Forensic Accounting is a specialty practice area of accountancy that describes engagements that result from actual or anticipated disputes or litigation. “Forensic” means “suitable for use in a court of law”, and it is to that standard and potential outcome that forensic accountants generally have to work. Forensic accountants, also referred to as forensic auditors or investigative auditors, often have to give expert evidence at the eventual trial. All of the larger accounting firms, as well as many medium-sized and boutique firms, have specialist forensic accounting departments. Within these groups, there may be further sub-specializations: some forensic accountants may, for example, just specialize in insurance claims, personal injury claims,fraud, construction, or royalty audits.
Forensic Accounting Categories
Engagements relating to civil disputes may fall into several categories: calculating and quantifying losses and economic damages, whether suffered through tort or breach of contract; disagreements relating to company acquisitions—perhaps earn outs or breaches of warranties; and business valuation. Forensic accountants often assist in professional negligence claims where they are assessing and commenting on the work of other professionals.
Forensic Accountants are also engaged in marital and family law matters for the purpose of analyzing lifestyle for spousal support purposes, determining income available for child support and equitable distribution.
Engagements relating to criminal matters typically arise in the aftermath of fraud. They frequently involve the assessment of accounting systems and accounts presentation—in essence assessing if the numbers reflect reality.