Certificate Programs

The Villanova Graduate Tax Program offers qualified professionals the opportunity to earn a Certificate by undertaking a comprehensive and specialized curriculum in Estate Planning, Employee Benefits, or State and Local Taxation.

The Certificate can be completed in conjunction with the LLM or MT degree, or as a stand-along certificate program.

Further information about the certificate programs curriculum and course requirements are below.

Summary of Employee Benefits Certificate:

The Employee Benefits Certificate is available to attorneys, accountants, and other highly-qualified professionals.  The curriculum focuses on the field of employee benefits law with coursework designed from the practitioner's perspective and provides students with a comprehensive foundation in the complex federal laws that govern the taxation of employee benefits. 

Required Courses:


Employee Benefits LTX-6245

This course covers the labor-law and tax aspects of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) coverage of employee pension and welfare benefit plans. Topics include reporting and disclosure, preemption, fiduciary responsibility and prohibited transactions. The Internal Revenue Code requirements relating to retirement-type plans (i.e., pension, profit sharing and stock bonus plans) will be covered generally. The course will also address PBGC coverage and multi-employer plans. In addition, some other benefits frequently included as part of an employer's benefits package will be considered. This course is also offered at the J.D. level.


Qualified Pension and Profit Sharing Plans I LTX-3114

The first course in a two-course series will emphasize the tax requirements applicable to qualified pension and profit sharing plans. Topics will include an Introduction to ERISA and the Code, Qualification Rules, Minimum Participation Requirements, Overall Coverage Tests, Minimum Vesting Standards, Accrued Benefit Requirements, Limitations on Qualified Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Plans, Nondiscrimination Requirements, Minimum Funding Requirements and Deductibility of Employer Contributions.


Qualified Pension and Profit Sharing Plans II LTX-3116

The second course in a two-course series will emphasize the tax requirements applicable to qualified pension and profit sharing plans. Topics will include Distributions of Benefits and Loans, Taxation of Distributions from Qualified Plans and IRAs, Single Employer Plan Terminations, Determination Letters and Plan Disqualification, Cash or Deferred Arrangements, Tax Rules Applicable to Welfare Benefit Plans, Benefit Restrictions for Defined Benefit Plans, and Fiduciary Rules and Prohibited Transactions.


Executive Compensation LTX-4045

This course concentrates on non-qualified deferred compensation, contribution limitations and benefit distribution opportunities with respect to qualified deferred compensation plans, fringe benefits including welfare benefit plans, non-discrimination tests, and all aspects of equity compensation including stock bonus plans and stock options (incentive stock options and non-statutory stock options).  Key tax, accounting, corporate law and securities considerations involved in the current executive compensation environment will be covered.  Course topics will include constructive receipt and related doctrines, and the provisions of Sections 83, 409A, 162(m) and 280G.  In addition, the course will address the various forms of equity compensation including stock options, restricted stock, restricted stock units, stock appreciation rights, phantom equity, and compensation arrangements in partnerships/LLCs.


Advanced Topics in Employee Benefits LTX-5203

The course addresses issues that arise in a variety of business contexts. The primary focus is on tax-favored benefits, including  pension funds, 401(k) plans and health care, as well as stock plans.  We will address the disposition of arrangements in the context of mergers and acquisitions;  benefits for start-up businesses; pension plan funding;  and fiduciary conduct.


  • Employee Benefits
  • Executive Compensation
  • Qualified Pensions and Profit Sharing Plans

Summary of Estate Planning Certificate:

This graduate certificate explores the intricacies of estate tax through courses that cover wealth tax, trusts, charitable gift planning and more. Graduates emerge with skills to assist individuals and businesses in estate and wealth tax planning through a comprehensive analysis of complex estate tax issues.

Required Courses:


Wealth Tax LTX-3111
Elective 2

This course will consider substantive provisions of federal estate and gift tax laws and the generation-skipping transfer tax provisions, including a review of issues relating to transfer with retention of an interest or power, joint interests, life insurance proceeds, property subject to powers of appointment, marital deductions and split gifts. The course explores the fundamental tax concepts through a rigorous application of authorities to problems.


Charitable Gift Planning LTX-4021

This course provides the student with an opportunity to understand the positioning of charitable gift planning in the context of an integrated estate plan; to explore charitable gift planning opportunities by integrating broad areas of estate and financial planning issues important to high net worth individuals; and to gain insight in to the consulting and planning that is managed by development officers of charitable foundations and other similar philanthropic organizations.


Fundamentals of Testamentary Estate Planning Techniques LTX-2105
(Formerly Estate Planning I)

This course deals with: (1) the prototype dispositive schemes for married and unmarried couples; (2) the use of inter vivos trusts in estate planning including the minor's trust, insurance trust and charitable trust; and (3) planning for the executive and business owner, business transition techniques and planning for individuals with special needs.

Prerequisite: Wealth Tax


Income Taxation of Trusts and Estates LTX-2203

This course addresses federal income taxation of trusts and estates, including the decedent's final return, income and deductions in respect of a decedent, the conduit concept for taxing beneficiaries, the separate share rule, the throw-back rules, grantor trusts, and income tax deduction elections interrelated with the federal estate tax.


Fundamentals of Lifetime Estate Planning LTX-2210
(Formerly Estate Planning II)

This course deals with the development of a lifetime and testamentary dispositive scheme for the owner of a business. All three federal transfer taxes (estate, gift and generation skipping tax), and the federal income tax are considered. Areas emphasized are: retirement distributions, liability protection, buy-sell agreement provisions, the use of life insurance techniques, valuation freezes, gift-giving techniques, marital deductions, deferring estate tax under I.R.C. sec. 6166 and I.R.C. sec. 303 redemptions and other post-mortem considerations.

