Update: Series 54 Deadline Extended to November 30

Principals at municipal advisor firms must pass the Series 54 exam by November 30, 2021, to continue acting as principals. Continue reading

As we covered in a previous blog post on the Solomon Industry News Blog, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) had announced plans to push back the deadline for municipal advisor principals to take the new Series 54 exam. However, the MSRB did not say how much of an extension they intended to give.

Now we know. On September 2, the MSRB filed a request with the SEC to extend the Series 54 deadline from November 12 to November 30.

The SEC must still approve the extension before it becomes official.

UPDATE – September 30, 2021: The MSRB issued a notice stating that November 30, 2021, is the deadline for passing the Series 54 exam.

Read the full MSRB notice here.

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November 12 deadline for MSRB Series 54 Municipal Advisor Principal Exam

Principals at municipal advisor firms must pass the Series 54 exam by November 12, 2021, to continue acting as principals. Continue reading

When the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) created an exam specifically for principals at municipal advisor (MA) firms, the plan was for all MA principals to take it within a year.

The exam, known as the Series 54, was first made available on November 12, 2019. The MSRB required that all MA principals who wanted to continue acting as principals would have to pass the Series 54 by November 12, 2020.

But like many plans in 2020, the MSRB’s plan for the Series 54 was disrupted by Covid-19. With FINRA testing centers shut down for months, and uncertainty regarding when testing would resume, the MSRB added a one-year grace period to its original deadline. MA principals would now have until November 12, 2021, to pass the Series 54 exam.

The regulator recently reminded MA firms that “those who engage in the management, direction or supervision of…municipal advisory activities” will need to pass the Series 54 on or before November 12.

UPDATE: On August 11, the MSRB announced that it would seek SEC approval for an additional extension. The MSRB did not say how long the planned extension would be, but the regulator plans to announce this by September 10. The MSRB also announced an “interim accommodation” allowing those who need to take the Series 54 exam online to do so. Details about how to apply for this accommodation will be posted on MSRB.org no later than August 20.

UPDATE: On September 2, the MSRB announced that it has filed a request with the SEC to extend the Series 54 deadline from November 12 to November 30, 2021. View the blog post about this announcement here.   

What is a Municipal Advisor?

A municipal advisor, or MA, differs from a municipal securities dealer in that an MA does not underwrite and sell municipal securities. Instead, an MA gives advice about structuring an issue of municipal securities, selecting an underwriter, investing the proceeds, and related matters. Unlike a municipal securities dealer, an MA is the municipality’s fiduciary, which means that the MA must put the municipality’s interests before its own. MAs became regulated in a manner like municipal securities dealers as one of the reforms resulting from the 2008 financial crisis.

When MAs first came under the MSRB’s jurisdiction, the MSRB only had one qualification exam for MA personnel: the Series 50, which is taken by representatives and principals alike. During the grace period, principals who have only passed the 50 have been allowed to continue as principals. After the deadline, MA principals will need to have passed both the Series 50 and the Series 54.

Solomon Exam Prep has helped hundreds pass the Series 50 and Series 54 exams.

Solomon offers an innovative suite of exam prep products for the Series 54 to help you pass this difficult test, plus a step-by-step study schedule to tell you how to do it. Choose from an easy-to-understand Study Guide, an Exam Simulator with hundreds of relevant practice questions and detailed rationales, and a Video Lecture to help you learn and highlight the most critical information for the exam.

Solomon recommends at least 40 hours of studying to give yourself the best chance at passing this challenging principal exam.

Do yourself a favor and start studying well before the deadline, and let Solomon help you on your road to success! Explore Solomon’s Series 54 study materials by clicking the link below.

Simplifying After-Tax and Tax-Equivalent Yields

For many when choosing bonds the most important factor is the tax implications. Knowing the after-tax yield and tax-equivalent yield calculations is critical. Continue reading

Bonds can be nice, reliable investments. Pay some money to an issuing company or municipality, receive interest payments twice a year, and then get all of your original investment back sometime down the road. Sounds like a plan.

