves taking courses or attending seminars related to taxation in order to stay up-to-date on industry trends and changes in regulations.

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