Tracy Coenen discusses the early stages of a financial investigation related to a divorce. When couples are divorcing, it is not unusual for a business to appear to decline. Tracy talks about the types of things she looks at to determine whether there is evidence of hidden income or other manipulation of the finances.
When the IRS believes a taxpayer has unreported income, they will use alternative methods to attempt to determine the true income. One of those methods is the Expenditures Method. Tracy Coenen explains the basic methodology in this video. Note that this method of calculating income can be used in a variety of cases that involve allegations of hidden income including divorce, money laundering, and income tax fraud.
In divorce and child support matters, participants make claims about their income, but the documents often show something different. Memphis divorce lawyer Miles Mason explains the difference between claimed income and documented income.
A few months ago, I was asked to beta test PerfectAudit software by Ocrolus.The software has used other names such as AuditGenius (auditgenius.com now forwards to perfectaudit.com) and Medicaid Genius. Promotional emails are being sent from the domain perfectauditpreview.com, which forwards to perfectaudit.com. The company is currently marketing to service providers in the divorce arena, and they say that firms such as Met Life, RGL, and Duff & Phelps are using the site for divorce cases.
The website bills Perfect Audit as a “game changer” for those who depend on data from bank statements and credit card statements. It’s a great concept! PerfectAudit will use OCR technology to pull the data off the statements, put the data into a searchable database, and you have access to data that is guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
But the product is terrible and doesn’t even come close to doing what they say it does. Here is what they say it does:
When a divorce involves a business, we often ask for a copy of the general ledger, which is part of the company’s accounting records. The general ledger includes the details of transactions for a specified period of time. What can we find in the general ledger? Tracy Coenen explains in this video:
In divorce cases, forensic accountants can use the “net worth method of proof” to calculate income. This is used to search for hidden or unreported income. Rather than simply taking a spouse’s word for it that his or her income is X, we can do an analysis like this to try to verify the claimed income.
This method of proof is one part of a lifestyle analysis, in which we are analyzing the party’s lifestyle and determining if that lifestyle matches the income that is being reported. This video explains the process of completing the net worth analysis.
When there are suspicions of hidden income or secret investments or bank accounts, an analysis of known bank accounts can reveal helpful details. Tracy Coenen explains how bank statements and credit card statements can be used by a forensic accountant in a divorce case.
Tracy talks with Miles Mason, JD, CPA about some of the common financial lies told by spouses during divorce.
Below is a clip of a portion of a video I did on accounting services in divorce and family law cases. I discuss the work that a CPA can do in divorce cases.
Written by Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, CFF
ABA Section of Family Law eNewsletter
When a divorce or a child support issue is looming, it’s amazing how a quickly a closely held business starts “losing money.” I use quotes because such a situation is so predictable. One party wants to protect her or his assets, and when there is a business involved, the motivation to hide money can be stronger than usual.
The types of businesses that can be prone to manipulation of the books include restaurants, retail stores, doctor or dentist offices, construction companies, auto dealerships, and law practices. This list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it provides good examples of businesses at risk of financial maneuvering.
Any business that is closely held and has finances that are easily manipulated by the owner is at risk. A lawyer filing for divorce from his wife may suddenly stop taking a paycheck and then claim he has no earnings from the practice. A restaurant owner could stop reporting cash receipts from customers, thereby claiming much lower revenue for the business while secretly pocketing the cash. A carpenter may offer customers a discount if they pay with cash and don’t request a receipt, never reporting that money as income.