About the Certified Exchange Specialist® Designation

CES® Certification Council

In 1998, Margo Mucha McDonnell was chair of the FEA Continuing Education Committee and polled the volunteer committee members to determine the committee's goal for the upcoming year. Jim Casterline, a long time FEA Director and incoming President, recommended the FEA develop a certification program. Over the next few years, many committees assisted in polling the FEA general membership to determine whether members wanted to develop such a program. In 1999, Brad Penner became co-chair and helped create our Mission Statement. At the FEA Annual Conference and General Meeting in October 2000, the FEA membership overwhelming voted to proceed with a voluntary certification program. In 2001, the term Certified Exchange Specialist® (CES®) was chosen as the designation members wanted to use to convey their competence to taxpayers and their professional advisors.

In 2002, a professional certification program consultant was retained to assist the FEA with the development and implementation of its CES® Program. A Certification Council was created in the autumn of 2002 to work directly with our professional consultants. The Charter CES® Certification Council was as follows:

Margo Mucha McDonnell, Co-Chair
Bradley S. Penner, Co-Chair
Frances Buerman
Rosa Esqueda
Dennis P. Helmick
David Kuns
Sanna Phinney
Hugh E. Pollard
Hilda Ramirez
Kim Schooley
Timothy E. Snodgrass
Teresa Story-Turner

The inaugural CES® examination was administered on May 15, 2003 in Washington, D.C. and the second examination was administered on May 31, 2003 in San Francisco, California.

Mission Statement

The Mission Statement of the Certified Exchange Specialist® Program:

To establish a national designation program to formally recognize those individuals who have demonstrated, through testing and Continuing Education, their knowledge of IRC Section 1031 rules and regulations pertaining to like-kind exchanges.

To provide a designation that will give the public confidence that they are dealing with an individual who has demonstrated knowledge in the intricacies of a like-kind exchange.

To encourage exchange professionals to increase their knowledge of IRC Section 1031 rules and regulations, and to maintain currency in the subject through Continuing Education.

To encourage the growth of the FEA by providing a nationally recognized certification program for exchange professionals.

CES® Certification Council

The Federation of Exchange Accommodators, Inc. (FEA) has established a Certification Council comprised of a panel of 16 experts that represent the geographic, size and type of the FEA membership. The Council developed the eligibility requirements and examination materials. The panel defined the body of knowledge from IRC §1031 rules and regulations and determined the content areas appropriate for the examination. The content of the examination is based on this body of knowledge.

The examination questions are written by exchange specialists and reviewed by a panel of experts prior to being selected for the examination. After the examination, the questions are analyzed statistically to identify any hidden flaws. Questions that appear to be flawed are discussed by the Certification Council to determine if they should be deleted from scoring entirely or if credit should be given for more than one answer.

The Council members serve one-year terms that begin in late September or early October. There is no limit on the number of terms a Council member may serve however; there are participation levels that must be met in order to serve. Full and active participation is defined as follows:

  • Timely completion of all assignments given by the Executive Director of the FEA, the Council co-chairs or a committee leader;
  • Communication with co-chairs if extended leave is necessary;
  • Participation in monthly scheduled conference calls;
  • Completion of all item writing assignments and submission of well thought out, usable items;
  • Participation in all item writing reviews;
  • Active participation in at least one Council committee (Communication, Continuing Education, Designee Services, Due Process & Appeals, Eligibility, Ethics & Discipline, Examination, Executive, Finance, Maintenance of Certification/Renewal, or Marketing) including completion of all assignments and participation in conference calls associated with the committee; and
  • If unable to participate in scheduled monthly conference calls or committee conference calls, notification must be made to one of the Council co-chairs or the committee chair and the Council member is responsible for the completion of any assignments given.

The average time commitment per week is approximately three (3) to five (5) hours.

All Council members are required to sign two (2) agreements which generally provide:

  1. Confidentiality Statement
    Agree not to disclose examination content, the names of those candidates that have applied or taken the exam or any other sensitive matters.
  2. Property of FEA
    Any work you complete (examination questions, brochures, etc.) for FEA or the CES® Program is the property of FEA.
  3. Seminars, Exam Prep Guides, etc.
    Cannot prepare any non-FEA or Certification Council authorized seminars or study guides to help candidates prepare for the exam until one year after your term ends.

A Certification Council member may not use their position on the Council to market themselves or their company to potential clients or referral sources as being a better choice to provide exchange expertise.

Eligibility to Serve on Certification Council

To serve on the Council, you must be a CES® Designee in good standing, currently and for a minimum of the preceding two years, and have a cumulative of five full-time years of experience facilitating exchanges. Once the number of vacancies is determined for each term, all CES® Designees will be notified and provided with the opportunity to apply.

Become a CES® Certification Council Member

As the end of a one-year term of a Council member nears, the Chair of the Council Recruitment Committee determines how many, if any, vacancies exist for the next term. If vacancies exist, the Committee Chair will forward a letter and application to all CES® Designees for their consideration. Anyone who is interested, satisfies the eligibility criteria and meets the time requirements is encouraged to apply. Once all of the applications are received, the Committee Chair will arrange a conference call with each applicant as well as the all members of the Council Recruitment Committee. This gives the Committee members the opportunity to speak with each applicant, answer all of the applicant's questions and determine which applicant is most qualified and committed to serve on the Council. The Committee Chair will contact each applicant telephonically to advise the applicant of the Committee's decision.

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