Are robots coming to take over tax and accounting jobs? It may seem like something from a sci-fi movie, but Domingo Huh, lead user experience designer for research and development at Thomson Reuters, is here to reassure you that the point where artificial intelligence would be able to take over tax and accounting jobs is still far into the future.
With the increasing capabilities of artificial intelligence technology, it’s hard not to think that people’s jobs could be at risk, especially those in fields like tax and accounting.
As the host of Checkpoint Presents: World of Tax, I recently interviewed Domingo, who addressed this concern and other common questions raised about AI.
For starters, what is artificial intelligence (AI)? Everyone seems to be talking about it but not everyone is on the exact same page. By far the most common perception of AI is that it comes in the form of human-like robots such as those in the movie “The Terminator” or C-3P0 from “Star Wars.” In reality, artificial intelligence encompasses much more than that – it is “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.” While robots can utilize artificial intelligence, AI is really all about computer capabilities. It has limitless applications, but examples include things like spam filters in our email accounts and Amazon’s history-based purchase recommendations.
AI’s impact on tax and accounting workflows
The implementations that have been made in the tax world can already improve a tax professional’s work drastically. What makes this technology so powerful is that, when combined with machine learning capabilities, as more people use a program, the more effective and “smarter” it becomes. By aggregating patterns in search habits, for example, a program would be able to more accurately predict the exact information a user was looking for over time, allowing them to find the right answers faster.
For example, with the changes brought about from the recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), tax professionals need to understand how changes in the law affect their clients. As more and more users research specific topics on an AI-based program, the program is able to see what information users were referencing the most to find answers and then put that page higher up in the search query for other users in the future. This is just one of the ways in which AI can save practitioners time.
While the list of things that AI can help with is already quite impressive, the possibilities for what can come are endless, especially in the tax space. Specifically, Domingo sees advances in natural language processing (“a branch of AI that helps computers understand, interpret, and manipulate human language”) eventually enabling more conversational systems that can effectively maintain and adjust context, and be integrated as a digital teammate to help solve tax problems.
Artificial intelligence is your ally, not your enemy
Being able to find the right answer quickly so that you can get back to your clients is more important than ever, and AI allows people to do just that through better search results. Tax professionals are seeing an increasing pressure on both quality and efficiency, making it hard for tax professionals to do it all single-handedly. This is where the power of technology, and more specifically AI, comes in. If AI can assist in finding answers to key questions quickly, more work can be done, and client relationships can grow stronger.
Firms using artificial intelligence will be able to process more returns and do so with greater efficiency. Advisors will be able to focus on the best structure for transactions instead of struggling to find an answer on how to interpret the law. Artificial intelligence can set your firm a part and allows you to better serve your clients and meet their needs.
So if you’re still worried that you will be replaced by artificial intelligence, rest assured that while artificial intelligence is great at working through lower level tasks, including analytics, number crunching, etc., Domingo believes that “if it’s always around user-centric problems, humans have to be in the loop.” As technology continues to evolve, there seems as if there will always need to be some human interaction to ensure accuracy and that the best results are being generated.