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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Broker-Dealer vs. Investment Adviser: What’s the Difference?

Do your customers know the difference between an IA and BD? Do you know the importance of this distinction and how it may affect your registration status? Continue reading

Do your customers know the difference between an investment adviser and broker-dealer? Do you know the importance of this distinction and how it may affect your registration status? 

Investment Adviser or Broker-Dealer at work.

For many retail customers, the difference between an investment adviser (IA) and a broker-dealer (BD) may not seem important. A customer may have received an investment recommendation from a BD, or owned securities through an IA account. However, which kind of firm you work for is important for knowing which services you may provide, how you may provide them, and which qualification exams you must pass.

Investment Advisers

Investment advisers are usually firms, though they can be an individual operating as a sole proprietor, whose primary business is providing investment advice, and who are paid for the advice itself. Investment adviser representatives (IARs) are individuals who work for IAs and advise the IA’s clients on the IA’s behalf. IAs and IARs are not “stockbrokers” and cannot directly buy or sell securities for their customers. While many have IA accounts through which they own stocks, mutual funds, and other securities, in fact these are accounts an IA opens on the customer’s behalf with a BD. 

Broker-Dealers

Broker-dealers are usually firms, though they can be an individual operating as a sole proprietor, that execute securities transactions for customers. An individual who is employed by a BD to handle customer accounts is called an “agent of a broker-dealer” on some exams, or a “registered representative” (RR) on others. BDs can offer investment advice incidental to their work with customers but cannot be compensated for the advice itself. If a BD acts as an intermediary between a buyer and a seller, then the BD can charge a commission on the trade. If a BDs buys or sells from its own inventory, then the BD makes money by charging a markup on securities that they sell and taking a markdown on securities that they buy.

So, if you’re an IAR, you… 
  • …can provide advice
  • …can be paid for that advice
  • …cannot execute trades
  • …cannot charge commissions or markups on your customer’s trades
If you’re a BD agent (also known as a registered representative), you…
  • …can provide advice
  • …cannot be paid for that advice
  • …can execute trades
  • …can charge commissions or markups on your customer’s trades

Testing and Licensing

Finally, many firms, especially larger ones, maintain both IA and BD registrations. When working for these “dual registrants,” you may be asked to qualify as an IAR, BD agent, or both, depending on your role.

In fact, an increase in dual registrations is one of the note-worthy trends Solomon discusses in our recent white paper, “Optimizing On-Boarding in 2021: 7 Key Trends for the Securities Industry,” available for download from this blog post

To become an agent of a broker-dealer (registered representative), you must pass the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE), and a “top-off” exam such as the Series 6 or Series 7, and for state registration usually the Series 63. To become an IAR, you must pass either the Series 65, or, if you work for a dually registered firm, the SIE, the Series 7, and the Series 66.

January Study Question of the Month

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

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, Series 6, 7, 22, 24, and 82 exams.

Question:

Which of the following people would be considered a specified adult?

Answer Choices:

A. A 16 year old with autism

B. A 30 year old

C. A 60 year old with a heart condition

D. An 18 year old in a coma

Correct Answer: D

Explanation: A specified adult is a natural person age 65 and older or a natural person age 18 and older who the member firm reasonably believes has a mental or physical impairment that renders the individual unable to protect his or her own interests.

December Study Question of the Month

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

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 Series 6, 7, 14 and 79 exams.

Question: 
 
Which of the following is not typically part of an underwriting agreement?
 
Answer Choices:
 
A. Description of the per-share underwriting spread
 
B. Description of a Greenshoe option
 
C. Terms between syndicate members and selling group dealers
 
D. Terms under which the underwriter can terminate the contract
 
 

Correct Answer: C

Explanation: The underwriting agreement, which is typically signed the evening before or the morning of the effective date of a securities issue typically includes the per-share underwriting spread, an over-allotment (Greenshoe) option if granted, and the underwriter’s termination rights. It also is the document that contains the public offering price or a formula to derive it.

