are there specialized shadow accounting software tools? could they be made?

regular accounting is a complex subject, and there has been software development in this field almost since the beginning of computers. Now, reputedly, if basic accounting is hard, the keeping of two or more sets of books, one real and a few others cooked, is a yet harder task.

Well, so maybe this calls for specialized tools for precisely this purpose? Could accountants study the actual practices in the field to formulate the “theory of tax accounting with cooked books” (or, more likely, multiple theories for various kinds of optimization under various national law codes) that could be used to implement appropriate software tools?


You’d probably want to avoid doing so, anyway… Copies of the software are bound to make their way into the hands of law enforcement, and any automated process for cooking the books is going to leave recognizable signs.

There already are such people as ‘forensic accountants’, whose job is to go in and analyze accounting records to find evidence of wrongdoing. Giving them this kind of leg up, in addition to everything else they know, would simply be stupid on the part of the criminals.

Excel and Quickbooks are not automated ways of making legal “books”. They are just useful tools for this purpose, but you could also do accounting on paper without them. Similarly, hypothetically, the specialized problem of cooking the books might be perfectly doable in Quickbooks (or even on paper) but a more specialized tool (let’s say a Quickbooks plugin) might make work easier.

Existence of forensic accountants is immaterial since they will catch people with poorly cooked books in any event. So better tools (when in the hands of competent and skillful practitioners) should only improve the success rate.

Why would the hidden books need any different software than the fake out-in-the-open books? In the hidden books, you record your payments to your mob bosses and employees; in the out-in-the-open ones, you declare that it was all lost in the recent fire.

not being an accountant and lacking the valuable cooking the books experience, I wouldn’t know. Nevertheless, I have seen statements to the effect that juggling the various truth-like lies for the authorities while still keeping the actual real data accessible to your own management and not contaminated with the fake numbers is a tough job.

Perhaps it’s sort of like the version control problem in large code bases? I don’t know, I think this calls for input from an expert in the subject.

Except with it done manually, every crooked accountant will do things a little differently. There will be some tricks of the trade that get passed around, but every crook will use a different set of tricks, and usually with variants on them that they’ve come up with themself. This makes it harder for the forensic accountants, since they need to be familiar with all the tricks, and have the skill to recognize variants of them. If there’s software doing it, though, then every installation of that software will use all the same tricks, and won’t use any creativity in applying them, so the cops only need to recognize those specific tricks, and could even write computer programs of their own to spot the patterns.