Forensic Accounting

Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Forensic Accounting




Full Definition of Forensic Accounting


Forensic Accounting is the speciality practice area of accounting 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.

Categories And Examples

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.

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.

Three public high-profile examples of cases in which Forensic Accounting has been essential to revealing possible illegal activities are the Los Gatos Union Elementary School District Audit, The Compton Community College School District Audit, and The City of Cape Coral Utilities Expansion Review. In all of these cases, Forensic Auditing coupled with investigative procedures produced evidence that fraud or misappropriation of funds may have occurred. See external links below for the FCMAT audits.

Forensic Accountants

Forensic Accountants may be involved in recovering proceeds of crime and in relation to confiscation proceedings concerning actual or assumed proceeds of crime or money laundering. In the United Kingdom, the relevant legislation is contained in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. In India, there is a separate breed of forensic accountants called Certified Forensic Accounting Professionals.

Some Forensic Accountants are also Certified Fraud Examiners and/or Certified Public Accountants.

Forensic Accountants utilize an understanding of business information and financial reporting systems, accounting and auditing standards and procedures, evidence gathering and investigative techniques, and litigation processes and procedures to perform their work. Forensic Accountants are also increasingly playing more proactive risk reduction roles by designing and performing extended procedures as part of the statutory audit, acting as advisers to audit committees, fraud deterrence engagements, and assisting in investment analyst research.

Licensure Requirements

As Forensic Accounting occasionally falls within the scope of Private Investigation, some states require specialized certifications and licenses to work within the field. But in most cases, accountants can perform Forensic audits without a private investigator license.


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Definition Sources


Definitions for Forensic Accounting are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 23rd April, 2020 | 1 Views.