 

SEC Announces Major Revisions to Registration Exemptions Aimed at “Harmonizing” Regulation A Offerings, Regulation D Private Placements, and Crowdfunding

On November 2, the SEC announced a collection of rule changes meant to, in the announcement’s words, “harmonize, simplify, and improve” its “overly complex exempt offering framework.” Continue reading

On November 2, the SEC announced a collection of rule changes meant to, in the announcement’s words, “harmonize, simplify, and improve” its “overly complex exempt offering framework.” The changes affect Regulation A, which governs small public offerings; Regulation D, which governs private placements; and Regulation CF, which governs crowdfunding. This system of exemptions allows various small offerings to avoid the normal registration process required by the Securities Act.  
 
The rule changes should provide a clearer choice as to which exemption is most appropriate to an issuer, based on how much the issuer needs to raise and other factors.
 
The changes also seek to clarify how issuers can avoid “integration” of exempt offerings. Integration is the risk that exempt offerings will be considered a single offering by the SEC, because the offerings are too similar.
 
Highlights of the changes include:
 
  • If two exempt offerings are conducted more than 30 days apart, they are almost always protected from integration.
  • An issuer can “test the waters” with potential investors before deciding which exemption it will use for an offering. Test-the-waters communications solicit interest in a potential offering before the issuer has filed anything with the SEC. Previously, an issuer could only test the waters after deciding that its potential offering would take place under Regulation A.
  • Caps on the amount that may be raised through these exemptions have been increased:
    • Crowdfunding: from $1.07 million to $5 million
    • Regulation A, Tier 2: from $50 million to $75 million 
    • Regulation D, Rule 504: from $5 million to $10 million
  • Make “bad actor” exclusions more consistent across different exemptions.
The rule changes will take effect early next year. Until the changes take effect, securities exam questions will continue to be based on the old rules. FINRA Exams affected by these rule changes include the SIE, Series 6, Series 7, Series 14, Series 22, Series 24, Series 65, Series 66, Series 79, and Series 82.

Testing integrity in times of COVID-19

Test candidates are bound by guidelines that prohibit cheating or using any unfair means during the exam. Continue reading

On July 13, 2020, FINRA and NASAA responded to the pandemic testing challenge posed by in-person test centers with Prometric’s ProProctor, an online testing service, for certain qualifications exams. The exams for which online testing is permitted are the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE), Series 6, Series 7 and the NASAA Series 63, Series 65, and Series 66 exams. Read more about the announcement here

Curious about what the ProProctor online testing experience looks like? Click here to find out.

It is interesting to note that although the exams are proctored remotely, candidates are still bound by guidelines that prohibit cheating or using any unfair means during the exam. The checks that have been put in place especially for remote testing are as follows:

  • Candidates are required to provide a 360° view of his/her workstations and surrounding environment;
  • A camera (external or embedded) is required during the course of the exam. If an embedded camera is used, a large free-standing mirror is also required in order to reflect unseen areas;
  • Candidates are asked to participate in a visual person check (including a sleeve, pocket and glasses check);
  • While the exam is in progress, candidates are prohibited from leaving, moving out of or obstructing the camera view while the exam is in progress without prior authorization from the proctor; and
  • Additional requirements that are listed in the ProProctor User Guide.

Warning: a candidate found cheating in an online test will be subject to the same disciplinary actions that he/she would be subject to in a physical test, and if found guilty, can be permanently barred from the broker-dealer industry.

FINRA qualification exam restructure update

Panel discussion May 24, 2016 at the FINRA annual conference. John Kalohn, Joe McDonald and Roni Meikle from FINRA discussed coming restructure of qualification exams. Continue reading

Panel discussion May 24, 2016 at the FINRA annual conference. John Kalohn, Joe McDonald and Roni Meikle from FINRA discussed coming restructure of qualification exams.

Goals of exam restructure:

• Respond to industry and regulatory changes
• Reduce redundancy of content across exams
• Streamline exam process
• Minimize impact and change to the registration rules
• Ensure registered reps have a solid breadth of understanding of securities industry

Another goal appears to be a desire by FINRA and member firms to expand the number of people who can and will get licensed to work in the securities industry.

