Membership

    CPA/PFS Credential Frequently Asked Questions FAQ 


    Eligibility

    • Do I have to be a CPA and a member of the AICPA to apply?
    • Do I need an active CPA license to practice public accounting to become a CPA/PFS?
    • Do I need to be a PFP Section member in order to apply to become a CPA/PFS credential holder?
    • If I don’t meet the requirements to become a CPA/PFS credential holder, is there another way to get information about personal financial planning?
    • What is the initial pricing for the CPA/PFS Credential? 

    PFS Exam 

    • Can I take the PFS exam before I complete the education and experience requirements for the CPA/PFS credential?
    • After I  complete the PFS exam, how long do I have to apply for the credential?
    • What is the duration of the PFS exam?
    • Do I still receive any credit for having another financial planning credential?
    • Where are the test centers located for the PFS exam?
    • Do exam results include numerical scores or just pass/fail results?
    • How long is the grading process and when do exam candidates find out if they passed or failed?
    • How many hours does the AICPA recommend to study for the PFS Exam?
    • What materials are recommended by the AICPA to study for the PFS Exam?
    • If a candidate only took the PFS Exam Review Course, how prepared would the candidate be to take the exam? Also, how long should a candidate wait to take the exam after completing the review course?
    • What is covered in the PFS Exam Review Course? Do candidates complete practice tests/questions?  

    General

    • If I am a CPA/PFS, do I automatically become a member of the Personal Financial Planning Membership Section?
    • I have applied for the CPA/PFS credential. What happens next?
    • Does the AICPA audit CPA/PFS applications?
    • How does the CPA/PFS credential differ from other financial planning credentials? 
    FINRA Series 65 Waiver
    • How do I apply for a waiver of the Series 65 based on my CPA/PFS credential?

    Recertification

    • What is required to maintain the CPAPFS credential?
    • What is the annual renewal price for the CPA/PFS credential?

    Use of the PFS Credential

    • What is the correct use of the CPA/PFS credential?
    • May I use the credential CPA/PFS by itself behind my name?
    • Can a firm include the credential "Personal Financial Specialists" or "CPA/PFS" on its letterhead and in marketing materials?
    • If I am no longer a member of the AICPA, can I still use the CPA/PFS credential? 

    Return to the Overview of the CPA/PFS Credential


    Eligibility

    Do I have to be a CPA and a member of the AICPA to apply?

    Yes. You must be a CPA member in good standing of the AICPA and hold a valid and unrevoked CPA permit, certificate, or license issued by a legally constituted state authority. The CPA/PFS credential is granted exclusively by the AICPA.

    Do I need an active CPA license to practice public accounting to become a CPA/PFS?

    No. You must hold an valid and unrevoked CPA permit, certificate, or license issued by a legally constituted state authority.  You need not have an active CPA license.

    Do I need to be a PFP Section member in order to apply to become a CPA/PFS credential holder?

    No. You need to be an AICPA member in good standing and meet the valid and unrevoked CPA permit, certificate, or license requirement. CPA/PFS holders receive complimentary PFP Section membership. 

    If I don’t meet the requirements to become a CPA/PFS credential holder, is there another way to get information about personal financial planning?

    Yes. You may join the PFP Section – the only requirement is AICPA membership in good standing.

    What is the initial pricing for the CPA/PFS credential?

    The standard initial pricing for the CPA/PFS credential is $360 unless you qualify for one of the exceptions listed below:

    • If the job code in your AICPA profile is “Government”, then the initial price is always $260.

    • If you hold another AICPA credential, then the initial price is $260 (unless category #3 below applies with a lower price)

    • If you are a member of the PFP Section, then you will receive a credit for a pro rata portion of your remaining annual PFP membership fee (your actual cost will be somewhere between the $360 standard price and $150 depending on the number of months remaining in your annual PFP membership period).

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    PFS Exam

    Can I take the PFS exam before I complete the education and experience requirements for the CPA/PFS credential? 

    Yes. There is no time limit in terms of when you successfully complete the exam and when you apply for the CPA/PFS credential.  However, when you do apply, only PFP-related education and experience in the last 5 years can be used to meet the education and experience requirements for the CPA/PFS credential.

    After I complete the PFS exam, how long do I have to apply for the credential?

    You can apply for the credential any time after completing the PFS exam.  We would encourage you to apply as soon as you qualify.

    What is the duration of the PFS exam?

