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Article

Checkpoint Edge: A Different Kind of Artificial Intelligence

By Tad Simons

Tax professionals often think of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as either an alien system of whirring algorithms or an evil computerized brain that will eventually steal their job. But what if there was another kind of AI—one that acted like a friendly colleague, and was programmed specifically to help you work smarter and make your job more satisfying and profitable? 

Checkpoint Edge, Thomson Reuters’ new AI-powered tax and accounting research platform, is changing the way accountants, tax advisors, and compliance officers think about AI. That’s because Checkpoint Edge represents a different kind of computerized intelligence. Forget the word “artificial.” It’s more helpful to think of Checkpoint Edge’s AI as a form of “assistive intelligence”—that is, a dedicated support system engineered to help tax researchers improve the quality, efficiency, precision, and reliability of their work.

The “edge” Checkpoint provides is faster, easier access to more reliable information, which streamlines the research process, improves productivity, and frees up time for higher-level analysis, strategic forecasting, and advisory services. Users can also be confident that the answers to their tax questions are correct, and sleep soundly knowing that their work is both defensible and accurate.

Checkpoint Edge’s “intelligence” isn’t just a product of clever programming. Developed by the same team that created the award-winning legal-research platform Westlaw Edge, Checkpoint Edge combines the knowledge of more than 500 of Thomson Reuters legal and tax editors, as well as the accumulated wisdom of Checkpoint’s 200,000+ user base. Checkpoint Edge’s support team also adds an average of 25,000 updates a month to the platform’s proprietary tax and legal databases, ensuring that data is always up to date.

There’s nothing artificial about it.

Research problems solved

When developing Checkpoint Edge, the Thomson Reuters’ AI team set out to solve a number of common problems faced by tax professionals, including the complex and ever-changing tax code, shifting trade rules and other regulations, stricter rules of compliance, pressure to provide correct answers quickly, and an equally urgent need for research that is both deep and thorough.

When it comes to tax research, however, the problem is often too much information from too many sources, and no elegant way to sift through it. Google and other popular search engines do an adequate job of searching public websites, but they aren’t designed by or for tax experts, so the results can be misleading. Researchers can waste a great deal of time going down various rabbit holes and dead ends to make sure they haven’t missed anything, and yet still never be certain that a key piece of information hasn’t been overlooked.

Fast, easy, and smart

To address these issues, Checkpoint Edge’s AI team re-thought the entire tax research process and developed the platform’s tools to help users find the best possible answers in the least amount of time.

Users familiar with the Thomson Reuters Checkpoint interface will notice a much cleaner home-screen layout with much more intuitive search tools. And for each search, both proprietary and public database choices are aggregated into a single template, a convenience that cuts work-flow time by eliminating the need to hunt for needles of information in separate haystacks of data.

Another hurdle faced by tax researchers, especially inexperienced ones, is that they don’t always know what they’re looking for, and don’t always know the right questions to ask. To take the guesswork out of guessing, Checkpoint Edge uses a customized form of natural language processing (NLP) that extrapolates the correct area of inquiry from surprisingly little information. It doesn’t matter how a question is asked; users can use whatever words make sense to them and Checkpoint Edge will deduce the answer. The platform’s AI also learns from every individual search and from the collective search behaviors of Checkpoint’s 200,000+ users, continually improving the precision and quality of each subsequent search.

An AI is only as good as the intelligence behind it, though. Fortunately, that’s where Checkpoint Edge’s AI truly excels. Checkpoint Edge not only distills the knowledge of hundreds of Thomson Reuters editors and engineers into a powerful and easy-to-use research tool, it also marries that expertise with the most complete tax and legal databases in the industry. This combination—along with simultaneous access to sites by the IRS, AICPA, FASB, individual states and other reputable public sources—ensures that the platform is always scanning the most trustworthy information available.

A more intuitive, helpful AI

For any given query, locating the best available answer is the goal. But tax research is often complicated by numerous variables, including jurisdictional discrepancies, regulatory changes, and multiple interpretations of the law. To clear away the clutter and find the most appropriate answers, Checkpoint Edge doesn’t just search keywords and phrases. Rather, it is programmed to recognize tax-specific nomenclature, terms of art, acronyms, legal frameworks, conceptual relationships, and other peculiarities of tax language. “Concept markers” and other helpful organizational features also help users tag and group ongoing research for easy reference.

As impressive as Checkpoint Edge’s AI is, however, perhaps the best thing about it is that you

don’t need to know how it works to get the results you’re looking for. In fact, Checkpoint Edge’s AI is designed to learn how you work, so that you don’t have to spend time learning a whole new system. 

Why?

Because the best way to think about AI is not to have to think about it all.

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