Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants possess specialized accounting skills. They utilize investigative, auditing, and accounting skills to analyze an organization's financial statements while investigating fraud. Forensic accounting must be thorough and accurate since findings are often presented in court or before administrative review panels. Forensic is a word that means appropriate to use within a courtroom, so forensic accountants must be thorough and accurate when fulfilling their job responsibilities. These specialists are also known as forensic investigative auditors or forensic auditors. Forensic accountants often offer expert testimony in court and pass evidence to attorneys and law enforcement officials.

Forensic accountants assigned to civil disputes typically investigate the following situations: acquisition disagreements between two companies, typically involving warranty breaches and earn outs; calculating and determining economic losses and damages resulting from contract breaches, tort, or business valuations. Forensic accountants are frequently involved with professional negligence claims, and it's their responsibility to evaluate and offer opinions about the conclusions of other specialists. Forensic accountants often also participate in marital and family law cases by evaluating lifestyles to determine income when courts are making determinations about spousal and child support.

Forensic accountants are employed by government agencies, banks, insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, and various other organizations. CPAs also frequently provide litigation support and forensic accounting services. Accountants occasionally participate in criminal investigations, while some are employed at law enforcement and government regulatory agencies. Because financial fraud is widespread, accountants working for federal government agencies are assigned important duties, and the amount of forensic accountants working for government agencies is increasing. Those holding bachelor's degrees in accounting or licensed as CPAs can begin careers with the FBI within a special entry program. These specialists also frequently analyze balance sheets and accounting systems to determine if documented figures are accurate.

The following are typical duties of forensic accountants:

  • Reviewing and investigating financial evidence
  • Designing computerized systems to assist in the presentation and evaluation of evidence
  • Relaying their conclusions via reports, document collections, and exhibits
  • Helping with legal proceedings by providing expert testimony in court and preparing visual aids, reports, and other types of trial evidence.

Most big accounting firms, in addition to numerous medium-sized ones, have forensic accounting divisions. In these divisions, forensic accountants with sub-specialties are often employed. Many forensic accountants are experts in insurance claims, fraud, royalty, and construction audits, and personal injury cases.

Currently, forensic accountants are more involved with risk reduction by developing and executing long-term statutory audit procedures, consulting with audit committees, conducting investment analyst research, and participating in fraud prevention activities.

According to the Forensic Accountants Society of North America (FASNA), forensic accountants spend most their time investigating the following scenarios:

  • Business revenue loss
  • Property and inventory loss
  • Wrongful death and personal injury cases
  • Employee misconduct
  • Truth in leasing and lending
  • Post judgment calculations
  • Income loss
  • Providing expert testimony in court
  • Fidelity and divorce claims
  • Fraud
  • Business and company valuation

Forensic accountants also work in the following industries:

  • Money management, banking, and finance
  • Engineering, contracting, and construction
  • Medical care
  • Education
  • Indian tribal government
  • Real estate
  • Insurance
  • Wholesale and retail
  • Manufacturing
  • Municipal, state, and federal government agencies
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Estate and trust
  • Hospitality
  • Transportation

Education and Training
If you enter the field of forensic accounting, you have the option of working for a firm or providing contract services as a consultant. Forensic accountants are typically well paid since firms charge high fees for litigation support requiring the services of forensic accountants. High job growth for forensic accountants has been projected through the near future since cyber and white collar crime is rising.

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To begin an accounting career, you must obtain a college degree in accounting. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in accounting are available at most colleges and universities. We have compiled the names of reputable accounting degree programs to simplify your search. To begin a career with a federal government agency, such as the FBI, IRS, or Treasury Department, or qualify for CPA licensure, you must obtain a bachelor's degree in accounting. Aspiring CPAs holding bachelor's degrees in business can also qualify for licensure after completing a few accounting courses.

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