But which bonds are best for a specific investor? There are many factors for bond investors to consider when choosing which bond to buy, but for many the most important is the tax implications of investing in one bond instead of another. This concern is most prominent when an investor compares a corporate bond to a municipal bond. For reference, a corporate bond is one issued by a corporation or business, while a municipal bond is one issued by a state, city, or municipal agency.

Comparing the tax implications of these bonds is important because the interest payments that investors receive from municipal bonds are typically not taxed at the federal level. Conversely, interest payments on all corporate bonds are subject to federal taxation. This means that someone in the 32% tax bracket will have to give Uncle Sam 32% of his interest received from a corporate bond, while he will not give up any of his interest received from a municipal bond. Additionally, an investor does not pay state taxes on municipal bond interest if the bond is issued in the state in which the investor lives. Corporate bond interest, on the other hand, is always subject to state tax.

  • interest payments taxed federally
  • interest payments subject to state tax
  • interest payments not federally taxed
  • interest payments not taxed by state if issued in state local to investor

For these reasons, when comparing a corporate bond to a municipal bond, understanding the after-tax yield and the tax-equivalent or corporate-equivalent yield is essential. This is true both for investors and for those who will be taking many of the FINRA, NASAA, and MSRB exams. So let’s look at how to calculate those yields.

After-Tax Yield

First the after-tax yield. The after-tax yield tells you the amount of a corporate bond’s annual interest payment that an investor will take home after accounting for taxes he will be assessed on that interest. Once that amount is known, the investor can compare it to the yield he would receive from a specific municipal bond and see which potential investment would put more money in his pocket. When calculating the after-tax yield, start with the annual interest percentage (a.k.a. coupon percentage) of the corporate bond, which represents the percent of the bond’s par value that an investor receives each year in interest. For instance, a corporate bond that has a $1,000 par value and an interest rate of 8% will pay an investor $80 dollars in annual interest ($1,000 x 0.08 = $80). You then multiply the coupon percentage by 1 minus the taxes an investor will pay on the corporate bond that he will not pay on the municipal bond that he is considering.

This is where it sometimes gets tricky. What taxes will an investor not pay when investing in a municipal bond that he will pay when investing in a corporate bond? Remember that for just about all municipal bonds, investors do not pay federal tax on interest received.

The formula for after tax yield is:

After-tax yield = Corporate Bond Annual Interest Rate x
( 1 – Taxes Investor Does Not Pay By Investing in Municipal Bond)

On the other hand, an investor always pays federal taxes on interest received from a corporate bond. Additionally, an investor does not pay state taxes on interest payments from a municipal bond issued in the state in which the investor lives.

On the other hand, an investor always pays state taxes on interest received from corporate bonds. So if you see an exam question in which you need to calculate the after-tax yield of a corporate bond to compare it the yield on a municipal bond, you will always subtract the investor’s federal income tax rate from 1 in the equation. You will also subtract the investor’s state tax rate from 1 if the municipal bond is issued in the investor’s state of residence.

Seems simple, right? Here’s a question to provide context:

Marilyn is a resident of Kentucky. She is considering a bond issued by XYZ Corporation. The bond comes with a 7% annual interest rate. Marilyn is also interested in purchasing municipal bonds issued in Ohio. If Marilyn has a federal tax rate of 28% and Kentucky’s state tax rate is 4%, what is the after-tax yield on XYZ’s bond?

To answer this question, begin with the interest rate on the XYZ bond, which is 7%. Then subtract from 1 the taxes Marilyn will not pay if she invests in the municipal bond in question. She will not pay federal taxes on the municipal bond interest, so you would subtract 28%, or .28. However, because Marilyn is a resident of Kentucky and the municipal bonds she is considering are issued in Ohio, she will pay state taxes on the bond. That means you would not subtract her state tax rate (0.04) from 1. After subtracting .28 from 1 to get 0.72, you multiply that amount by the 7% coupon payment. Doing so gives you a value of 5.04 (7 x 0.72 = 5.04%). This means that the interest amount she would take home from the XYZ bond would be equivalent to what she would receive from a municipal bond issued in Ohio that has a 5.04% interest payment. If she can get a bond issued in Ohio that has a higher interest payment than 5.04%, she would take home more money in annual interest payments than she would from the XYZ bond.

