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How Do I Become a Forensic Accounting Expert Witness?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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In many jurisdictions, expert witnesses are used in both civil and criminal trials to help explain, or clarify, complicated evidence to the jury. For example, a forensic account may be used to make sense of voluminous financial records. While each jurisdiction will have different rules regarding the qualifications necessary to become a forensic accounting expert witness, most will be similar. In the United States. for example, in order to become a forensic accounting expert witness, an individual will need to have completed the necessary education and licensing to become an accountant as well as have considerable work experience in the field of forensic accounting. As a general rule, a court will also want to hear evidence that the potential witness is well regarded in the field by his or her peers.

A forensic accountant may be called upon to analyze and evaluate financial records as part of a civil or criminal trial. In a civil lawsuit, a forensic accountant may be needed to make sense of complicated corporate tax returns or to explain intricate international monetary transactions. In a criminal prosecution, a forensic accountant may be needed to explain how the prosecution traced money or located money that was embezzled or fraudulently obtained.

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In the United States, the first requirement to become a forensic accounting expert witness is to complete the necessary education. An accountant must first complete a four-year undergraduate degree in accounting. While in undergraduate school, a future accountant may wish to explore internships or part-time employment with a local accounting firm as well. After completion of the required undergraduate education, an accountant must take the Uniform CPA Examination given by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. In order to sit for the examination, an applicant must have a bachelor's degree as well as demonstrated experience working in the accounting field as an apprentice, or intern, for example.

Once licensed, anyone who aspires to become a forensic accounting expert witness must gain a significant amount of practical experience working in forensic accounting. Many law enforcement agencies make use of accountants within the agency itself. In addition, many accounting firms specialize in forensic accounting.

In the United States, individual courts will ultimately make the decision whether a potential witness may testify as an expert witness. Courts will typically want to hear testimony form the witness regarding his or her educational background, as well as practical work experience in the field. Supervisory experience or academic research in the field may also be helpful, as courts frequently want to be convinced that the witness is considered an expert by his or her peers.

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