What are Cost Accounting Standards? 

Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) are important because they promote a better understanding of costing as a whole, and exist to ensure consistency and uniformity in cost accounting practices.

Having a system of standards and practices every government contractor can follow, ensures that investors and stakeholders can depend on the information presented to them. This credibility ensures a level playing field of sorts.

It is paramount that contractors follow CAS to avoid a potential contract violation. Government contractors must know if they are subject to all nineteen standards, or if they qualify for an exemption. Exemptions are typically based on the dollar value or type of contract. However, if you are not exempt, you must be familiar with and be prepared to adhere to each standard. Failure to do so means you will violate your contract, leading to consequences.

How CAS Affects Contracts 

While cost accounting is not a new concept, CAS are specific to the United States. CAS are applicable to many different industries, including education, defense contracts, and any other industry funded, to some extent, by government funds. 

It is important to note CAS applies to contracts rather than contractors. Contracts are subject to either full or modified CAS coverage. Full CAS coverage means all nineteen standards must be followed. Modified CAS coverage means only a small handful of the nineteen standards must be followed.

Regardless of the amount, a CAS Disclosure Statement is filed. This statement details the accounting practices of the contractor. Unique statements exist for educational institutions and commercial companies. 

The Nineteen Cost Accounting Standards

The nineteen Cost Accounting Standards, as set by the Cost Accounting Standards Board, are as follows:

  1. Consistency in estimating, accumulating, and reporting costs.
  2. Consistency in allocating costs incurred for the same purpose.
  3. Allocation of home office expenses to segments.
  4. Capitalization of tangible assets.
  5. Accounting for unallowable costs.
  6. Cost accounting period.
  7. Use of standard costs for direct material and direct labor.
  8. Accounting for compensated personal absence.
  9. Depreciation of tangible capital assets.
  10. Allocation of business unit general and administrative expenses to final cost objectives.
  11. Accounting for acquisition costs of material.
  12. Composition and measurement of pension costs.
  13. Adjustment and allocation of pension costs.
  14. Cost of money as an element of the cost of facilities capital.
  15. Accounting for the cost of deferred compensation.
  16. Accounting for insurance costs.
  17. Cost of money as an element of the cost of capital assets under construction.
  18. Allocation of direct and indirect costs.
  19. Accounting for independent research and development costs & bid and proposal costs.

Cost Accounting Standards Exemptions

There are several scenarios in which contracts are exempt from the listed standards. In fact, a contract can be entirely exempt from CAS. Below are some scenarios which qualify for CAS exemptions:

  • Contracts won by small businesses are always exempt from CAS, regardless of contract amount.
  • Contracts in which price is set by either law or regulation. 
  • Contracts won by foreign governments. 
  • Contracts won by foreign concerns. 
  • All contracts under $750,000 are exempt.
  • Contracts under $7.5 million are exempt if the company has not won a contract in an amount greater than $7.5 million in the past. 
  • Contracts for commercial items are exempt. 
  • Contracts won during sealed bid procedures and/or scenarios in which adequate price competition was available. 

Cost Accounting Standards must be followed correctly to conduct business involving government contracts. If CAS are not followed correctly, it is not only possible, but in fact likely, your business will run into legal trouble. CAS can become complicated and difficult to navigate. 

Contact us today to speak with CJA Forensic Accounting, your forensic financial experts. 

Homeowner associations can be wonderful. They allow for community building, upkeep, and beautification of shared spaces and entire neighborhoods, and can increase property value. However, they do come with the risk of possible homeowner association fraud.

Homeowner association fraud happens when funds are used inappropriately, irresponsibly, or even criminally. It’s important to be informed about—and have a clear picture of—how and why funds are used. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for funds to mysteriously go missing or be unaccounted for.

What Do I Do if I Suspect HOA Fraud?

If you believe the funds your homeowner association receives are not being used appropriately, there may be some fraudulent activity or even embezzlement happening behind the scenes. When suspicions arise, you must seek professional help in the form of a forensic accountant.

A forensic accountant will sift through past financial statements to determine whether any type of fraudulent activity may be taking place on the board of your homeowner’s association. Fraudulent activity includes both misappropriated and outright stolen funds. The conclusions a forensic accountant can draw are crucial in removing and prosecuting the person or persons responsible for the fraudulent activity, and in proactively saving the members of your homeowner’s association thousands, or even millions, of dollars.

How Can I Identify Possible HOA Fraud?

