Branching out from its primary objective to help with cancer research, IBM has introduced another totally different function for its AI software assistant Watson — tax preparation. By partnering with H&R Block, Watson is now poised to become the first AI tax preparation assistant in the world. This coming tax season, Watson will work alongside H&R Block’s 70,000 tax experts to help nearly 11 million individuals file their taxes.
Due to the complex nature of taxes, making use of an AI to simplify what is generally considered by many as a daunting task is definitely an appealing idea. IBM pointed it out clearly in the press release they issued — the tax code is over 74,000 pages long, and there are always new changes that impact ones taxes every year. Unless one isn’t doing anything else except monitoring these changes in tax policies, it is highly unlikely that he/she can keep up with these revisions.
For this reason, seeking help from tax experts is generally advisable. Think about this, though — these tax professionals are supposed to be experts at what they do, and yet even with their help, it is still possible for you to miss out some potential savings because tax experts are still human after all. Which means they can still make mistakes. With an AI in the picture, this is bound to change.
Watson has already been fed the entire 74,000 pages worth of tax code information, along with thousands of tax-related queries gathered over the years from preparing tax returns. Afterwards, Watson was ‘trained’ by H&R Block’s tax pros who thought they were just interacting with some software program not Watson. They gave their approval every time Watson suggested a relevant question to a tax filer, then corrected it when the question suggested was out of place.
Last month, a trial run using Watson’s assistance was conducted, and the results were supposedly ‘very pleasing’. And now the program is being offered in the company’s entire network.
It has to be made clear that the extent to which Watson can help with your taxes will still be dependent on your inputs. This means that Watson can’t be expected to find deductions without any suggestion from you. At the very least, Watson will be able to account for parts of the tax code (including the latest changes) which you may or may not be aware of.
It’s still in the initial phase, but its direction is clear. With each tax season, Watson will get better and better as it becomes more well-versed about the intricacies of the tax system. And we’re pretty sure this is an area where we will welcome AI help because its ability to process complexities is exactly what’s needed to tackle the complicated world of taxes.
While AI can’t totally do tax filing for you yet, it can help you maximize your refunds. That’s what tax season is really all about anyway.