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Top 11 Tax Professional Certifications

This article will provide an overview of the most popular and highly-regarded tax professional certifications available.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 18 min read

Certifications are an important way for tax professionals to demonstrate their knowledge and experience in the field. Through certifications, tax professionals can show employers that they have a comprehensive understanding of the ever-changing laws and regulations related to taxation. Additionally, certifications provide assurance to employers that their staff is highly trained and qualified to handle complex financial matters. As the job market becomes increasingly competitive, having a certification can help distinguish a tax professional from other applicants and give them an edge when applying for positions within the industry.

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the top certifications for Tax Professionals and explain how they can help to advance a tax professional's career.

What are Tax Professional Certifications?

Tax professional certification is a process whereby a tax preparer or accountant obtains additional training and demonstrates their proficiency in preparing taxes. This type of certification is beneficial for both the individual tax preparer and the clients who hire them.

For the tax preparer, certification provides recognition for their expertise, which can lead to an increase in business and higher fees charged for services. It also gives them knowledge of the latest tax laws, regulations, and best practices that are necessary to accurately complete returns. With this increased knowledge comes greater job security and personal satisfaction from providing quality services to clients.

For clients, hiring a certified tax professional gives them peace of mind that they are receiving accurate and up-to-date advice on how to maximize their deductions and minimize their overall tax burden. Certified professionals are held to high standards of ethics, so taxpayers can be assured that they will receive competent advice with no conflicts of interest or hidden agenda. Additionally, certified tax professionals have access to specialized software programs that allow them to quickly identify deductions and credits that may be applicable to each client’s situation.

Pro Tip: When selecting a tax professional, always make sure that they are certified by the relevant governing body. It is important to ensure that they have the necessary qualifications and experience to provide accurate advice and guidance on all of your tax-related matters.

Related: What does a Tax Professional do?

Top 11 Tax Professional Certifications

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

1. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a professional designation given to an individual who has met certain educational, experience, and examination requirements set by the state in which they practice. CPAs are licensed by their respective states' boards of accountancy to provide accounting services to the public.

The amount of time it takes to become a CPA varies depending on the individual's education and experience. Generally, it takes four years of college education, including a minimum of 150 semester hours of coursework in accounting and other related subjects; two years of professional experience; and passing the Uniform CPA Examination administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

To become a CPA, you must first meet all educational requirements for your state. This includes completing an accredited bachelor’s degree program with at least 150 semester hours of coursework in accounting and related topics. You must also complete a minimum number of hours in business-related courses such as economics, finance, management, marketing, or information systems. Once you have met these requirements, you must apply for licensure with your state board of accountancy and submit proof that you have successfully passed the Uniform CPA Examination.

The cost to become a CPA varies from state to state but typically includes fees for application processing, exam registration and preparation materials, as well as continuing education credits required for renewal. The total cost can range from $500-$2,000 depending on the state where you are applying and any additional costs associated with taking the examination or preparing for it.

2. Enrolled Agent (EA)

Enrolled Agent (EA) is a federally authorized tax practitioner who is empowered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Enrolled Agents are required to demonstrate special competence in tax matters, and must pass a comprehensive three-part examination administered by the IRS or demonstrate equivalent experience as defined by the IRS.

It typically takes between 6 months and 1 year to become an Enrolled Agent. The process involves passing an exam administered by the IRS, completing 72 hours of continuing education every 3 years, and passing a background check.

To become an Enrolled Agent, you must first submit Form 23, Application for Enrollment to Practice Before the Internal Revenue Service. Once your application is approved, you will be required to take and pass a three-part examination known as the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE). After passing this exam, you will need to complete 72 hours of continuing education every 3 years in order to maintain your status as an EA.

The cost of becoming an Enrolled Agent varies depending on how much preparation you need for the SEE exam and how many courses you take for your continuing education requirements. Generally speaking, it can cost anywhere from $500-$2,000 to become an EA.

3. Chartered Tax Professional (CTP)

Chartered Tax Professional (CTP) is a professional designation awarded by the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP). It is an advanced certification that recognizes tax professionals who have demonstrated expertise in all areas of taxation, including individual and business taxes, estate planning, and financial planning.

To obtain the CTP designation, you must meet the following requirements:

1. Have at least five years of experience in the tax field;

2. Complete a minimum of 80 hours of continuing education in taxation;

3. Pass a comprehensive exam administered by NATP; and

4. Maintain ethics standards as set forth by NATP.

The exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions and covers various topics such as individual income taxes, business taxes, estate planning, financial planning, and ethics. The exam can be taken online or in-person at one of NATP's testing centers throughout the United States. The cost to take the exam is $295 for members or $395 for non-members. Once you pass the exam, you will receive your CTP designation within six weeks from the date you took the exam.

The cost to maintain your CTP designation is $195 per year for members or $295 per year for non-members. This fee includes access to continuing education courses offered through NATP as well as other benefits such as discounts on products and services related to taxation.