There are several ways to identify possible homeowner’s association fraud.

  1. Consider whether the budget of the homeowner’s association corresponds to the expenditures the homeowner’s association is responsible for.
  2. Pay careful attention to the vendors and services the homeowner’s association has chosen to use.
  3. Pay close attention to any financial statements the homeowner’s association sends to all members. It is important to note if all funds are accounted for. Additionally, focus on how much vendors and services are being paid. Do prices seem at all inflated, or do they match typical market rates for the area?
  4. Take stock of the areas the homeowner’s association is responsible for maintaining. Notice whether areas are well maintained. If maintenance is poor, it could be a sign funds are being used inappropriately.

Digging Deeper: How a Forensic Accountant Will Uncover the Truth

Even if all transactions are accounted for, fraudulent activity is still possible. Financial statements and accounting records can be modified and important information can be concealed, omitted, or even buried in financial jargon and complicated paperwork (it shouldn’t be).

Making sense of these documents—and determining whether fraudulent activity has occurred—is the job of a forensic accountant. A forensic accountant can piece together all record-keeping, or lack thereof, make sense of both available and lacking records, and determine and document the extent of any fraudulent activity.

A forensic accountant should also verify the existence of contractors and vendors, investigate whether contractors and vendors have official contracts and are being paid according to those contracts, and determine whether pricing matches local market rates. Because most HOAs are self-regulating, fraudulent activity is prevalent and continues unnoticed for a long time. The forensic accountant’s report is crucial in the legal process of recovering funds.

It is important to note a forensic accountant should be hired as soon as fraudulent activity is suspected; recovering funds requires litigation and time. Therefore, unearthing and prosecuting fraudulent activity in a timely manner is of the utmost importance.

If you need a forensic accountant, don’t hesitate – contact us today for assistance.

So you or your company is being audited. You might be tempted to run and hide, or even avoid it — but don’t. If your financial records are in order, an audit can be highly beneficial.

Defining Audits

Although audits inspire fear, they don’t have to. In the simplest terms, audits are an objective examination and evaluation of a company’s financial statements. These evaluations ensure that the financial records are a fair and accurate representation of the company’s transactions. Typically, financial statements that include audit evaluations are considered more beneficial than their alternatives, because they help illustrate a business’s faults and strengths. This can help define managerial styles, bring in future investors, and aid in legal evaluations. This also means most publicly traded companies must complete external and internal audits to follow new business guidelines and legislation.

Audits are critical to the success of capital markets as they help provide credibility to financial statements. Although most companies receive a yearly audit from their accountant. Many lenders will require an external audit in order to continue fiscal transactions. This is so that they can ensure their investment and avoid engaging in fraud. CPAs can conduct audits in several ways.

Primarily audit services are done in one of two ways: internally or externally. We’ll discuss the differences here.

Internal Audits

Internal audits are typically conducted by someone employed by the company or the organization itself. These audits tend to be less formal as they are presented directly to managerial staff and board of directors but hold the same credibility. The consulted auditor will use the company’s standards instead of an alternate set to evaluate the company’s operations through an objective lens. As a result, internal audits aid in managerial issues and ensure compliance with laws and regulations.

External Audits

To understand external audits better, we need to talk about what they are and how they can affect you. Outside parties conduct these audits, and they act as an unbiased review of the financial statements. Presented as opinions, these audits are found at the end of financial statements. As they primarily search for material misstatements or misinterpretations of the original financial information.

There are four basic types of external audit opinions;

  • Unqualified Opinions
  • Qualified Opinions
  • Adverse Opinions
  • Disclaimer Reports

Unqualified opinions are the best opinions from the perspective of the company.
Also called clean opinions, it is understood that these types of audits are considered financial statements presented fairly or in accordance with GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practices). They contain no material misstatements, and the auditor is able to complete the entire evaluation. It’s important to remember that this does not guarantee that the statements are accurate, but instead is a reasonable assurance.

Qualified opinions, as conducted by the auditor, will examine the financial statements and decide they are presented fairly except for one issue. These issues can include but are not limited to:

  1. A singular departure from GAAP, or
  2. If there is a single scope of limitations

This can mean either physical limitations that will not let the auditor complete the audit or a particular issue that prevented the audit from being completed.

Adverse opinions are when a financial statement is not presented fairly. These can be damaging to companies as they illustrate what has gone wrong with financial statements and offer information explicitly. These audit opinions describe financial misstatements and state there is no reasonable assurance to the financial statement.

