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Certified Tax Specialist (CTS)

A Certified Tax Specialist is a designation that a tax preparer has received advanced training and expertise in being able to provide strategies to help their clients reduce their taxable income.  Accepted by the AICPA and the NAEA, professionals holding this designation have the knowledge of individual income tax issues, as well as corporate and partnership taxes. 

To earn this designation, candidates must pass three comprehensive examinations and develop a case study for completion, as well as have at least 2,000 hours of work experience in the financial services industry or a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.  Designees must obtain 30 hours of continuing education every two years.

Enrolled Agent (EA)

Enrolled Agents (EAs) are federally authorized tax practitioners who have demonstrated technical competence in tax law and are the only taxpayer representatives licensed to practice by the United States government.  Three examinations, as well as an extensive background investigation by the FBI are required.  Only EAs, Attorneys, and CPAs may represent taxpayers without limitation before the IRS.  EAs advise and represent taxpayers before the IRS who are being examined, taxpayers who are unable to pay, and taxpayers who wish to avoid or recover penalties.  EAs prepare tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts, and any other entities with tax-reporting requirements.  Unlike Attorneys and CPAs, who may or may not choose to specialize in taxes, all EAs specialize in taxation and are required by the federal government to maintain their professional skills with continuing professional education.

National Tax Practice Institute Fellow (NTPI Fellow)

This designation is evidence of significant expertise in the representation of taxpayers before the IRS.  In order to enroll in the National Tax Practice Institute (NTPI) a tax professional must be an Enrolled Agent (EA) licensed by the US Department of the Treasury, a CPA, or a tax attorney.  These are the only three groups that have full rights of representation before the IRS.  This means that not only can they speak directly to the IRS regarding a client’s taxes without them present, they can represent in an IRS audit, collection, or appeal.

NTPI Fellows have completed a stringent, three-level program of study (NTPI Levels I, II, & III) that covers all facets of representing clients before the IRS.  They have learned to guide clients through the often challenging maze of IRS codes, internal regulations, and agency structure. 

The process of becoming an NTPI Fellow often takes several years, but the learning does not stop there.  NTPI Fellows are individuals who exceed the IRS” minimum standard for continuing education and are dedicated to staying on top of the latest changes to the tax code. 


Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

The Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) is a professional financial planning designation awarded by the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. A ChFC must meet experience requirements and pass 13 examinations on the fundamentals of financial planning, including income tax, insurance, investment, and estate planning.  A ChFC designation means a professional is prepared to meet the needs of individuals, families, and small businesses.  Continuing professional education requirements must be met every two years.

Certified Long Term Care (CLTC)

Certified Long Term Care is a designation granted by the 
Corporation For Long-Term Care Certification.   CLTC graduates have completed rigorous multidisciplinary training on the professions of long term care.  A CLTC professional is highly trained in the field of long-term care and knows the right questions to ask about solving financial planning questions should a client or family member become incapacitated.  Annual continuing professional education requirement must be met by all CLTCs.

Retirement Plans Associate (RPA)

The Retirement Plans Associate (RPA) designation is a credential for those who work with defined contribution and defined benefit plans or government sponsored plans, or who are involved with the management of plan assets. The courses reflect the most current and relevant information needed to effectively design and manage retirement plans for business owners and participants.

To earn the RPA designation, a candidate must complete three courses, RPA 1, RPA 2, and RPA 3 and must pass an examination over each course.

Certified Retirement Financial Advisor (CRFA)

A CRFA is a financial professional who has gained competence in the financial challenges faced by retirees and passed an examination designed to test that competence associated with those challenges.  Many of the CRFA certificants hold credentials such as Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) along with the CRFA credential.  Upon passing the exam, certificants agree to abide by the Society of Certified Retirement Financial Advisors Code of Ethics and are then permitted to use the CFRA designation.  In addition to any other continuing education credits that members must obtain for any other licenses or certifications they hold, to retain their CRFA credential, they must annually complete 15 hours of study specific to retiree financial issues, four of which must pertain to ethics.  There are less than two hundred individuals nationwide that hold this designation.


Registered Investment Advisor (RIA)

The term Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) is used to describe an Investment Adviser who is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission or a state’s securities agency.  The term IA (Investment Adviser) is defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission as an individual or firm that is in the business of giving advice about securities.  An IA must adhere to a fiduciary standard of care laid out in the US Investment Advisers Act of 1940.  This standard requires IAs to act and serve a client’s best interests.  Agents of the RIA who are charged with providing investment advice are called an “Investment Adviser Representative (IAR).  IARs must complete the FINRA Series 66 in addition to the Series 7 or 65 Exams and be one of the following:  ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant, CFP (Certified Financial Planner), PFS (Personal Financial Specialist), CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), CIC (Chartered Investment Counselor)

Series 65

The Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination, also called the Series 65 exam, developed by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), and administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  This examination is designed to qualify candidates as investment adviser representatives.  The exam covers laws, regulations, ethics, and knowledge on specific products.  A Series 65 Securities License is required by the State of Texas for individuals that act as an investment adviser.  All Registered Investment Advisers (RIAs) must hold a Series 65 license.

Risk Management

Chartered Life Underwriter(CLU)

Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) is a professional in the field of life insurance and finance advising. This designation, awarded by the American Institute of Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters is one of the industry’s most coveted and prestigious credentials.  CLUs have studied, in depth, the insurance needs of individuals, business owners, and professional clients.  Ten examinations must be passed for completion of the designation and annual continuing professional education requirements must be met to remain a CLU. 

Life Underwriting Training Council Fellow (LUTCF)

The LUTCF designation is jointly conferred by the National Association of Financial Advisors (NAIFA) and the American College.  Designees complete 300 hours of intense product-focused education as well as an Ethics course, culminating in five examinations.  All LUTCFs are members in good standing with NAIFA.  The study and knowledge base pulls together the coordination of personal and small business risk planning as it relates to insurance needs.

Questions? John Mark Canada is an investment advisor representative and a fiduciary. Call (972) 564-4063 or click here to schedule a no obligation initial consultation.