Addressing common concerns about artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is making its presence felt across many industries—and the accounting profession is no exception. While 51% of accounting professionals believe that ChatGPT and generative AI should be applied to tax, accounting, and audit work, opinions are divided about the usefulness of AI tools.
One of the primary concerns centers on how AI will affect accounting jobs and the career outlook for tax professionals. While AI is undeniably changing the face of the industry, it also holds positive implications for the future of accounting.
How is AI affecting accounting?
A growing interest in artificial intelligence is leading more firms to stake an investment in its potential. A Thomson Reuters survey found that 1 in 10 accounting and tax professionals are currently using ChatGPT/generative AI or planning to integrate these technologies into their operations.
Although the adoption rate for AI remains relatively low, the growth potential is high. AI is reshaping the way the industry functions by allowing accounting professionals to work more efficiently and at a faster pace. Some of the most notable impacts include:
As an evolving technology, AI is far from perfect, and it still lacks certain capabilities. While the latest version of ChatGPT passed a practice CPA exam, AI primarily remains a tool for aiding accountants and tax professionals, rather than a substitute for human expertise.
Is AI replacing accounting jobs?
Concerns about AI replacing accounting jobs are certainly valid. However, that isn’t happening yet, and it’s debatable whether it will happen at all. The World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs Report suggests that the jobs least likely to be lost to artificial intelligence include ones that require “human skills such as judgment, creativity, physical dexterity, and emotional intelligence.”
Accountants must be able to think logically to make informed decisions, use their creativity to find solutions for clients, and communicate effectively with everyone in their professional sphere.
There’s still no direct evidence that accountants are losing jobs to AI, though hiring for back-office roles could be affected as more tasks become automated. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ occupational outlook for accountants and auditors over the next decade calls for the field to increase by 4%—compared with a 3% average growth rate for all occupations.
What is AI automating in accounting?
AI is a web of connected technologies that accountants can use to automate mundane tasks that are essential to day-to-day operations. In doing so, they’re positioned to have more time to dedicate to higher-level activities, such as nurturing client relationships.
Robotic process automation (RPA), for example, is software technology that’s designed to act as a complement to processes performed by a human. Robotic accounting is a form of RPA that relies on software “bots” to perform certain accounting tasks, such as:
- Invoicing and account reconciliation
- Cash flow reporting and forecasting
- Budgeting and bookkeeping
- Document management and audit support
- Tax research and preparation
The use of AI allows accountants to take more of a hands-off approach to these types of activities, without compromising on data security or accuracy. AI is often instrumental in helping to identify errors and improve the overall accuracy of financial statements and reports, while streamlining and standardizing workflows.
Can AI do accounting?
While accounting software and tax preparation programs increasingly include elements of AI, accounting remains largely a human process. Accounting professionals are, however, turning to AI to automate parts of the tax workflow, including manual data entry.
There’s also an opportunity for AI to offer an enhanced client experience. SurePrep, a recent Thomson Reuters acquisition, has created Do It Like Last Year (DILLY), an AI process that utilizes both computer vision (CV) and natural language processing (NLP) to identify documents. The technology is designed to do so even if the documents in question change—eliminating the need to sift through and carry over information from prior years and shortening the time frame for completing client returns.
Using AI to innovate
Developing a knowledge base about AI will help you understand what it can—and cannot—do to assist your firm, as well as help allay any fears you might have about accounting jobs being replaced by the technology.
If you’re looking to explore the world of AI in accounting, join the AI @ Thomson Reuters community. Here, you can connect with experts, learn about the latest AI trends, and unlock the full potential of AI in your accounting practice.
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