Disclaimer reports are when a CPA does not express any opinion. This means a few things. Firstly, if the auditor lacks independence, the auditing CPA will not express an opinion. Meaning, although there was no bias at the beginning of the audit process, there was near the end. If a company finds itself in this type of situation, it will need to hire another auditor.

Secondly, if there is an extensive scope of limitation, where the auditor cannot complete the audit, they cannot express an opinion. Finally, CPAs will refrain from stating opinions if they deem the company substantially uncertain. To be considered substantially uncertain, a company depicts doubt about its future. This could be in an extreme market decrease or a series of lawsuits that damage the company’s prominence. This style of opinion is the most damaging for a company as it demonstrates financial uncertainty.

Audit Services with a Purpose

Now you might be thinking what’s the point to then, other than making your company look bad. Well, the primary purpose of audits service is risk assessment. Risk assessment is vast if you want to ensure growth in your company, so it’s essential to understand your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Under scrutiny, the possible risk factors are inquiring of management, observations, an inspection of analytical procedures, and financial assessments. Understanding the effects of these risks on your company is the cornerstone to presenting your company accurately. With accurate auditing services, you decrease liability and increase company assessments without fear of bias. Stop fearing audits and audit services today, contact your CJFA to learn more.

CJA Forensic Accounting is here for you

CJA Forensic Accounting provides a full range of services for forensic accounting needs including CPA auditing services. Contact us today to learn more about our services, including fraud investigation, dispute services, litigation support, contract compliance testing, false claims, and forensic accounting.

Most businesses earn a modest income, even after-tax payments to the IRS. Still, there are many questions around businesses that conduct sales through a currency-only exchange. In fact, there’s often a heightened curiosity for cash-only type businesses across the United States. Namely, is it legal to accept only cash and what happens when they’re investigated? Is it simple for forensic accountants to discover monies that may not be disclosed in the books?

The short answer is, simply, yes.

Yes, it’s legal to operate cash-only businesses so long as appropriate taxes and laws are met. On the other hand, some owners of businesses that receive payment in cash, especially for a significant amount of their sales, will choose to hide some or all such sales by pocketing the cash and not entering the sales into their records. Not reporting cash income can be detrimental to your business.  Typically, a business will do this to

  1. To avoid paying more taxes
  2. Show a reduce cash flow

Forensic accountants are professionals that can investigate such occurrences. Curious to know how exactly forensic accountants proceed with investigating cash-only businesses? We’re disclosing some of the processes below.

not reporting cash income

Responsibilities of Forensic Accountants

Forensic accountants are often called on by individuals whose case is heard in court, or defense attorneys who are seeking discovery on behalf of their client, specific to their cash-only business. Whatever the source, a forensic accountant is tasked with analyzing books, records, and operations of said businesses to determine whether, or if at all, these stores or firms are conducting sales while failing to report each and every dollar.

Further, much of the investigative process differs from usual accounting activity and is, usually, more closely related to what the IRS may conduct during an audit. We can walk through the entire process of discovering and identifying lost accounts for businesses such as these. The resources outlined usually are enough to find the vast majority of assets and what most of our clients utilize our forensic accounting services for.

Not reporting cash income is a main source of concern for most individuals seeking a forensic accounting investigation. Here are some sample techniques used in investigating cash-only businesses:

Tax Returns & Financial Statements

Analyzing tax returns and financial statements is usually the first step in investigating a cash-only business, especially if conducted over a multi-year scope. Not reporting cash income will be clear from tax returns. This gives forensic accountants at least a basis for discovering key points of interest in how cash-only businesses operate. The technique used during this stage is finding any outliers, unusual activity, and/or unusual trends.

The objective generally is to find items of concern that would indicate something outside the norm of a particular business’ practice. For instance, a forensic accountant may look for spikes in growing sales and sudden drop-offs that seems to quickly recover within a few months or years. Similarly, they would look at how these businesses’ bank accounts reflect income. If there are additional monetary increases in the bank, but not reported on the accounting sheets, it could be an indication of discrepancies in how a cash-only business is keeping track of their books. Every last dollar should be reported.

forensic account cash only business

Industry Statistics

Another area of interest for forensic accountants is industry and market statistics. Part of the process in investigating cash-only businesses is understanding how these types of businesses compare with other industry leaders and the overall market. If businesses are operating within their means and lawfully, then they should be operational within a given range. A good example of this might be a business that, after total sales, is showing a significant reduction in gross profit compared with a similar business in the same industry.

