David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation, fraud deterrence, litigation support and expert witness testimony services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.
Some owners of businesses that receive payment in cash for a significant amount of sales (primarily retail businesses) hide some or all such sales by pocketing the cash and not entering the sales into their books and records. Their primary motivations are:
- – To pay less in taxes; and/or
- – To show reduced cash flow, profits and business value to divorcing spouses or to shareholders who are not employed in the business (often called non-operating shareholders).
As a firm that offers forensic accounting services in Philadelphia, we often are called in to analyze the books, records, and operations of such businesses to determine whether – and, if so, how much – cash sales are not being reported. As part of my fraud investigation, and as a Certified Fraud Examiner, our Philadelphia forensic accounting firm employs many of the same fraud deterrence techniques as the IRS and other taxing authorities to identify non-reported cash sales.
Here is a sampling of some of the techniques that forensic accountants use:
- Analysis of tax returns and financial statements over a multi-year period: One form of analysis is to compare key operating data over a multi-year period, and look for unusual trends. For example, in the case of a retail gardening business, I noted the business had been averaging about $600,000 to $800,000 sales per year with a slight upward trend until the year immediately before the owner commenced divorce proceedings. In that year, sales dropped to about $450,000. The next year, sales recovered to around $600,000, and the following year sales jumped to over $700,000. This was a potential indicator of unreported cash sales.
- Analysis of tax returns and financial statements in comparison to industry statistic: Forensic accountants have access to industry statistics that can be compared to the financial information reported on a company’s tax returns and financial statements. For example, a pizza restaurant with between $3 million and $5 million in sales will typically have a gross profit in the range of 65 percent to 72 percent of sales. If the pizza restaurant I am investigating has been averaging a gross profit in the range of only 45 percent to 50 percent, this can be a strong indicator of unreported cash sales.
- Comparison of inventory records with sales records: In the case of a retail beauty products business, I analyzed the inventory records of certain high-value beauty products – including expensive perfumes – and compared those records to the recorded sales of those high-value beauty products. I was only able to trace about 50 percent of the inventory reduction to recorded sales. The owner was unable to explain the other 50 percent inventory reduction. Her initial claim was that her staff must have stolen the other 50 percent, but she then was unable to explain how the staff members obtained access to the locked cage where the products were stored after I determined she was the only one with a key to the locked cage.
- Analysis of employee time records versus recorded sales: In analyzing the sales of a catering business, I noted multiple instances in which employees were paid for working certain catered events for which no sales were recorded. I then contacted each of the customers for these events, and learned that each had paid cash. In this case, I could obtain the actual amount paid from each customer.
As a Certified Fraud Examiner offering forensic accounting services in Philadelphia, some of the other fraud deterrence techniques I have used include observation – in which I have someone observe the number of customers and/or product deliveries that occur during a specific length of time and then compare that information with the number of sales recorded in the company’s accounting system – and interviews with present and former employees, although I have noted that interviews with present employees can be very sensitive because such employees may not want to cooperate for fear of losing their jobs.
Of course, while such techniques can be a strong indicator of unreported cash sales, forensic accountants still must perform other procedures and analyses to validate the amount of such unreported cash sales. But in the end, if the owner is hiding cash sales, a forensic accountant who also is a Certified Fraud Examiner and is conducting a fraud investigation is very likely to find them.
If you require forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About David Anderson & Associates
David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, fraud deterrence, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services. Company principal David Anderson has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner and a Certified Valuation Analyst.