Tax-Equivalent Yield

The second approach an investor can take to compare how a potential bond investment will be affected by taxation is to calculate the tax-equivalent yield (TEY). This calculation is also known as the corporate-equivalent yield (CEY). The TEY/CEY measures the yield that a corporate bond will have to pay to be equivalent to a given municipal bond after accounting for taxes due. To calculate this yield, you take the annual interest of the given municipal bond and divide it by 1 minus the taxes the investor will not pay if she invests in the municipal bond that she would pay if she invested in a corporate bond.

Here’s the formula for tax-equivalent yield:

Tax-equivalent yield = Municipal Bond Annual Interest Rate /
(1 – Taxes Investor Does Not Pay By Investing in Municipal Bond)

When determining what tax rates to subtract from 1 in the denominator, the same principal as described above applies. That is, the investor will not have to pay federal tax on the municipal bond, so her federal rate is always subtracted from 1. The investor will also not have to pay state tax on the bond if it is issued in the state in which she lives. If that is the case, the investor’s state tax rate should also be subtracted from 1. However, if the investor lives in a different state than the state in which the bond is issued, she will have to pay state taxes on the interest payments. In that case, her state tax rate would not be subtracted from 1.

Here’s another question to provide context.

Franz, a resident of Michigan, has purchased a Michigan municipal bond that pays 4% annual interest. If his federal tax bracket is 30% and the Michigan state tax rate is 4%, what interest rate would he need to receive on a corporate bond to have a comparable rate after accounting for taxes owed?

To answer this question, begin with the interest rate on the Michigan municipal bond, which is 4%. Then subtract from 1 the taxes that Franz will not pay on that bond that he would pay if he invested in a corporate bond. He wouldn’t pay federal taxes on the municipal bond interest, so you would subtract 0.30 from 1. Additionally, since the bond is issued in Michigan and he is a Michigan resident, Franz will not pay state taxes on the bond. So you subtract Michigan’s state tax rate of 4%, or 0.04, from 1 as well. After subtracting 0.30 and 0.04 from 1 to get 0.66, you divide that number into the 4% municipal bond annual interest. Doing so gives a value of 6.06 (4 / 0.66 = 6.06). This means Franz would need to find a corporate bond that pays 6.06% in annual interest to match the amount of interest he will take home annually from the Michigan municipal bond after accounting for taxes.

Many people are confused by the concepts of the after-tax and tax-equivalent yields. But you don’t have to be one of them. Just follow this simple approach and any questions you see on this topic will not be overly taxing.

Mastering these equations will help you succeed in passing the Series 6, Series 7, Series 50, Series 52, Series 65, Series 66, and Series 82.

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Solomon Study Question of the Month for April

This month’s study question from the Solomon Exam Prep Online Exam Simulator question database is now available. Continue reading

Study Question

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available.

*** Comment below or submit your answer to info@solomonexamprep.com to be entered to win a $20 Starbucks gift card.***

This question is relevant to the SIE and the Series 7, 14, 50, 52, and 54.

Question: A Municipal Finance Professional (MFP) hosted a $500 plate fundraiser for a governmental issuer. Does this event trigger a ban on business for two years?

A. Yes, it will trigger a ban because an MFP may not host a fundraiser.

B. Yes, it will trigger a ban because the cost per plate is above the de minimis amount.

C. No, it will not trigger a ban because the MFP did not contribute money, only time and space.

D. No, it will not trigger a ban because the MFP was holding the fundraiser, not the municipal dealer.

Correct Answer: A

Explanation: MFPs are not permitted to solicit funds for municipal issuers or their officials without triggering a two-year ban on business for their firm. Thus, holding fundraisers is not allowed. Municipal dealers are also forbidden from holding fundraisers.