Exam restructure launch date has been postponed, at least a year, till January 2018 at the earliest.

Exams slated to be retired, will not be retired till 2018 restructure launch date. These include the Series 11 (Order Processing Assistant), Series 42 (Options Representative), Series 62 (Corporate Securities Representative) and Series 72 (Government Securities Representative) exams. The panel noted that only one person had taken the Series 72 in the past year.

Anyone holding registrations that are being retired (Series 11, Series 62, Series 72) will be able to continue to hold them until they leave industry for more than 2 years.

Series 17/37/38 Exams – FINRA will retire these exams and use the UK and Canadian certifications to exempt certificate holders from the Essentials Exam.

Exams that will remain as “Top-off” exams: Series 6, 7, 22, 57, 79, 82, 86/87 and 99. Top-off exams will be shorter than current exams.

Essentials Exam features:

Essentials exam currently envisioned to be 100 questions long.

Unlike the current system, you will not need to be associated with a member firm to take the Essentials Exam. In other words, you won’t need to have a job with a broker-dealer to take the Essentials Exam.

If you pass the Essentials Exam, it will be valid for 4 years from your passing date.

Just passing the Essentials Exam will not be enough to qualify you to be a registered person with FINRA. To become a registered person, you will have to have a job with a FINRA member firm, file a U4, get finger-printed, and pass a Top-off exam.

What if you are currently registered?

Current registrants will maintain registration(s) without the need for additional testing.

Most current registrants will be considered to have passed the Essentials Exam, and it will be valid for 4 years upon leaving the securities industry.

Registrants who return to the securities industry within 2 years will regain registration without needing to take the Essentials or Top-off exam.

Registrants who return to the securities industry between 2 and 4 years later will not need to take the Essentials Exam, only the Top-off exam for the registration position.

Registrants who return to the securities industry more than 4 years later will need to take both the Essentials and the top-off exam.

Next steps:

Securities Essentials Exam is being finalized by FINRA and committee of industry representatives.

Top-off exam outlines to be released 9-12 months prior to launch date of exam restructure

Prepare CRD and other FINRA systems for new exam
structure

Create a system for persons not associated with a member to enroll and pay for the Essentials Exam

Make registration rule, fee and qualification exam filings with the SEC in 2016

FINRA says exam restructure will do the following for firms:

• Give firms an opportunity to employ new business models for onboarding staff.
• Allow firms to better gauge industry knowledge of interns and other potential employees.
• Allow non-registered staff (e.g., administrative) to take Essentials Exam.
• Create a larger pool of potential new registered persons

Impact on firms

Firms will have choices of how to onboard new reps:
• Request applicants take and pass Essentials Exam prior to making job application
• Have new hires take Essentials Exam-only initially and then take top-off qualification exam
• Have new hires take both Essentials Exam and top-off exam together

Other info related to exam restructure:

• Through CRD, firms will be able to confirm whether and when an individual passed the Essentials Exam.
• Top-off exams will retain traditional names: i.e., Series 7 exam will remain the Series 7 exam.
• Position designations in CRD will remain the same (i.e., GS will remain GS [Series 7]).
• Firms will be able to schedule the Essentials Exam for support personnel through CRD.
• Current registrants will not need to take the Essentials Exam to maintain current registrations.
• Principal exams and registrations will not be directly affected.

Principal Exams

Under the new representative-level program structure, several principal exams cover subject matter already covered on the Essentials and the Top-off exams.

Example – Series 24 Exam major topic areas include:

• Sales practice (Series 7)
• Investment banking (Series 79)
• Trading (Series 57)
• Research (Series 86/87)

As a result of this, FINRA will develop a principal exam structure that builds on the new representative-level exam structure to reduce redundancy in content and better focus on testing knowledge of and ability to apply supervisory level rules and concepts

Study Question of the Month – April 2016

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available! Relevant to the Series 6, 7, 24, 26, 62, and 82. –ANSWER POSTED– Continue reading

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

***Submit your answer to info@solomonexamprep.com to be entered to win a $10 Starbucks gift card.***

Study Question

Question (Relevant to the Series 6, Series 7, Series 24, Series 26, Series 62, and Series 82): Which of the following would most likely be classified as a branch office?