Profit margins, typically, are well balanced within any given industry. For example, if most businesses that earn $1M in sales are operational at a gross profit in range of 60 to 70 percent, then they should all be within a similar range. A cash-only business in the same industry that reports, say, 30 percent gross profit could be indicative of unreported cash sales.

Inventory vs Sales Records

Cash-only businesses are often retail-type industries. Although there are still instances where businesses accept cash that may not have a physical product, those are few and far between.

For this reason, forensic accountants will typically investigate inventory records and compare them with overall sales records. Discrepancies in these trackable items can help investigative accountants discover what and how cash-only businesses have been operating. For instance, if inventory should show more sales than what is recorded (plus products available) then mathematically things can’t add up. At this point, it is the forensic accountant’s job to discover where the missing inventory is, or if it was sold without being properly recorded in financial sales records. This doesn’t always bode over well for cash-only businesses.

cash only type businesses

Employee or Payroll Records

If employees are being paid to work certain shifts with which no sales are recorded, it could indicate an under-the-table type of business. Comparatively, employees who are paid to work on any given day should accurately reflect general or average sales for projected days, weeks, or months.

Other techniques that forensic accountants use in investigating cash-only businesses is simply observation. Ask questions such as:

  • What is the number of customers visiting in a given day/week/month?
  • What is the number of deliveries in a given day/week/month?
  • What are the average sales?

Forensic accountants have also been known to interview current and previous employees to evaluate typical or average sales amounts. They may ask if there’s anything of suspicion to note.

In general, forensic accountants must perform procedures and analyses that can provide not only a clear picture of how cash-only firms conduct business, but if they’re operating outside of the law. This usually means correctly identifying if the business is not reporting cash income. Additionally, it’s usually the responsibility of forensic accountants to disclose specific numbers and accurate figures that coincide with ongoing research and investigation. They must always document what evidence was discovered.

CJA Forensic Accounting

CJA Forensic Accounting provides a full range of services for forensic accounting needs across the United States including investigating business that are not reporting cash income incorrectly or not at all. Contact us today to learn more about our services including fraud investigation, dispute services, litigation support, contract compliance testing, false claims, and forensic accounting.

Homeowner associations (HOA) and condominium associations (CA) are legal entities set up to manage the operations and finances on behalf of the owners. Typically, the management team (administrator) selected to run the HOA or CA is comprised of other homeowners or condo owners. If a lot of thought was put into the selection criteria, then the administrators will be knowledgeable individuals with experience in management and/or finance. If not, the administrator can end up being someone who can barely balance their own checkbook, let alone manage the books and records of a $5,000 annual budget or a $1,000,000 annual budget.

Depending on the bylaws of the HOA or CA, a forensic audit of the financial books and records may be required annually or never. However, a financial audit is not designed to detect fraud. At a minimum, homeowners should be presented with annual financial reporting, but monthly is preferred. The Educational Community for HOA Homeowners states that 18 months is the average time before a fraud scheme is detected.

Given today’s unlimited resources in accounting software, monthly reporting is not cumbersome and provides more relevant feedback on the management of HOA resources.

Forensic Audit for Homeowners Associations and Condo Associations

So, when does an HOA need a forensic audit?

1. When you suspect fraud

While a financial statement audit ensures that all the transactions are accounted for, it does not ensure that someone hasn’t stolen or misappropriated funds.  This is the number one reason for a forensic audit. If fraud is suspected, if becomes imperative to contact legal counsel and begin a fraud investigation right away. The longer the homeowners wait, the more funds that can be absconded and the more difficult it will become to recover them if fraud is found.

2. When there is no requirement for annual financial audits

The risk of fraud increases when no one is providing oversight to the administrators and their handling of the funds entrusted to them. Even simple forensic accounting such as verifying vendors could be beneficial.  Investigating whether payments are being provided to contractors and vendors that do actually exist and the payments are as agreed upon in written contracts or purchase orders, can mitigate vendor fraud. 