To explore free samples of Solomon Exam Prep’s industry-leading online exam simulators for the SIE, Series 7, Series 14, Series 50, Series 52, Series 54, and other FINRA, MSRB, NASAA, and NFA exams, visit the Solomon website here.

Solomon Exam Prep and NASA launch SIE mission to Mars

In preparation for the October 1 launch of the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, Solomon Exam Prep teamed with NASA to send Solomon SIE exam study materials to the Red Planet. Continue reading

In preparation for the October 1 launch of the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, Solomon Exam Prep teamed with NASA to send Solomon SIE exam study materials to the Red Planet.

Unlike other FINRA securities licensing exams, the SIE exam will be open to anyone 18 years or older who is interested in the securities industry. FINRA has not publicly stated whether Martians will be permitted to take the SIE exam but since FINRA is dedicated to “investor protection” and to promoting “market integrity” Solomon takes the position that investors and markets on other planets can benefit from securities education, and the SIE in particular. Solomon has helped thousands of earthlings pass their Series 7, Series 6, Series 65, Series 63, Series 24, Series 50, Series 79 and other securities licensing exams.

Elon Musk has not responded to the news of the joint NASA/Solomon Exam Prep mission.

New MSRB Rule G-42: Duties of Non-Solicitor Municipal Advisors

MSRB Rule G-42, Duties of Non-Solicitor Municipal Advisors, will be effective June 23, 2016, and was recently added to the outline for the Series 50 exam. Continue reading

G-42MSRB Rule G-42, Duties of Non-Solicitor Municipal Advisors, will be effective June 23, 2016, and was recently added to the outline for the Series 50 exam.

The rule requires that municipal advisors meet certain standards of conduct in their dealings with municipal entities, which includes fulfilling two duties: a duty of care and a duty of loyalty.  Though G-42 goes into great detail about municipal advisor responsibilities, the duties of care and loyalty are the basis for everything included in the rule.

In order to fulfill its duty of care, the municipal advisor must:

• Have enough knowledge and expertise to give informed advice to the municipal entity

• Reasonably inquire into all relevant facts before allowing a municipality to proceed on a particular course of action or before giving advice

• Undertake a reasonable investigation to determine that its advice is not based on materially inaccurate or incomplete information

In order to fulfill its duty of loyalty, a municipal advisor must:

• Be honest and act in good faith

• Put the municipal client’s interests before its own financial or other interests

• Not perform municipal advisory activities for the client if its conflicts of interests will prevent it from acting in the client’s best interests

The rule requires municipal advisors to put their municipal advisory relationships in writing “prior to, upon or promptly after” the relationship begins, and requires them to disclose all conflicts of interest in writing to the municipal client.

Finally, Rule G-42 provides a list of specifically prohibited activities and explains how a firm must respond if it inadvertently provides advice to a municipal entity.

The rule was written to conform to the fiduciary duty placed on municipal advisors by the Dodd-Frank Act.

Solomon Exam Prep has helped thousands pass the Series 6, 7, 63, 65, 66, 24, 26, 27, 50, 51, 52, 53, 62, 79, 82 and 99 exams. For more information visit http://www.solomonexamprep.com/

Series 51 Live Class – Portland, OR

Do you need to take the Series 51 MSRB Municipal Fund Securities Limited Principal Qualification Exam? This two-day crash course in Portland, Oregon will help! Continue reading

Series 51 Live Class

Series 51 Exam Study Guide – New Edition

Solomon Exam Prep announces publication of the 2nd edition of The Solomon Exam Prep Guide to the Series 51 Municipal Fund Securities Exam. Written in clear English with practice questions, exercises and visual aids sprinkled throughout, the comprehensive Solomon Exam Prep Guide will get you on track to passing the Series 51 Municipal Fund Securities Limited Principal exam. Continue reading

Do you need to know about qualified tuition plans, arbitrage rules and LGIP tax-exempt status? Do SMMPs, OMSJs, and “otherwise independent persons” sound meaningful to you? If you answered yes to these questions, then you probably work in the municipal fund securities industry and you need to take the MSRB Series 51 exam.