4. Accredited Tax Advisor (ATA)

Accredited Tax Advisor (ATA) is a professional designation awarded by the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP). It is designed to recognize tax professionals who have achieved a high level of expertise and knowledge in tax preparation, planning, and compliance. The ATA designation requires a combination of education, experience, and passing an exam administered by NATP.

The ATA credential requires applicants to have at least two years of tax-related experience, such as preparing taxes for individuals or businesses. In addition, applicants must complete at least 30 hours of continuing education courses related to tax law and ethics each year. Finally, applicants must pass the ATA Exam with a score of 75% or higher.

The ATA Exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions that cover topics such as individual taxation; business taxation; estate, trust and gift taxation; payroll taxation; ethics; and other related topics. The exam takes approximately three hours to complete and can be taken online or at an approved testing center.

The cost to take the ATA Exam is $250 for NATP members or $350 for non-members. The cost includes access to study materials such as practice tests, exam prep webinars, and other resources. After passing the exam, there is an annual fee of $50 for renewal of the credential each year.

5. Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is a professional designation that is awarded to individuals who have completed a rigorous education, examination and experience requirements set by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. The CFP certification is recognized globally as the standard of excellence for competent and ethical financial planning.

It typically takes between two and five years to complete the CFP certification program. In order to become certified, candidates must first complete an accredited college program in finance or related field, then pass a comprehensive exam administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Candidates must also demonstrate three years of qualifying work experience in financial planning or related fields before they can apply for certification.

The cost of becoming a CFP varies depending on the individual’s circumstances. Generally, it will cost around $2,500-$3,000 for tuition and exam fees associated with the program. Additional costs may include study materials and travel expenses if attending classes in person.

6. Certified Tax Coach (CTC)

Certified Tax Coach (CTC) is a professional certification program that provides individuals with the knowledge and skills to become an expert in tax planning, preparation, and compliance. The program is designed to help tax professionals develop the necessary skills to provide effective tax advice and services to their clients.

The CTC program consists of four courses: Tax Planning Strategies, Tax Preparation Strategies, Tax Compliance Strategies, and Tax Research & Analysis. Each course is designed to provide a comprehensive overview of the topics covered. The courses are offered online or in-person at various locations throughout the United States.

The CTC program requires approximately 80 hours of coursework and can be completed in as little as six months. Upon completion of the coursework, students must pass a final exam in order to receive their certification.

The cost of the CTC program varies depending on which courses you take and where you take them. Generally speaking, it costs around $2,500 for all four courses plus any applicable fees for taking the final exam.

7. Chartered Tax Consultant (CTC)

Chartered Tax Consultant (CTC) is a professional designation awarded by the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT). It is the highest level of qualification for tax professionals in the UK and it is recognised internationally.

To become a Chartered Tax Consultant, you must have at least three years’ experience in taxation or a related field. You must also pass the CIOT's examinations and demonstrate your commitment to continuing professional development.

The process to become a Chartered Tax Consultant typically takes between two and four years, depending on your existing qualifications and experience. You will need to complete the CIOT’s Professional Diploma in Taxation (PDT), which consists of four modules. The modules cover topics such as personal taxation, corporate taxation, international taxation, VAT and trusts and estates.

Once you have completed the PDT, you can apply for chartered status with the CIOT. This involves submitting references from two approved referees who can attest to your knowledge and experience in taxation. If successful, you will be awarded chartered status and be able to use the CTC designation after your name.

The cost of becoming a Chartered Tax Consultant varies depending on whether you are studying part-time or full-time, but typically ranges from £2,000-£3,000 for tuition fees alone. Additional costs include exam entry fees and membership fees for the CIOT.

8. Certified International Tax Expert (CITE)

Certified International Tax Expert (CITE) is a professional certification program created by the International Tax Planning Association (ITPA). It is designed to recognize individuals who have achieved a high level of knowledge, skill, and experience in international tax planning. The CITE program provides a comprehensive curriculum that covers all aspects of international taxation, including topics such as foreign source income, transfer pricing, double taxation treaties, and global tax strategies.

The CITE program typically takes between six months and one year to complete. To become certified, applicants must pass an online exam that consists of multiple-choice questions and essay questions. Applicants must also complete an approved course on international tax planning from an accredited institution or university.

The cost of the CITE program varies depending on the institution offering it. Generally speaking, the cost ranges from $500 to $1,000 USD for the entire program.

9. Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP)

Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP) is a professional designation offered by the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP). It is designed to recognize individuals who have demonstrated a high level of competency in tax preparation and related services. The ATP designation is awarded to those who have successfully completed the NATP's comprehensive tax preparation program.

The program consists of four courses: Introduction to Tax Preparation, Advanced Tax Preparation, Professional Ethics & Responsibilities, and Business Practices & Procedures. Each course must be completed within 18 months of enrollment. Upon completion of all four courses, the student will receive their Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP) certificate.

