New Standards in SSFS 1 Intend to Improve the Consistency and Quality of Forensic Services

Black’s Law Dictionary defines the term forensic as “used in, or suitable to, courts of law or public debate.”[1]  Forensic accounting services generally involve the application of specialized knowledge and investigative skills by a member of the American Institute of CPAs (“AICPA”) to collect, analyze, and evaluate certain evidential matter and to interpret and communicate findings (forensic services).[2]

Investigative and forensic accounting services are handled by a specialized group of individuals from Schneider Downs who have many years of experience with engagements that might be “unusual”.  These specialists include professionals who have obtained accreditation as Certified Fraud Examiners with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (“ACFE”) or have earned the Certified in Financial Forensics designation with the AICPA.

The ACFE and AICPA have professional standards for their members who perform forensic services, and Schneider Downs has routinely followed those professional standards regarding forensic accounting engagements.  Recently, the AICPA has released Statement on Standards for Forensic Services No. 1 (“SSFS 1”) to provide more authoritative guidance to AICPA members who provide litigation and investigative services.

Annual growth in forensic accounting industry revenue was 4.8% from 2014 to 2019 and is projected at 2.5% annual growth from 2019 to 2024[3].  With the increasing demand for forensic accounting services, the new standards in SSFS 1 are intended to improve the consistency and quality of forensic services across the profession.

SSFS 1 defines forensic services for “litigation” and “investigation” as follows:

  • Litigation is an actual or potential legal or regulatory proceeding before a trier of fact or a regulatory body as an expert witness, consultant, neutral, mediator, or arbitrator in connection with the resolution of disputes between parties. The term litigation as used herein is not limited to formal litigation but is inclusive of disputes and all forms of alternative dispute resolution.
  • Investigation is a matter conducted in response to specific concerns of wrongdoing in which the AICPA member is engaged to perform procedures to collect, analyze, evaluate, or interpret certain evidential matter to assist the stakeholders (for example, client, board of directors, independent auditor, or regulator) in reaching a conclusion on the merits of the concerns.

Allegations or issues of fraud are often core components of a forensic accounting engagement.  An important standard added by the AICPA through SSFS 1 clarifies and confirms that the ultimate decision regarding the occurrence of fraud is determined by the trier of fact and, therefore, an AICPA member performing forensic services is prohibited from opining regarding the ultimate conclusion of fraud.  An AICPA member may provide expert opinions relating to whether evidence is consistent with certain elements of fraud or other laws based on objective evaluation.  This standard in SSFS 1 regarding the occurrence of fraud is consistent with the professional standards of the ACFE.

Please contact Schneider Downs forensic accounting professionals if you discover or suspect a financial discrepancy in your business or organization.  Our experienced professionals will help in identifying if there is a discrepancy and quantify the loss.


[1] Bryan A. Garner, ed. Black’s Law Dictionary, 10 ed., St. Paul, MN: Thomson West Publishing Co., 2014.

[2] Statement on Standards for Forensic Services No. 1, AICPA.

[3] IBISWorld Industry Report-Forensic Accounting Services in the US.

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