The arrival of artificial intelligence as a powerful tool in tax and other practice areas presents the accounting profession with a tremendous opportunity, but also a substantial challenge. AI is accelerating the already rapid pace of change that CPAs have been experiencing in recent years.

The opportunity is to reshape and deepen our relationship with clients by leveraging our expertise to become their indispensable business advisors who, with the assistance of AI, provide critical insights that drive their growth. The challenge is to quickly apply needed changes in training, technology, organizational structure, marketing and other areas – and perhaps just as importantly, reinvent our self-image – so we don’t find ourselves marginalized by disruptive innovation.

The Promise of AI

Artificial intelligence, which is the ability of a computer to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, has a wide variety of applications across industries. In tax accounting it is making its mark by allowing computers to automate administrative tasks, such as sifting through reporting data, that typically take up much of an accountant’s time.

Applications in tax accounting will continue to evolve, but already AI is allowing accounting professionals to deliver more value to clients in several ways. We are better able to meet their expectations for a B-to-B customer experience that delivers popular aspects of the B-to-C experience, such as self-service in signing up for appointments and checking on the status of projects. It also provides the tools and frees up the time for advisors to deliver enhanced data-driven strategic insights into how a client’s business is operating and how to improve performance. For example, we might offer forecasts about the strength of the economy, what sectors are growing, and whether they should invest now in growing their business or hold off because the market is overheated.

This evolution in technology will also encourage tax experts to combine tech savviness with very human skills – the ones unreachable by machines – like best practices, experience, storytelling, effective communication and relationship-building.

The Path to AI Success

Like any disruptive technology, AI poses a challenge to existing businesses – how to rapidly implement new approaches and update old ones to conform while continuing to effectively and profitably serve clients as the transition takes place.

At LBMC, in response to the rapid development of AI as well as other trends, we have in the last few years paired our investments in technology with the creation of teams with expertise in project management, organizational development and facilitating change. The changes have also brought expansions in human resources, where in addition to increased training we have been focusing on new approaches to hiring and retention, as well as in marketing so that current and prospective clients understand the changes we are making to better serve them. We have also acquired a data analytics firm, LBMC Data Insights, to further our data storytelling.

Finally, amidst all these changes, it is important to tend to one other very human dimension – altering how we think about ourselves. In the tax world that means embracing our expertise and conceiving of ourselves first and foremost as trusted advisors who provide business leaders with insights that fuel growth. And while we sometimes wonder how far computers will go in replacing people, we should never underestimate the importance of purely human skills like enthusiasm, creativity or empathy – all essential elements of our profession.

Questions to consider as you plan to incorporate artificial intelligence into your practice:

  • What technology changes do you need to make?
  • How about changes in your organization, for example enhanced training and development or a revamped approach to recruiting?
  • How can you leverage AI to improve your customer experience?
  • How will you define the new role of your accounting professionals if the blocking and tackling is increasingly handled by computers?
  • How will you communicate these changes to your employees and clients?

LBMC tax tips are provided as an informational and educational service for clients and friends of the firm. The communication is high-level and should not be considered as legal or tax advice to take any specific action. Individuals should consult with their personal tax or legal advisors before making any tax or legal-related decisions. In addition, the information and data presented are based on sources believed to be reliable, but we do not guarantee their accuracy or completeness. The information is current as of the date indicated and is subject to change without notice.