3. When requested reporting to the homeowners is untimely and confusing

Most small HOA’s provide annual reporting of last year’s results of operations, last year’s budget comparison, and a proposed budget for the upcoming year. If your homeowners are only seeing collections and spending once a year, a lot of fraud can be buried in those reports. At a minimum, homeowners should demand quarterly or monthly financial reporting on collections and budget versus actual spending. When the reports received by the homeowners bring up a lot of questions or just don’t make sense, it is the responsibility of the administrator to clarify.  If the reporting is not quarterly or monthly and the responses from the administrator don’t make sense, a forensic audit is a consideration.  Forensic audits for HOAs can be tailored to ensure bank reconciliations have been performed, reserve funds exist, and overbudget items are all valid and properly authorized transactions.

4. When the administrators are not maintaining the property as budgeted

Another sign of fraud is when the property appears to be deteriorating, despite low outstanding collections of homeowner dues. The funds contributed by the homeowners seem to be falling short of the funds need to maintain the property or constant increases in dues that increase at a greater rate than normal homeowner costs. This could be a sign of misappropriation of HOA funds or kickbacks from contractors, and a sign a financial audit is needed.

5. When the administrators appear to be living beyond their means

While no one wants to judge someone else’s lifestyle, homeowner associations and condo associations are often close-knit organizations.  There is often a lot of gossip and private information that gets passed about. Not all gossip is untrue. When the administrators appear to be buying a lot of big-ticket items, going on a lot of vacations, all without a change in job status or lottery winnings, it could be a sign of living beyond one’s means. This in itself does not mean they are committing fraud, but if the management of the HOA is seriously lacking, administrators are unresponsive to inquiries and dues are increasing, it does not hurt to have a financial audit.

Remember that a well-run HOA or CA also affects your property value positively and is an investment for the owners. A forensic audit of the HOA or CA finances can only serve to help preserve property values and demonstrate good stewardship of owner’s investments.


When a client voiced strong suspicions that her soon-to-be ex-husband was hiding assets, her attorney investigated the claim but found nothing amiss. However, he hired a forensic accounting expert to help ensure his client would receive an equitable share of the marital estate. The expert turned up a trunkload of hidden treasure — undeclared cash income and property “stashed” under the names of the husband’s mother and siblings.

Deceptive spouses — and other parties to litigation — often are experts at hiding assets. To protect your client from such scam artists, you’ll need your own expert.

Gathering data

To begin their search for hidden assets, financial experts request information and records relating to the spouse’s employment and financial holdings. Details about all sources of income (including pending litigation and insurance settlements), and all banks, brokerage firms and other financial institutions where the spouse has held accounts, are critical.

Experts also need to know about the spouse’s lifestyle and personal spending habits, as well as his or her personal and business relationships. The individual could be funneling income or assets to family members, friends and business associates.

Tax returns can be a particularly rich source of information. Itemized deductions listed on Schedule A, for example, may suggest that the spouse is living beyond his or her apparent means, in turn raising the possibility of hidden assets. It’s important to investigate whether the deductions for property taxes, mortgage interest and charitable giving are proportionate to reported income.

Methods that work

Experts use one or more of several methods to ferret out assets:

Net worth. The spouse’s net worth (assets less liabilities) at the beginning of a period is compared with the ending net worth. Information about assets might be accessed through bank and brokerage records, tax returns, and credit applications.

Expenditure. This strategy is deployed by matching the spouse’s total personal expenditures during a period of time — using evidence from bank statements and canceled checks — against the available sources of funds. These sources can include salary, loans, gifts, inheritances and cash on hand at the beginning of the period.

Bank deposits. This method assumes that money is either spent or deposited. Thus, net deposits (deposits less transfers and redeposits) are added to cash expenditures to

calculate total receipts. Funds from known sources are then deducted to calculate the total funds from unknown sources.

Business owners pose particular challenges

If the suspected scammer is a business owner, he or she may try to use the company to mask assets and income. A deceptive spouse, for example, may use business funds to purchase personal assets, such as cars and real estate, or to cover personal expenses, such as mobile phone bills, insurance premiums or club membership dues. All of these expenditures can reduce the business’s net income, thereby reducing its value as a marital asset.

The business also could have unreported income. A forensic accounting expert will scrutinize:

* Actual expenses,

* Associated expected sales,

* Accounts receivable,

* Journal entry write-offs,

* Internal controls (and the owner’s ability to override them), and

* Expected profitability.

Finally, an expert will search for related-party transactions. These are important because they can indicate the owner’s attempts to divert income from the business.