Prerequisite: Wealth Tax

Summary of State and Local Taxation Certificate:

State and Local Taxation (“SALT”) continues to be a significant area of focus for all businesses concerned with their company’s cash flow, effective tax rate and risk profile. Increasingly, state and local governments react to their own financial challenges with expanding tax regimes, increased reporting and compliance requirements, and aggressive audit activity and penalty assessments. As a result, the need for tax professionals equipped with a deep knowledge and skillset in SALT continues to grow.

The SALT Certificate curriculum will expose the tax professional to the various regimes of state and local taxation that affect today’s businesses. More importantly, it will enable the professional to create or recommend solutions that are in conformity with the states’ applicable laws and regulations, and are consistent with the company’s overall business objectives and global and national tax profile.

The SALT Certificate courses are taught by leading SALT practitioners from Big 4 and regional accounting firms, Law firms, and Fortune 500 companies. The SALT Certificate is available to LL.M. students, MT students, or as a stand-alone Certificate.

Required Courses:


State and Local Taxation: Foundations LTX-3112

This course serves as an introduction to the basic principles of state and local taxation, and provides an overview to the various regimes of taxation used by state and local governments.  This course will identify and analyze the federal limitations on the powers of the state and local governments to tax business activity within their respective jurisdictions.  Topics of discussion with include the U.S. Constitution’s impact on a state’s ability to tax as limited by the Commerce Clause and the Due Process Clause, the Supreme Court’s view of nexus, and other federal statutes and regulations that affect a state’s ability to design a valid and legal taxing regime.  The course also includes introductory materials on substantive aspects of state tax laws in the areas of corporate income taxes and sales and use taxes.

This course constitutes one of the five courses required to earn the SALT Certificate, but it also serves as an excellent introduction to the area of state and local taxation that will enable a general tax practitioner to be aware of the SALT issues that affect all businesses. 


State and Local Taxation: Income and Franchise Taxes LTX-3120

The main focus of this course will be on the various state and local taxing regimes that affect businesses operating in corporate, pass-through and sole proprietorship format, with a primary emphasis on business income and franchise taxes.  Topics include nexus and methods to evaluate current in-state activities and contacts to determine if a filing requirement exists, the unitary business concept and principles and methodologies for apportionment and allocation of revenue, and restructuring approaches to achieve organizational efficiencies and cost savings.

Prerequisite:  LTX-3112 State and Local Tax: Foundations


State and Local Taxation: Sales and Use and Indirect Taxes LTX-3121

This course provides an in depth review of the basic statutory design and implementation of an indirect sales and use tax regime, and an understanding of a taxpayer’s reporting and compliance responsibilities.  The initial focus of the course will be to review and fully understand the Constitutional aspects of indirect taxation.  In addition, the course will address the challenges and approaches to applying the existing law with current and emerging business transactions that do not necessarily fit the tax profile of the past, such as internet sales.  Additional topics include real and personal property taxes, transfer taxes, value added tax (“VAT”), and abandoned and unclaimed property.

Prerequisite:  LTX-3112 State and Local Tax: Foundations


State and Local Taxation: Controversy and Litigation Issues LTX-3127

Increased pressure on state tax authorities to generate revenue has resulted in a growing number of examinations of returns and expanded audit activity, across all jurisdictions and types of tax. Frequently, this can mean significant adjustments with increased penalty potential to all forms of businesses.  This course addresses the various issues that must be considered when a state tax jurisdiction has commenced an audit examination or has issued an assessment.  The course will identify approaches for documenting and supporting taxpayer positions, and address strategies for managing the examination review, conducting the appeal and protest process, and planning the negotiation and litigation strategy.

Prerequisite:  LTX-3112 State and Local Tax: Foundations


State and Local Taxation: Advanced Issues in Business Transactions LTX-3128

This course addresses the various SALT issues that arise in the context of a business transaction, such as the acquisition of an existing company, the spin off or disposition of a subsidiary company or division, or a merger of two or more companies.  In all of these situations, there is a significant amount of financial and tax due diligence required before the transaction is approved, and the SALT area is a major component of the tax due diligence analysis.  Topics addressed in this transaction oriented course include state and local tax transaction efficiencies, resulting state tax structures and profiles, state conformity issues and other transaction related issues.  In addition, the course will identify and discuss techniques and approaches used to uncover potential SALT liabilities and exposures.

Prerequisite: LTX-3112 State and Local Tax: Foundations


General Certificate Information


Tuition for students pursuing the certificate as a stand-alone program is the same per-credit amount as for LL.M and MT degree students.

Completion of the Program

Given an appropriate sequencing of courses, a certificate student can finish the program in one academic year. To accommodate work-schedule and other time commitments, a certificate participant has three years within which to complete the program requirements.

Certificate Students Switching to the LLM or MT Program

Students who enter the Certificate Program may develop an interest in pursuing the full LLM or MT degree. Since admission requirements for certificate participants generally are the equivalent of those for degree candidates, in most instances the transition to a full degree candidate can be accomplished without additional application submissions.  Interested students must contact the Graduate Tax Office for approval.

Form of Certificate

The certificate awarded is a certificate of achievement that signals the successful completion of the specialized course of study. Note that the certification is not an attestation as to the professional competence of the certificate holder, nor is it a formal degree. At the beginning of the semester in which coursework will be completed, the student MUST complete the Diploma Order Form.

Continuing Education Credit

CLE and CPE continuing education credit is available to attorneys and accountants who are certificate students who practice in the state of Pennsylvania. Online courses are not eligible for CLE or CPE credit. To request continuing education credit, please complete the CPE and CLE form and submit to graduatetaxprogram@law.villanova.edu at the start of each semester. 

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