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AI, automation, accountants… and why they will co-exist

26 Jul 2023

Is the ‘death of the accountant’ near? Vipul Sheth discusses why businesses will always need financial (and very human) support.

This blog is not about technology… no really. OK, I will talk about technology, but more as a scene-setter than anything else.

Instead, this blog is about you and me. Humans. Or to be more precise, humans that undertake accounting and tax work (and the subset that provide broader business advice). But the tech first.

QuickBooks/TurboTax/Mailchimp group Intuit has filed some 700 patents focused on AI. Its CEO Sasan Goodarzi announced earlier in June that it is embedding AI into a new operating system (GenOS), which will ‘solve tax, accounting, marketing, cashflow and personal finance challenges’.

There is no mention of accountants, tax advisers or business consultants and their role is this new model.

So, is that it for the accountancy profession? Certainly not. Is it the end for it in its current iteration? Perhaps yes.

AI works by aggregating data and making a ‘best fit’ case for a request from us, humans, to provide us with an ‘answer’. This data is quantitative or qualitative. We have seen AI tools produce some very clever ‘scripts’ upon request though, in truth, most of these don’t quite fit the bill – and require us humans to further interpret and edit.

Perhaps the ‘clear-cut’ nature of numbers will be a different story then? Well, we’ve had computational equipment for decades, and the profession is still alive and well.

Technicians and advisers

It could be argued that the profession is evolving – that as tax and accounting becomes more complex, and businesses require more hand-holding and advice, that we will see a greater distinction between ‘technicians’ and advisers’. This is true, but there is a tension – that relationships have often been borne from initial compliance work. In other words, for the technician/adviser distinction to be made, there will have to be changes in practices’ structure and approach.

The other thing to consider is: micro and small businesses are messy. They’re driven by people with skills and ambition, for whom the numbers, marketing and ‘rules’ get in the way of what they really want to do. They also operate in subtly different ways to each. That’s a lot of lifting and transactional automation for AI to comprehend.

Finally, and back to us as humans doing business. It can be very lonely. And accountants are in a wonderful position to not only manage compliance, but to provide insight on all the information that automation and AI has formed on OUR behalf.

Business owners want advice and support. Ideally, from a wise head (that has the rest of a human attached to it). That wise human could (and probably should) be you.

Vipul Sheth is founder and MD of AdvanceTrack Outsourcing

If you’d like to talk to AdvanceTrack about preparing your practice for the future, please visit their Partner Resource Centre page and complete their contact form.