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  • Charles (1653 posts)
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    Robots Will Soon Do Your Taxes. Bye-Bye, Accounting Jobs

    Robots Will Soon Do Your Taxes. Bye-Bye, Accounting Jobs

    By VASANT DHAR: 02.20.17.  8:30 AM

    TAX SEASON HAS arrived, as the Super Bowl recently reminded us: In the first half alone, two commercials encouraged viewers to trust computers to do our taxes, the first from H&R Block with its new partner Watson, and the second from TurboTax with its friendly talking tax bot.

    Machines won’t be able to automatically file taxes with the IRS for a few years. But do these commercials signal that robots can come close, requiring fewer human experts, mostly for sanity checks? Is another human profession on the verge of biting the dust?

    It sure seems that way. As my research shows, robots are best-suited to predictable tasks when the cost per error is low. As a task becomes less predictable and a robot makes more mistakes, the automation is worth it only if those mistakes don’t carry significant costs. For example, driverless cars make few errors, but those mistakes can be expensive and deadly. In contrast, most tax return decisions, especially the simpler ones, aren’t terribly risky, as they’re based on massive amounts of historical data on which the machine learns to anchor its decisions.


    More than 2 million people were employed as accountants, bookkeepers, and auditors in 2015. Until now, these types of information-oriented professions have resisted automation because they require managing unstructured data emanating from the real world, making judgments, and dealing with actual people. What’s different now, however, is that artificial intelligence’s perceptive capabilities have improved. Machines can now handle images, sounds, and text in a way that enables them to ingest and analyze data at high volume, without making costly mistakes. Between accounting professionals and truck drivers alone, about 4.5 million human jobs could be ceded to robots over the next few years….


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    About the author:

    Vasant Dhar  is a professor at the Stern School of Business and the Center for Data Science at NYU. He is chief editor of the Big Data journal.

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  • jeff47 (1089 posts)
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    1. For the vast majority of people, taxes are really simple

    The IRS already has all the data to file your taxes if you are a typical paycheck-for-a-living person.  Your employer already sent it to them, as did your mortgage (if applicable), any investment accounts (if applicable), and so on.

    The IRS could just send you a pre-filled 1040 and have you sign it, making any tweaks they do not know about (like birth of a child).  But that would cut into the money paid to places like H&R Block and Intuit (makers of TurboTax).  So they lobby like hell against it.

    So it’s entirely understandable that these companies have created automated tax preparation.  Because tax preparation is really easy for the vast majority.

  • Bob the Bilderberger (86 posts)
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    2. I've been using TurboTax online for 10 years

    That’s about as robotic as you can get.


  • hollys mom (907 posts)
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    3. I shouldn't say this since my sister is an accountant

    (she is doing taxes free for seniors now, retired)

    But I had an accountant when I set up my corporation, he charged me 2K and gave me a large form to fill out before I saw him.  then he just copied and pasted from that form. So I kept the form and filled it out and copied and pasted the rest  of t he time by myself, I used to by the what has changed in the tax law to make sure I did not screw up from year to year. SO b asically, I Only used one once, mostly I have always done my own taxes.


    Oh and for years major corporations have been outsourcing accounting to India, First data entry, then engineers and programmers,  then lawyers and accountants.

  • FanBoy (7985 posts)
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    4. robots? they mean computers?

    besides which, accounting isn’t all about doing final taxes