The American Institute of CPAs has introduced a new certificate program for accounting firms expanding their financial forensics practice.

The new program, introduced Wednesday, provides a self-guided online course of study leading to a Forensic Accounting Educational Certificate. The coursework for the AICPA’s new certificate involves learning best practices for producing work products that will withstand scrutiny in a courtroom, boardroom or other administrative venue; forensic knowledge pertaining to laws, courts and dispute resolution; planning and preparation requirements for a variety of unique forensic engagements; and basic federal and state rules of evidence. The course develops specialized skills that can be applied to fields such as bankruptcy and insolvency, computer forensic analysis, family law, economic damages, valuations, and fraud prevention.

The AICPA has been offering the Certified in Financial Forensics, or CFF, credential since 2008, but it also sees demand growing for such courses, and hopes to encourage more professionals to sign up for the certificate and eventually the CFF as well. Earlier this month at its AICPA Spring Meeting of Council, the AICPA decided to begin offering some of its credentials, including the CFF, overseas and make them available through non-U.S. accounting organizations (see AICPA Aims to Offer Credentials Overseas).

The most recent AICPA Forensic and Valuation Services Trends Survey found the vast majority (79 percent) of forensic and valuation professionals surveyed expect greater demand for forensic services in the next two to five years. In additionally, revenue in forensic accounting in the United States is expected to grow 6.8 percent annually from $4.3 billion in 2012 to $6.0 billion in 2017, according to a report by IBISWorld.

“Forensic accounting has been one of the fastest growing niche areas in the profession and accountants with forensic skills are projected to continue to be in high demand,” said AICPA senior technical manager of forensic and valuation services Eddy Parker in a statement.

He noted that the certificate provides an opportunity for CPAs looking to develop a new skill set and broaden their practice area. The certificate will convey a solid understanding of financial forensics and knowledge of the legal system, according to Parker. Participants will learn how to prepare a forensic engagement with confidence and develop the skills needed to provide expert testimony. The certificate will also provide CPAs with the skill set to begin working in forensic accounting.

"We anticipate that many participants will expand upon this knowledge base and take the next step in their careers by obtaining the AICPA’s Certified in Financial Forensics credential,” said Parker.

The certificate satisfies a portion of the pre- or post-credential education needed for the CFF credential and the CPE earned can be used to partially satisfy the 75 hours of CPE related to the CFF body of knowledge needed to apply for (or 60 hours of CPE to maintain) the CFF credential. The cost to complete the entire program of 20 CPE credits is $1,800 for AICPA members, $2,250 for non-members. FVS Section members may enroll in the program for $1,440.

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