Solomon Exam Prep announces publication of the 2nd edition of The Solomon Exam Prep Guide to the Series 51 Municipal Fund Securities Exam. Written in clear English with practice questions, exercises and visual aids sprinkled throughout, the comprehensive Solomon Exam Prep Guide will get you on track to passing the Series 51 Municipal Fund Securities Limited Principal exam.

According to Solomon Exam Prep President Jeremy Solomon, many underestimate the Series 51 exam because it’s only 60 questions long. Says Solomon: “The good thing about a shorter exam like the Series 51 is that it’s only 60 questions and it doesn’t cover as much material as other securities exams, such as the Series 7 or the Series 65. The bad thing about the Series 51 is that it’s only 60 questions and there’s less margin for error.   What makes the Series 51 particularly challenging is that it covers topics that most individuals, even securities professionals, have little knowledge of: the supervision of municipal fund securities activities. Topics include LGIPs, arbitrage bonds, qualified tuition plans and the regulation of political contributions. That’s why a good text and putting in enough study time are absolutely necessary if you want to pass the Series 51 exam and achieve the Municipal Fund Limited Principal registration.”

The Solomon Exam Prep Guide to the Series 51 Exam, 2nd edition includes:

New and updated MSRB rules, per the latest MSRB exam outline

Expanded arbitrage rebate section

Discussion of A, B, and C shares and breakpoint sales in relation to 529 plans

Expanded sections on transferring funds from other savings vehicles into 529 plans

Expanded discussion of municipal fund securities principal responsibilities

Expanded discussion and examples of the pay-to-play rule

Expanded discussion of out-of-state disclosure rules for 529 plans

Updated suitability section based on new suitability rule and its application

More examples, tables, figures, exercises and practice questions

Solomon Exam Prep has helped thousands of financial professionals pass their FINRA, NASAA, and MSRB securities regulatory exams including the Series 6, 7, 24, 26, 27, 28, 51, 52, 53, 55, 62, 63, 65, 66, 79, 82, and 99. The Solomon Exam Prep training system includes print and digital Exam Study Guides, Online Exam Simulators, Audiobooks, and Video Lectures to address the learning needs of all kinds of test-takers.

Solomon Exam Prep is led by founders Jeremy and Karen Solomon, both of whom maintain a lifelong commitment to advancing learning and education.  Solomon Exam Prep draws from a pool of seasoned educators, practitioners and communicators who are experienced in both investment education and the process of adult learning.

Solomon’s Industry News: September 2015 Edition

Solomon Exam Prep is happy to release this month’s edition of “Solomon’s Industry News.” Continue reading

Solomon Exam Prep is happy to release this month’s edition of “Solomon’s Industry News.” Every month we will send out industry updates from the past month, so you can stay current and up-to-date on everything that is happening here at Solomon Exam Prep and in the industry.

Check out this month’s edition here: Solomon’s Industry News – September 2015.

To be added to our monthly mailing list, please click here.

Bank Loan Disclosures on EMMA

EMMA, the Electronic Municipal Market Access website, now allows issuers to voluntarily share bank loan disclosure information online. Continue reading

EMMA, the Electronic Municipal Market Access website, now allows issuers to voluntarily share bank loan disclosure information online.

EMMA was created by the MSRB to give investors online access to official statements for municipal bonds, as well as other disclosure documents.  By adding the ability for issuers to share bank loan disclosure information, the MSRB is helping to provide investors with more transparency and more information with which to approach the municipal market.

The information can be posted on the issuer’s customized homepage. Getting it displayed is a two-step process. First, the issuer must submit the bank loan disclosure via the EMMA Dataport Submission Portal.  Once the information is submitted, it can be published on the Customized Issuer Homepage by using the Issuer Dashboard.

Investors will find bank loan disclosures and other documentation under the Continuing Disclosure tab on the issuer’s customized homepage.

EMMA is covered on the Series 7, 50, 51, 52, and 53 exams.  For more information about EMMA and the services it provides, please visit: http://emma.msrb.org/aboutemma/overview.aspx