Forensic accountants: pack light, leave no stone unturned
You have probably never asked yourself “where can I find a forensic accountant?”. But it may surprise you to know that you don’t have to be in any sort of trouble to need one. You won’t necessarily engage one as a defensive manoeuvre at all. You might find that the time to engage one is before you buy something, such as a business, or it might be afterwards. What, then, is a forensic accountant?
Forensic accountants have a very particular combination of education and experience that combines with accounting, auditing and investigative skills to uncover the truth. They are not like the accountant of popular imagination, preparing for tax returns or annual accounts. They possess specialist skills based on their exposure to specific industries such as tax, insurance, banking, property finance, fiduciary services and Funds, to name just a few examples. A Forensic accountant will have ensured they have spent time working within one or more of these fields to be able to learn the business practices related to them. You must know what the practice is before you can spot a departure from it.
Forensic accountants are actively looking for signs of fraud. However, they are also alive to errors, either intended or otherwise, that demonstrate that what is being presented as factual might well be a fabrication of the facts. They must look beyond the numbers and anticipate that actions both civil and criminal may follow their endeavours. Forensic accountants conduct interviews to obtain individual stories and a vital component of the skill set is the possession of observational skills to pick up hints or suspicious clues.
After collecting evidence a forensic accountant begins the analysis and will then typically write a report explaining their opinions and conclusions in terms that are designed to make clear and without technical jargon what has been unearthed.
Litigators regularly call upon them to provide specialist litigation support and lawyers engage them to review evidence and testimony and explain its significance. A forensic accountant can tell the lawyer what additional information is needed to prove the case and what questions to ask a witness.
Forensic accountants as part of a multidisciplinary team. When a litigator and a forensic accountant form a multidisciplinary team, the nature of the practice of the forensic accountant can be significantly enhanced as the working relationship allows more anticipation, cross-pollination of ideas and a greater streamlining of efforts. At SJA we have the ability to conduct a legal assessment of a situation combined with forensic accountancy with little delay and more particularly add a tax dimension to the final report if required.