To obtain the ATP designation, an individual must first become a member of the NATP. Membership fees vary depending on the type of membership chosen; however, most memberships cost between $100-$200 per year. Once enrolled in the program, students are required to pay for each course individually. Course fees range from $50-$150 per course depending on the type of course chosen.

In addition to completing the four courses and paying for them separately, students must also pass an exam administered by NATP at the end of each course in order to be eligible for their Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP) certificate. The exam fee is $50 per course and must be paid prior to taking it.

Once all requirements are met, students will receive their Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP) certificate from NATP and can begin practicing as an accredited tax preparer immediately upon receipt.

10. Certified Trust and Estate Practitioner (CTEP)

Certified Trust and Estate Practitioner (CTEP) is a professional certification offered by the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC). It is designed to recognize attorneys who have demonstrated a high level of knowledge, experience, and expertise in trust and estate planning.

The CTEP certification requires applicants to have at least five years of experience in trust and estate planning, as well as passing an exam that covers topics such as taxation, fiduciary law, asset protection planning, estate administration, charitable giving, tax-advantaged investments, and other related areas. The exam is administered twice a year in the spring and fall.

In order to become certified as a CTEP, applicants must submit an application form along with proof of their legal credentials and their work experience. Once the application has been reviewed by ACTEC’s Credentialing Committee, applicants will be notified if they are eligible to take the CTEP exam.

The cost for taking the CTEP exam varies depending on when it is taken; however, it typically ranges from $500-$800. Additionally, there may be additional fees associated with submitting an application or renewing a certification every two years.

11. Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA).

Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) is a professional designation awarded by the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA). It is designed to recognize individuals who have achieved a high level of expertise in the field of business valuation. The CVA credential demonstrates that an individual has met rigorous standards of knowledge, experience, and ethical practice in the area of business valuation.

To become certified, applicants must meet certain educational requirements, pass an exam, and demonstrate at least three years’ experience in business valuation. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions covering topics such as financial statement analysis, economic theory, taxation, industry standards and practices, legal issues related to business valuations, and more.

The process typically takes between six months and one year to complete depending on the applicant’s level of preparation. To get started on the path to certification, applicants must first submit an application to NACVA. This includes providing proof of education and experience as well as a fee for processing the application. Once approved, applicants will receive study materials along with instructions for scheduling their exam date.

The cost for certification varies depending on whether you are a member of NACVA or not. For non-members it costs $1,495 for the initial application fee plus $595 for each additional part taken within 12 months from initial registration date. For members it costs $995 for the initial application fee plus $395 for each additional part taken within 12 months from initial registration date.

Do You Really Need a Tax Professional Certificate?

The answer to this question really depends on your individual situation and goals. If you are looking to become a professional tax preparer or advisor, then yes, you will likely need a tax professional certificate. The most common tax certification is the Enrolled Agent (EA) designation offered by the IRS. To become an EA, you must pass a three-part exam and demonstrate knowledge of complex tax law and regulations. You must also complete annual continuing education courses to maintain your certification.

For those who are already employed in the field of taxation, a tax professional certificate may not be necessary but could still be beneficial. It could help you stand out from other job applicants or give you an edge when negotiating salary or promotions. Depending on your employer's requirements, having a certificate may even be required for certain positions.

Finally, if you simply want to gain more knowledge about taxes for personal use, there are many online courses available that can help you learn more without needing to obtain a professional certification. These can serve as an excellent way to supplement your existing knowledge and stay up-to-date with changes in taxation laws and regulations.

In conclusion, whether or not you need a tax professional certificate really depends on your current career path and goals. If becoming an EA is something that appeals to you then it would be beneficial to pursue this credential; however, if this isn't part of your plans then there are still plenty of other options available that can help you increase your knowledge of taxes without needing an official certification.

Related: Tax Professional Resume Examples

FAQs About Tax Professional Certifications

Q1. What is a Tax Professional Certification?

A1. Tax Professional Certification is a professional credential that demonstrates a person’s knowledge and experience in tax preparation.

Q2. What are some of the benefits of getting a Tax Professional Certification?

A2. Benefits of obtaining a Tax Professional Certification include increased credibility, higher earning potential, and greater job security. Additionally, it may qualify you to work as an independent tax preparer or consultant.

Q3. What type of training is required for a Tax Professional Certification?

A3. Depending on the certification, different levels of training may be required. Generally, this includes classes in taxation law, accounting principles and filing procedures, as well as passing an exam to demonstrate proficiency in these areas.

Q4. How long does it take to complete a Tax Professional Certification?

A4. The time it takes to complete certification depends on the type and level of certification desired, as well as the individual's prior knowledge and experience with taxes. Generally speaking, most certifications can be completed within one year or less depending on the amount of time dedicated to studying and preparing for exams each week.

Q5. Is there an age requirement for obtaining a Tax Professional Certification?

A5. No, there is no age requirement for obtaining a Tax Professional Certification; however, most certifications require applicants to be at least 18 years old before they can take the certification exam(s).