Is Artificial Intelligence the Future of the Accounting Profession?
Over the past few decades, artificial intelligence has been a very popular subject for all sorts of science fiction media, from Terminator to The Matrix, and beyond. While some of these more extreme examples of AI still seem far-fetched, the amount of progress we’ve seen in automation and machine learning in recent years is undeniable. While automation has been replacing manufacturing labor for years, advancements in AI are starting to give office workers concerns that their jobs may be next. While these technological advancements could potentially affect just about any job out there, for this blog I’m just going to focus on what it could mean for the accounting profession.
As of today, there are some limited applications of AI that can be used to assist (but not replace) an accounting department. As with the automation of manufacturing labor, AI will start to slowly replace some of the repetitive aspects of bookkeeping, such as recording and coding of transactions. What I find even more interesting is the way that some software and services, such as Kount and SparkCognition, are able to use data pattern analysis to flag suspicious transactions to help prevent fraud. These types of services, in my opinion, are more likely to add value to accounting departments rather than they are to replace personnel (depending on the size of the company and the headcount in their accounting department). Accountants will have more time to spend on strategy and decision-making and less time devoted to number-crunching.
If we are to look beyond our current technological capabilities and try to predict what’s coming in the future, that’s where things get a bit more murky. With the increasing popularity of ChatGPT, a language model capable of carrying on conversations and giving long-form answers, some are speculating that AI may be able to conduct tax planning interviews, fill out audit programs, or maybe perform other forms of consulting work in the not-so-distant future. ChatGPT is far from fool-proof at this point and I wouldn’t trust it to do my taxes for me, but we’ll have to wait and see how much it improves in the future.
To answer the question I pose in the title of this article, no, I don’t think that artificial intelligence is the “future” of the accounting profession. I do think that AI is a tool that will become more widely used in certain aspects of accounting and bookkeeping in the coming years, but we still have a long way to go before human accountants are fully replaceable. But maybe that’s just the optimistic human accountant in me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tim Peters is a manager at Morrison working primarily in our Business & Accounting Advisory practice. To get in touch with Tim, reach out to him by email at email@example.com or by phone at (530) 809-4675.