How can a Forensic Accountant help me or my client?
2nd June 2014 by Fiona Hotston Moore
What is a Forensic Accountant?
Wikipedia defines a Forensic Accountant as “… an experienced auditor or accountant and investigator of legal and financial documents that is hired to look into suspicions of fraudulent activity...".
In fact our role is far wider than this.
Yes, we undertake financial investigations but we do so for a wide range of disputes and claims. From commercial disputes between companies to divorce and family fall-outs; royalty audits and tax investigations to disputes over valuations and insolvency investigations; personal injury and business insurance claims to disputes between shareholders and partners. There is a wide array of situations where a Forensic Accountant can provide invaluable expertise, advice and support.
Acting as an expert witness
Lawyers will engage the services of a Forensic Accountant, on behalf of their client, to undertake a financial investigation and then present an independent objective opinion on the matter under review. This takes the form of an expert report and, as a result of this work, we may be required to attend court as an expert witness and be cross examined on our findings in the report.
Assisting before litigation
However Forensic Accountants are not only engaged for disputes that are heading into the courtroom. Our input can be invaluable early on in a discussion concerning a commercial dispute and we quite often assist clients in reaching a negotiated settlement or advising in mediation or arbitration.
Having worked in this field for some 20 years now, the cases I have personally been involved in illustrate the wide range of situations where the services of a Forensic Accountant would be beneficial. For example:
- a commercial dispute between a UK events organiser and an overseas government;
- business insurance claims for loss of profits;
- tax disputes with HMRC from smaller disagreements on tax treatments to transfer pricing disputes and acting as an expert in tax disputes at the Tribunal and High Court;
- assisting in claims for wrongful trading and professional negligence by advisers.
The work is challenging and, ultimately, I am giving my own professional opinion on a matter so I have to get it right. But I enjoy the problem solving aspect of the role and the challenge of communicating my opinion in a clear and concise way with the over riding goal of helping to resolve a dispute!
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