Answers: 

A. The floor of a registered exchange

B. A vacation home where the registered representative works for 45 business days a year

C. A customer service office where no sales activities are conducted

D. A location used primarily for non-securities activities and from which 25 securities transactions are effected a year

Correct Answer: B. A vacation home where the registered representative works for 45 business days a year

Rationale: A branch office is any location where one or more associated employees is in the business of soliciting or effecting (but not executing) the purchase or sale of any security.

A location outside of a primary residence, for example, a vacation home, is considered a non-branch location as long as it is used for securities business fewer than 30 business days per year.

The floor of a registered exchange is also considered a non-branch office if it is where a member firm conducts business with public customers.

Other examples of non-branch offices include:

  • Any location that is used primarily to engage in non-securities activities and from which the associated persons effect no more than 25 securities transactions in any one calendar year (provided that any retail communication identifying such location also sets forth the address and telephone number of the location from which the associated persons conducting business at the non-branch locations are directly supervised)
  • Any office location established solely for customer service and/or back office type functions where no sales activities are conducted

Congratulations to Alexa M. this month’s Study Question of the Month winner!

Study Question of the Month – November

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available. Relevant to the Series 6, 7, 62, 65 and 79. –ANSWER POSTED– Continue reading

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

***Submit your answer to info@solomonexamprep.com to be entered to win a $10 Starbucks gift card.***

Study Question

Question (Relevant to the Series 6Series 7Series 62Series 65 and Series 79): A few years back ABC Corporation issued callable bonds yielding 6%. The call price is 104, and the call protection period has ended. The bonds are trading at 105 today. Which of the following are true:

I. The current yield on these bonds is 6.3%

II. The current yield on these bonds is 5.7%

III. There is a good chance the bonds will be called

IV. There is a good chance the bonds will not be called

Answers: 

A. I and III

B. I and IV

C. II and III

D. II and IV

Correct Answer: C. II and III

Rationale: The formula for calculating current yield is the annual interest on the bond ($60) divided by the current price of the bond ($1050) which is equal to 5.7%. Because ABC can finance the debt at a lower interest rate than they are currently paying there is a good chance that they will call the bonds.

Congratulations Stephen Z., this month’s Study Question of the Month winner!

All study questions are from Solomon’s industry-leading Online Exam Simulator.

FINRA Enacts New Rule 2040 on Payments to Unregistered Persons

FINRA Rule 2040 became effective August 24, 2015. It replaces NASD Rules 2420 and 1060(b). This change affects the Series 6, 7, 24, 26, 27, 28, 62, and 82 exams. Continue reading

Exam AlertFINRA Rule 2040 became effective August 24, 2015.  It replaces NASD Rules 2420 and 1060(b).  This change affects the Series 6, 7, 24, 26, 27, 28, 62, and 82 exams.

FINRA Rule 2040 explains that an entity must register as a broker-dealer in order to receive commissions and fees for a securities transaction, unless it is a transaction that does not require registration.  FINRA does not explicitly outline which transactions do not require registration, but it states that member firms can make this determination on their own by:

  • Relying on releases, no-action letters, and interpretations from the SEC
  • Requesting a no-action letter from the SEC
  • Seeking a legal opinion

Rule 2040 further states that retired representatives may continue to be paid commissions on customer accounts if the representative and member have agreed upon the continuing payments before retirement.

Finally, Rule 2040 (c) states that members may conduct transactions with foreign finders as long as certain requirements are met, including:

  • The member firm is sure that the finder does not need to register as a broker-dealer in the U.S. and the compensation arrangement doesn’t violate foreign law
  • Neither the finder nor the customer is a U.S. citizen, and both live abroad
  • Customers receive a document disclosing the compensation paid to the finder by the member firm
  • Customers acknowledge receipt of this disclosure to the member firm in writing, which the firm retains and keeps available for inspection
  • Confirmation of each transaction indicates that a finder’s fee is being paid by written agreement

Source: Regulatory Notice 15-07