    The PFS exam is a total of 7 hours and 15 minutes in length, which includes a 45-minute break. Please note that there is not a particular point in the exam where this break is required but candidates are allowed to take up to 45 minutes for a break at one point or during multiple points of the exam. The exam consists of a total of 230 questions, 50% of which are discrete multiple choice and 50% of which are case study (of varying lengths) with related multiple choice questions.

    Do I still receive any credit for having another financial planning credential?

    The exam requirement is still waived for anyone who has passed the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) exam or the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) exams. However, there is no longer any examination requirement waiver provided to those who hold other credentials such as the CFA, or licenses such as Series 7, 65 or 66.

    Where are the test centers located for the PFS exam?

    The PFS exam will now be hosted at Kryterion test centers in the North America region. View all of the Kryterion test locations.

    Do exam results include numerical scores or just pass/fail results?

    Numerical score results are not included in results letters. The PFS exam is designed to psychometrically assess whether candidates have a sufficient base level comprehension of the PFP body of knowledge. Therefore results are issued as either “Pass” or “Fail” indicating whether the exam taker meets this minimum threshold.

    How long is the grading process and when do exam candidates find out if they passed or failed?

    The PFS exam grading process begins immediately after the end of each exam window and can take up to two months. Results are distributed by email and US mail upon the conclusion of the grading process.

    How many hours does the AICPA recommend to study for the PFS exam?

    The AICPA does not make a formal recommendation regarding the number of hours someone should study. This would most likely depend upon factors such as how much experience an individual already has and how familiar individuals are with the PFP body of knowledge found in the PFS Exam Content Specification Outline.  As additional preparation tools, the AICPA provides the PFS Exam Review Course is a self-study format with CPE designed to go over the body of knowledge, but not to teach the materials. The course can be purchased on CPA2Biz.

    What materials are recommended by the AICPA to study for the PFS exam?

    The complete PFP body of knowledge that is subject to testing for the PFS exam can be found in the PFS Exam Content Specification Outline. The Content Specification Outline lists the topics and subject matter covered by the exam, referencing the textbooks that are associated with the PFP education courses.  To help prepare for the exam, the AICPA provides the PFS Exam Review Course (available on CPA2Biz) in a self-study format with CPE designed to go over the body of knowledge, but not to teach the materials. If more in-depth education is needed, the AICPA provides six self-study CPE courses that utilize the textbooks referenced in the CSO.

    If a candidate only took the PFS Exam Review Course, how prepared would the candidate be to take the exam? Also, how long should a candidate wait to take the exam after completing the review course?

    The AICPA highly recommends that candidates do not rely solely upon the information provided in the PFS Exam Review Course. This review course is meant as a review only and is not a means for candidates to learn the material in the PFP body of knowledge.  The additional preparation necessary would differ by individual based on prior education and experience.

    What is covered in the PFS Exam Review Course? Do candidates complete practice tests/questions?

    A full description of the PFS Exam Review Course can be found on our PFP Website. Currently there are 6 review digests (with CPE) covering the financial planning process and tax, estate, retirement, investments, and insurance planning with practice questions for the exam.  We also provide additional practice question books covering financial calculator and case study questions, with one full book of random practice questions to help prepare you for the exam.  In addition, online practice questions and flash cards are available.  Finally for reference we provide the Content Specification Outline and the Statement on Responsibilities in Personal Financial Planning Practice.

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    General

    If I am a CPA/PFS, do I automatically become a member of the Personal Financial Planning Membership Section?

    Yes. All CPA/PFS credential holders are automatically enrolled as a PFP Section member, receiving all the benefits and information updates that membership includes. The PFP Membership Section is a voluntary membership section that is open to all members of the AICPA. The annual fee for CPAs who do not hold the CPA/PFS credential is $200. If you are not a CPA/PFS, but you want to enjoy the benefits of section membership, enroll in the PFP Section.

    I have applied for the CPA/PFS credential. What happens next?

    Once documentation and payment have been submitted, the AICPA will review and issue an welcome letter. At this time:

    • Individuals may use the CPA/PFS credential in accordance with the rules of the state in which they practice. Members are not authorized to use the credential until they receive this notice.

    • At the applicant’s request, their state society will be notified so the information can be promoted in state society newsletters. 

    • A CPA/PFS certificate will be sent to the successful candidate. 

    Note: In some cases, applicants may be required to provide additional information in support of their application.

    Does the AICPA audit CPA/PFS applications?

    Yes. A percentage of approved applications are selected for random audit. Any misrepresentations or incorrect information may result in disciplinary action, including suspension or revocation of CPA/PFS eligibility and/or credential.