What clients deserve

No matter how well-intentioned, clients and attorneys are unlikely to be able to find all of a deceptive spouse’s hidden assets or income on their own. Forensic accountants, on the other hand, are trained to gather relevant data, scour it for anomalies and prove that the opposing party is being dishonest. This is the kind of expertise your client deserves.  CJA Forensic Accounting provides this type of expertise.


© 2014 TR


There are 3 important causes of loss profit (or loss fee) litigation in government contracts.  Loss profit calculations are based primarily on a contract and a defined period of time (i.e. contract term). Scope creep, subcontractor disputes, and delays are the most common causes of loss profits/fees when performing work on federal contracts.  All stem from a failure to clarify contract or subcontract language before work begins and/or during the contract performance (i.e. modifications and change orders).

Scope Creep

Scope creep ensues when the customer begins to request work that is not specified in the original contract, task order or subsequent modifications.  T&M contracts tend to be less affected by scope creep due in part that all work is billed by the hour and materials requested by the customer are passed through.  Albeit, they are still at risk of loss profits due to the lack of clear agreement as to the payment of the additional number of hours to be billed and/or written requests for additional materials and other direct costs.  A significant impact of scope creep falls on firm fixed price contracts and cost reimbursable contracts with caps on fee or profit.  When I say firm fixed price, we’re not talking about Fixed Price Level of Effort (FPLOE) as these contracts are issued as a roundabout way of issuing a T&M contract.  FPLOE contracts, like T&M contracts and task orders may create a loss profit scenario due to caps on the amount of hours allowed in the contract and if there are no clear definitive milestone or deliverables that must be met.

Loss profits are realized when the government requests changes to the contract scope that they feel are in line with the current contract, but do not provide any additional funding or man-hours into the contract.  In this case, your loss profits would be:

Scenario #1 

Hours for additional work not in contract scope = Scope Creep Hours

Scope creep hours X negotiated T&M billing rates for those labor categories = LOSS PROFITS

In some cases, and depending on the language in the contract clauses, you may be only able to claim the actual cost of the direct labor to perform the additional work plus applicable indirect burdens.

Scenario #2

Cost of additional work requested on a fixed price contract or additional deliverables + applicable burdens = LOSS PROFITS

Since circumstances vary, one may argue that a company is also entitled to the average realizable fee on those contract costs, as well.

Subcontractor disputes with prime contractor

Subcontractor and prime contractor disputes have probably gone on since the beginning of time.  They are no different in the world of government contracts.  Typically, the subcontractor was used in the bidding proposal for a significant portion of work, then when it is contract performance time, the subcontractor’s portion is cut back significantly.  In this situation, loss profits would be calculated as the profits on the work promised but not granted.  In addition, a claim may be made for the salaries of employees hired and being paid to sit on the bench for the promised work.  If the contract has ended, the period under review and used in the calculation would be the entire subcontract period.  Moreover, some states may take into consideration mitigating factors such as the ability to put those employees on another contract.  In this case, the loss profits from contract A would be reduced by the profit earned on those employees moved to contract B.


Delays in contract performance by the government, prime contractors or even subcontractors can be cause for loss profits.  Loss profits or loss fees are experienced in contract delays when payroll, benefits and other costs of operations must still be paid in order to stand ready to continue on a project when it “restarts”.  Also the cost of replacing people that could not be financially support during the delay can be cause for loss profit litigation.

The key to avoiding the need to engage in loss profits litigation is to make sure to carefully read your contract and have an attorney review it as well.  Also, understand, with certainty, the scope of the work to be performed.  Any changes outside of the scope should be made in writing including the exact change in work, amounts to be paid, and any limitations.  If you do wish to pursue litigation, engage a CPA certified in forensic financials to assist with calculating whether it is worth your while.



Contributed by Cheryl Jefferson Cooke, CPA / CPFF

An expert witness is someone who by virtue of training, skill, education or experience is believed to have knowledge or expertise in a certain subject beyond an average person. This knowledge makes the person eligible to be a witness in a case they otherwise may have no interest in. Expert witnesses are often brought in by legal teams to help the court understand complex matters in more detail.

Experts ranging from doctors to security officers often appear as witnesses. In most cases, they help shine a light on crucial information in a case, as well as assist in winning the influence of the judge or jury.

Similar to any other field of expertise, accounting requires expert witnesses. Accounting often involves complicated financial reporting and concepts. Therefore, it is important to bring in an expert witness who will be able to undo accounting jargon for lawyers, judges, and the jury. Accountants are often viewed as credible and ethical people and their involvement in a case might play a significant role in convincing the jury in a subconscious way.

