If you or your business are involved in a legal dispute where financial documents or procedures are being called into question, then you’ll probably have heard mention of forensic accountancy. This specialised field has evolved in order to provide clients and courts with an expert assessment of controversial financial matters - the term ‘forensic’ in this context merely means suitable for use in court. The accountants providing these services must be highly qualified and professional, as their evidence is treated as expert testimony in a case.
Which Sort of Cases May Forensic Accountants Be Involved In?
As you might imagine, there are a wide variety of situations in which an expert of this sort would be needed. At its most simplistic, forensic accountancy may be used to determine a fair payout in cases where a company has been unable to trade as a result of the defendant’s actions. This would involve looking at how much revenue the company would usually generate during that time and whether there were any special opportunities that they lost due to the illegal conduct. In very complex cases, forensic accounting is used to analyse the books of companies where an owner or employee is accused of fraud. This requires the accountants to check and double check every single transaction, sometimes over a period of many years, in order to discover whether or not the figures add up. The complicated nature of some fraud schemes means that these specialists must have extremely good attention to detail and impeccable financial knowledge.
Because this profession is one which is required for the everyday functioning of the legal system, all of the main accountancy firms will have a specialised in-house division. There are also smaller, boutique businesses which stake their reputation on their forensic abilities.
As the way in which we are able to gather and report information continues to develop, forensic accounting is evolving as a field and the professionals working within it are being required to learn new skills. In fact, the newest generation of forensic accountants may have more in common with IT professionals than with conventional accountants, as they are increasingly involved in tracking data and money as it moves from place to place over the internet. Once traced, such data must be analysed as thoroughly as any other financial information - and, again, this becomes much more complicated if the case involves a fraudulent scheme which has been in place for a number of years.