How generative artificial intelligence can ease the mounting pressures on tax teams

How generative artificial intelligence can ease the mounting pressures on tax teams

ChatGPT and other generative AI solutions will soon become commonplace, argues Russell Gammon of Tax Systems

These are challenging times for tax teams.

They are facing new regulatory requirements, an escalating workload and intense HMRC scrutiny – all without any budgetary increases.

But tools such as ChatGPT could make their lives easier, according to Russell Gammon, chief solutions officer at tax compliance software provider,  Tax Systems.

“Technology can help fill the gap when accountancy firms need to increase their output without making their staff work longer hours,” he says.

Gammon believes the new generation of AI tools can not only enable firms to carry out repetitive, time-consuming tasks, but improve accuracy by pinpointing errors.

“You can ask generative AI to identify anything weird about a data set and it’s very good at finding transactions that look strange,” he explains.

Gammon believes such tools can act as useful co-pilots for accountancy teams that are already struggling to cope with spiralling demands on their time.  “It’s just a way of using technology to cut out the more menial, low-level tasks and enable people to concentrate on what they have been trained to do,” he adds.

Complement not replacement

Regulatory changes such as Making Tax Digital (MTD) has increased the burden on tax teams, as has complying with business trends such as environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. This is happening at the same time as the ongoing cost of living crisis has put business budgets under strain and made it difficult to recruit staff, according to Gammon.

“There are a finite number of people that know tax to the level needed for a complex organisation and they are already in high demand,” he explains. “Staff are scarce and not easily replaceable.”

Equally, Gammon does not subscribe to scary stories that AI will replace skilled professionals. In fact, he’s adamant that humans and computers will happily co-exist.

“People tend to be at either extreme,” he says. “There are those who believe they’ll be out of a job in five years and others that see it as a flash in the pan technology. I’m somewhere in the middle.”

The main problem is getting to grips with the different providers, understanding what solutions they can offer, and working out how they can be successfully implemented.

“I’ve worked in tax technology for 15 years and this is by far the quickest I’ve seen anything new being introduced,” Gammon says. “There seems to be a new application of AI out almost every day.”

So, how should firms respond? Is now the time to splash out on the latest AI tools or is it better to sit tight until the likely winners emerge?

Accessibility is key

“The best advice for firms is to get in there and have a play,” Gammon says. “The technology is very good at processing words and turning them into something else. That’s where I’d start.”

Gammon believes the reason why ChatGPT has become particularly popular over recent months is due to its accessibility. Anyone can go online and explore what it has to offer.

Of course, generative AI is not the perfect solution – at least not yet. There are still plenty of stumbling blocks to overcome before these systems are widely accepted.

“There are some really good ways to harness this technology but it’s equally important to know its limitations, so you don’t push it too far,” Gammon notes.  For example, he believes there are still considerations around data security, as well as accuracy and consistency, that need to be tackled before these systems become commonplace.

“There’s not much trust in this technology because it’s still new and people are exploring how it can be used,” he says. “When they have more faith,  things will start to change.”

Its use in more complicated tax processes is a prime example. While its abilities to ingest and interrogate data are impressive, question marks remain over calculations.

“It’s being sure that you’ll receive the same answer 100 times out of 100, as well as how you can get it to explain its working,” Gammon adds.

However, Gammon regards these as more short-term teething issues rather than longer-term problems that will derail the broader take-up of such solutions.

Looking ahead, he believes generative AI definitely has a role to play in the tax teams of tomorrow and predicted the development will be rapid over the next few years.

“It’s just a very exciting time for different industries as it’s going to change the game,” he says.

To hear more of Russell’s thoughts on this subject, sign up to attend Tax Systems’ webinar ‘Generative AI: what you need to know about Tax and ChatGPT’ on Tuesday 11th July at 10am. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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