Why Require an Accountant as an Expert Witness?

Some of the reasons we require accounting expert witnesses depend on the particular case involved. An accountant can be brought in to testify in a case for any of the following reasons:

1.Credentials and Credibility

Credentials for an accountant expert witness, just like credentials for all other expert witnesses, are essential. An expert accountant witness should at least be a certified public accountant (CPA). There may be a variety of certifications that might qualify the witness on accounting, but being a CPA is preferred because CPA is a state-licensed certification.  Another important credential for matters of forensic accounting or litigation support is Certified in Forensic Financials (CFF), and only a CPA can earn this credential.

The experience a person has in accounting is also vital as one can draw comparisons from past work. This can also be of great help if an accountant has had past experiences with government contracts, service industries, or small businesses, as these are specialized experiences.

Data presented and explained by an experienced and well-trained CPA will lend to the case.

2. Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Accounting is known for the presentation of data such as the cash flow statement and income statements. These are not terms members of the court may understand. This is where the accountant comes in. They will help in matters such as contract disputes, fraud investigations, accounting, and audits. The interpretation of the numbers on these reports will then be explained in simpler terms for the court.

3. Communicating in Non-Accounting Terms

We have already established that accounting often uses phrases and presentations that are not friendly to a non-accounting audience. However, accountants who have accumulated a lot of experience in different accounting issues are not likely to face the challenges of clarifying these ideas. A good expert witness can explain complicated financial terms and interpretations in layman’s terms, so it is most useful for decision making.  This is where experience communicating with small business owners becomes a desirable skill since most are unfamiliar with accounting terms.

4. Litigation Support

Litigation support is a service offered by CPAs. It is a specialized accounting service that helps businesses and attorneys with complex accounting problems such as legal disputes, damage calculations, and fraud. An experienced CPA with the CFF credential is in a position to analyze, report, and testify as an expert witness if needed. This specialization makes a CPA/CFF the ideal expert witness.

When it comes to bringing an expert witness to the stand to testify, it should be someone who is an authority in their field. This same concept applies to accounting – put your trust in a firm that has a proven litigation support track record and will understand your needs.

If you have a question about hiring CJA as an expert witness for your legal needs, contact us.

Over the last several years, the number of cases related to financial statement fraud has experienced a gradual increase. In fact, according to a recent Cornerstone Research report, Accounting Class Action Filings and Settlements—2014 Review and Analysis, shows the SEC has a heightened focus on accounting, with cases involving restatements reaching a 7-year high in 2014.

Corporate FraudWhen you first hear the phrase financial statement fraud, you might think of having a bank statement that does not reflect the actual transactions that took place relating to a particular account. To be precise, financial statement fraud is a calculated method to omit, include, or misrepresent information that would affect the interpretation of a statement by the reader.

Both private and public businesses commit financial statement fraud to gain financially, conceal misappropriation of funds, or satisfy stakeholders in various circumstances. Top-level management most often performs financial statement fraud but any accounting employees with the inclination, ethical ambiguity, or pressure to “cook the books” may do so.

Indicators of Financial Statement Fraud

Although businesses that commit financial statement fraud might carry out such activities for any number of reasons, they risk coming into collision with the IRS. If tax returns do not coincide with the businesses’ statements, financial statement fraud may be the underlying reason. Below are some ways financial statement fraud is manipulated in business:

1. Improper Income Recognition

When a company does not give the right figures on the revenue they are committing financial statement fraud. The reason for this can be something as simple as the business realizing that it has experienced an increase in revenue and does not want all of it taxed. To keep some of the extra revenue, they might decide to doctor their statements to reflect lower income entries so that taxes are reduced.

2. Manipulating Expenses

For companies that want to seek financial assistance from potential investors or stakeholders, altering expenses may be one way they aim to be appealing. If a company recognizes that a stakeholder will only offer financial assistance if expenses are up to a given level, increasing costs on the statement might prove to be a viable option. Inversely, a company that wants to conceal misappropriation of funds might alter the statement to display lower levels of expenses.

3. Complexities in the Statement

If an account displays some complex transactions that are not clearly reflected in the statement, it might raise a flag. Complex transactions are sometimes included in statements to deviate the attention of the reader from some irregularities that, if detected, would raise controversies. As a result, complex statements keep the observer occupied, hence, missing out on important information on the statement.

