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Financial Investigation Outline

by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Audit Services Division

For more information on this document, please contact your local ATF field office.

What financial records are available?

How does an investigator obtain financial records?

What does a forensic accountant do and what is her/his role in an investigation?

What questions should be asked of witnesses in a financial investigation?


What financial records are available?

Financial information consists of personal and business related records and documents. The types of records that are available are:

  • Tax Records (Federal and State)
    • Income Tax (form numbers in parenthesis)
      • Personal (1040)
      • Corporation (1120, 1120S, K1)
      • Partnership (1065)
      • Trust (1041)
    • Payroll Tax
      • Payroll (941)
      • Federal Unemployment (940)
      • Similar forms in many States
    • Sales Tax
      • Sales and Use Tax Return (State)
      • Others (Meals, Occupation, Lodging, etc.)
    • Property/Real-Estate Tax
    • Others (dependant upon locality and/or business type)
  • Bank Records
    • Banks and lending institutions
      • Bank Statements
        • Checking
        • Savings
        • ATM
      • Canceled checks
      • Deposit tickets
      • Deposited Items
      • Debit/Credit memos
      • Cash Transaction Record (CTR)
      • Wire Transfer Records
      • Safe Deposit Box Logs
      • Certificates of Deposit (CD)
    • Loans
      • Applications
      • Financial statements (personal and business)
      • Tax returns (state and federal)
      • Loan officer notes
      • Payment history
      • Dun and Bradstreet, TRW reports
    • Credit Cards
      • Application
      • Monthly statements
      • Payment history
  • Non Profit Entities and Religious Organizations
    • Because of their unique status, there are special investigative considerations that have to be addressed. Please confer with legal counsel for further guidance.
  • Insurance Records
    • State and Local Government/Court records
      • Liens
      • Bankruptcy
      • College Financial Aid Documents
      • Corporate Documents
    • Accountants and Bookkeepers records
      • Tax Returns
      • Financial Statements
        • Balance Sheet
        • Income Statement
        • Cash Flow Statement
        • Retained Earnings Statement
      • Books, Journals and Ledgers
      • Bank Reconciliation Records (Banking records including canceled checks)
      • Workpapers
        • Trial Balance
        • Adjusting Entries
        • Depreciation Schedules
        • Inventory Reports
        • Others
      • Correspondence Files
      • Organizational Documents
    • Suppliers of goods and services records
      • Sales Invoices
      • Accounts Receivable
      • Form of Payment
      • Correspondence File
    • Utility records
      • Billing Statement
      • Payment Records
    • Financial Database records
      • U.S. Treasury Departments, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN, http://www.ustreas.gov/treasury/bureaus/fincen)
      • Credit Bureaus (TRW, Equifax, Trans Union, Dun and Bradstreet Need to Check for Correct Titles/Names)
    • Internet

How does an investigator obtain financial records?

There are many avenues available to obtain financial related documents and records. Financial records can be obtained at the fire scene, through interviews, with written consent, search warrants, subpoenas, court orders or simple public access.

It is recommended that you include Prosecutors/Legal Counsel as part of your investigative team early in the investigative process. This may aid the investigator two fold, one by assisting in the timely identification and collection of financial records and documents, and two by obtaining prosecutor/legal counsel interest and commitment at an early stage in the investigation.

Suggested Language to Obtain a Subpoena for Bank Records Including Both Main Office and Bank Holding Company

Suggested Language to Obtain a Subpoena for Business Records

What does a forensic accountant do and what is her/his role in an investigation?

The Forensic Accountant begins with a systematic evaluation of the records and documents. During this evaluation additional financial documents may be identified, that need to be obtained and evaluated. As financial documents are received, the forensic accountant should be compiling a financial summary that will assess the financial condition of the person and/or business prior to and at the time the crime was committed. After reviewing the available documents and records, the forensic accountant should be able to form an opinion as to the financial condition of the individual and or business.

During the course of a financial investigation and analysis, many records and documents are reviewed. Because of the volume and complexity of these records, a Forensic Accountant will prepare a summary of any findings. This summary will contain a conclusion and or recommendations related to the investigation. To present these conclusions, it is recommended that the investigative team prepare Visual Investigative Aids (VIA) to graphically depict the complex financial aspects of the investigation. These VIA presentations often assist both the investigator and legal counsel understanding and presenting the financial picture. See the VIA section for more detail.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

 
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