    How does the CPA/PFS differ from other financial planning credentials?

    The CPA/PFS credential is the only personal financial planning credential that is maintained by the AICPA, the membership organization for CPAs. Individuals holding the CPA certificate are perceived to be highly qualified, ethical, and well-trained professionals within the financial services industry and the overall business community. People who hold both the CPA and the PFS provide individuals and their closely held businesses confidence in the services they provide and the assurance of objective guidance that takes all aspects (including tax) of their situation into account. Credential holders are automatically enrolled in the AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning (PFP) Section and have access to other members of the CPA PFP community, practice aids, quick reference guides, continuing education, discounts to conferences and goods and services.

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    FINRA Series 65 Waiver

    How do I apply for a waiver of the Series 65 based on my CPA/PFS credential?

    If you have supplied your individual (not your firm’s) CRD number on your CPA/PFS application, you are included in a file the AICPA sends weekly to FINRA. Check the box on FINRA’s Form U-4 that indicates you hold the CPA/PFS Credential; FINRA will compare your U-4 information against the AICPA file (authorizing the Series 65 waiver).

    If you receive notice FINRA does not have a record of your CPA/PFS, it may be due to a missing/incorrect CRD number on your CPA/PFS application. Contact the AICPA service center at 888.777.7077 to update your CRD number; then, resubmit the U-4 to FINRA.

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    Recertification

    What is required to maintain the CPA/PFS credential?

    Credential holders must pay an annual $360 fee and meet CPA/PFS recertification requirements every three years:

    1. AICPA membership in good standing

    2. Valid and unrevoked CPA permit, certificate or license issued by a legally constituted state authority

    3. 60 hours of CPE related to the PFP body of knowledge

    4. Submission of a signed Statement of Intent to comply with all recertification requirements (CPA/PFS Credential holders will be instructed to report their recertification requirements at the appropriate time).

    What is the annual renewal price for the CPA/PFS credential?

    Credential renewal pricing for is $360 for the first credential and $260 for each subsequent credential held.  There are 2 exceptions:

    • If the job code in your AICPA profile is “Government”, then each credential has a renewal price of $260

    • If you hold both the CPA/ABV and CPA/CFF credentials, then the renewal price for the second on is $160 (instead of the standard $260)

    • Multiple credential examples:

      • If you hold the CPA/PFS and CPA/ABV, then your renewal price is $620 ($360 + $260) for both credentials.
      • If you hold the CPA/ABV and CPA/CFF, then your renewal price is $520 ($360 + $160) for both credentials.
      • If you hold the CPA/CITP, CPA/ABV and CPA/CFF, then your renewal price is $780 ($360 + $260 + $160) for all three credentials.

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    Use of the CPA/PFS Credential
     
     

    What is the correct use of the CPA/PFS credential?

    The use of "CPA/PFS" on letterheads, business cards, and other marketing materials is governed by the rules of the board of accountancy in the state(s) in which you practice. The AICPA does not currently have a prescribed format for the credential.

    Most state accountancy laws are currently silent on whether CPAs can use the specialty credential. In 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Ibanez case, which held that states couldn't prohibit a CPA from using a specialty credential, such as the CPA/PFS credential, unless there is factual proof of real or potential harm. If you check with your state board and run into a problem in using the credential, e-mail us at pfs@aicpa.org.

    May I use the credential CPA/PFS by itself behind my name?

    Under the AICPA's Code of Professional Conduct, utilizing the credential by itself would not cause a member to be in violation of Rule 102—Integrity and Objectivity (misrepresenting facts) or Rule 502—Advertising or Solicitation. Please check with your state board of accountancy as state accountancy rules may impose other restrictions.

    Can a firm include the credential "Personal Financial Specialists" or "CPA/PFS" on its letterhead and in marketing materials?

    The CPA/PFS is an individual credential and not a firm credential. However, it is permissible under AICPA Ethics Rule 502 for a firm to hold itself out as Personal Financial Specialists and to use the CPA/PFS credential on its letterhead and in marketing materials only if all partners or shareholders of the firm currently have the PFS credential. An individual member who holds the credential may use it after his or her name. Please check with your state board of accountancy as state accountancy rules may impose other restrictions.

    If I am no longer a member of the AICPA, can I still use the CPA/PFS credential?

    No. Only regular AICPA members in good standing can use the CPA/PFS credential. If your AICPA membership is terminated, you will no longer be able to use the CPA/PFS credential and your CPA/PFS certificate must be returned to the AICPA.

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