Benefits of a Forensic Accountant

The discovery of financial statement fraud can have far-reaching implications for a business that may undermine their credibility and integrity. Investors are predominantly at risk, either by being misled prior to investment being, or by invested funds being misused. Others that may be defrauded are banks considering loans, suppliers with outstanding receivables, and customers who get paid by performance or are contracted to hit certain revenue milestones.
To avoid the above issues, consulting a CPA who specializes in forensic accounting is strongly recommended—and as most will say, when fraud is suspected—the earlier, the better. A forensic accountant is experienced in tracing funds, identifying assets, recovering assets, financial intelligence gathering, performing suspect interviews, and performing due diligence. These are critical skills needed to address concerns before they become red flags for the IRS.
If fraud is possibly an issue or if you are picking up the pieces after fraud has been uncovered, hiring an outside independent CPA firm to prepare financial statements can bring an added level of reassurance that integrity and objectivity is being upheld.
If financial statement fraud activities are brought to light, a business not only threatens tarnishing its reputation but also may be at risk for costly lawsuits and encourages regulatory involvement. To avoid such a fate, it is important that the business takes every precaution to avoid being linked in any activities that might lead to financial statement fraud.

How financial statements reveal corporate fraud

The U.S. economy is finally recovering from the effects of the recession, but at least one major financial risk remains — corporate fraud. Fortunately, a CPA certified in financial forensics (CFF) can help companies and investors minimize losses from fraudulent conduct by scrutinizing a business’s financial statements.

Fictional finances

Corporate fraud often is concealed when a company intentionally misrepresents material information in its financial reports. Such misrepresentations can result from the misapplication of accounting principles, overly aggressive estimates of figures and material omissions. For example, financial statements might report fictitious revenues or conceal expenses or liabilities to make a company appear more profitable than it truly is.

To cover fraud, perpetrators often conceal or omit information that could damage or improperly change the bottom-line results that appear in financial statements. Such omissions include:

  • Events likely to affect future statements, such as impending product obsolescence, new competition and potential lawsuits,
  • Liabilities such as loan covenants or contingency liabilities,
  • Accounting changes that materially affect financial statements — including methods of accounting for depreciation, revenue recognition or accruals — and are subject to disclosure rules, and
  • Related-party transactions, or those with a party with whom a member of management has a financial interest.

Perpetrators also might engage in fraudulent manipulation, particularly in the areas of revenues, expenses, reserves and one-time charges. Falsified financial statements can recognize sales prematurely, improperly value sales transactions (by, for example, inflating the per unit price) or report phantom sales that never occurred. Conversely, expenses can be manipulated by delaying their recognition — whether to match the expenses with their corresponding revenue or to avoid reporting a loss. Another trick is to improperly capitalize expenses so they appear on the company’s balance sheet rather than its income statement.

In some cases, fraudulent financial statements show reserves that have been calculated using bad-faith estimates. For example, fraudsters could justify a smaller amount of reserves by underestimating the percentage of uncollectible receivables. One-time charges, such as a write-off of goodwill or charge for research and development costs for a specific product, can further distort financial statement figures.

Reading between the lines

When fraud is suspected, a forensic CPA can dig into complex financial statements and uncover manipulation that might not be apparent to the untrained eye. A fraud expert begins by reviewing the suspicious statements for unusual trends and relationships. Any leads are followed by more intensive forensic accounting work, such as analysis of specific transactions, journal entries, work papers and supporting documentation. This type of examination goes far beyond a standard annual audit.

The CPA also may employ several types of analyses. Vertical analysis compares the proportion of each financial statement item — or groups of items — to a total within a single year that can be measured against industry norms. Horizontal analysis compares current data with data from previous years to detect patterns and trends. Financial ratio analysis calculates ratios from the current year’s data and compares those with previous years’ ratios for the company, comparable companies and the relevant industry. The expert, of course, must have experience in the subject industry and be able to recognize noncompliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

In fact, noncompliance is a significant red flag for financial statement fraud. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) has identified several other behavioral red flags, including employees who live beyond their means and exhibit a cavalier attitude toward internal controls.

Keep a lid on fraud costs

The ACFE has estimated the median loss in financial statement fraud schemes at $1 million — to say nothing of the public relations damage that rogue executives who manipulate the numbers can cause. With their vast experience in crawling over financial statements, qualified forensic CPAs can help limit your clients’ losses.

This information is, in part, © 2014 TRTA