Why Some Accountants Aren’t Using AI (and Why You Should Anyway)

Maddy Osman, Expert Product Reviewer
July 22, 2023
min read
September 19, 2023
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Some accountants have sworn off of AI for good, but we say it's your ally, not a replacement.
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Worried AI is coming for your job?

That's a concern that pretty much everyone — from LinkedIn to Threads — is shouting about.

And accountants might feel like an easy target. After all, they deal in numbers and facts. But this isn’t the first time accounting has faced a technological revolution.

Let's take a quick look back:

In the 1980s, the digital spreadsheet transformed the industry. As NPR’s Planet Money podcast pointed out, electronic spreadsheets like Excel got rid of roughly 400,000 bookkeeping and clerk jobs.

But they also paved the way for about 600,000 accounting positions.

Instead of worrying about an I Robot style AI uprising, it's time to embrace the new technology — and see how we can use it to further our careers.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Wh‎y some accountants have a beef with AI

Some accountants think of AI as a threat. And, I mean, they have a point — these tools have some drawbacks we need to be careful about. For example:

1. We don't know what we don't know... and neither does AI

Right now, there aren't any clear intellectual property (IP) guidelines for AI-generated work, meaning you might not own the rights to anything AI creates. 

AI can also be... “confidently incorrect” in what it says. These “hallucinations” are misrepresentative or sometimes even completely made up.

Here's one infamous example: New York lawyers Steven Schwartz and Peter LoDuca used ChatGPT to create a court brief.

Sounds great...until the program cited six cases that didn't exist. The judge found out, and now they're facing sanctions.

Some accountants worry that AI could generate false data or financial statements and make incorrect recommendations.

And as of now, there's no legal precedent for who’s responsible for these mistakes when they happen.

2. Everything new comes with risks

There’s also the potential issue of cybersecurity risk.

The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) reports that because many of these tools are open source, they’re open to targeted attacks against the programs or even the data they’re trained on.

To prevent this, a lot of AI tools (like Scribe for example) will use OpenAI LLM APIs, which have a strict set of limitations on how data can be used. That way, OpenAI can't use your data; instead, it's discarded and never even stored.

3. AI can do your job

This is such a hot topic that some Accounting Redditors suggested banning the subject altogether.

‎We can partially blame Goldman Sachs for this one. They infamously predicted that 300 million jobs would fall to AI. Accountants were lucky enough to make that list — along with designers, architects, sales reps, engineers, lawyers, healthcare workers... and pretty much anyone who uses a computer.

Accounting isn't a monolith. It's not just numbers. If it was, you'd have lost your job to a calculator years ago.

Let's look back at the Excel example we shared earlier. Instead of killing accounting, it evolved how accounting is done. While some titles and processes might change, the reality is that automation can make our jobs easier and help us work faster if we learn how to use it.

AI won't replace you. It shouldn't, and right now, it certainly can't. Like any software in your arsenal, it all depends on how you use it.

Wh‎y you should start using AI

It's time to wield AI's power for good.

Many accountants have already found ways to incorporate it into their work. Twenty-six percent of respondents in a 2022 CPA.com survey said they use AI in their client advisory services (CAS) firm. 

AI can help accountants automate those redundant, repetitive tasks that take up our time — like bookkeeping or checking for errors.

Instead of entering the same data over and over (and over), you can train AI programs on your preferences or feed it data to study. It can create entries based on your preferences, so you don't have to.

It's already helping out with general office administration, too. You can ask AI to write emails, schedule meetings, help with project management and forecast.

Or maybe you want to outsource some of your non-accounting work to AI, like marketing efforts or customer support. 

Notice the trend here? Giving AI these non-crucial tasks frees up your time to do what's important.

Po‎werful AI tools & how to use them

The future of AI isn't really that far. While none of the programs are perfect, there are several accounting tools you can take advantage of today.

Here are some of our favorites.

Scribe: AI-powered process docs

You know how you're always showing someone how to do something? Whether it's an intern, client or even your manager, you're always either walking through processes or building makeshift guides.

Tools like Scribe can do it for you. In seconds, turn any workflow into a visual how-to guide.

Basically, Scribe can capture any process that you do on a computer, and save you hours.

Ramp: Classify reports

Ramp helps you classify expenses, search for errors in data entry and even analyze or audit your books. 

Just feed your data to the program, and it'll review it in seconds. All you need is a prompt like “Classify these expenses based on our company’s rules found here."

While you definitely need to double-check everything, it's much faster than manually classifying every expense report that comes your way.

ChatGPT: Financial analysis

Popular YouTuber and CPA Hector Garcia has a detailed video tutorial on how he created a financial analysis using ChatGPT and a few statements from QuickBooks. 

He explains that it’s not as simple as dumping a spreadsheet in ChatGPT and clicking a button. He has to set up the task, ask specific questions and go back and forth a few times to get the exact information he needs. 

📌 Related Resource: 80+ ChatGPT prompts you can steal

Using ChatGPT helps him save time, but it’s no replacement for an accountant. 

The advice is generic, and Hector has to ask specific questions before getting the actionable insights he needs. A non-accountant likely wouldn’t know how to train the program to work for them.

He also pointed out that ChatGPT made some outright errors. Once, it told him that Florida doesn’t impose a state corporate income tax... which isn't true.

Remember, AI is better when it works with you.

Wh‎y some accountants are embracing AI

AI accountants aren’t some terrifying nightmare from an old Hollywood B-movie — they’re just tools. Instead of running away from the new technology, let's meet it head-on.

Cut down on those repetitive, error-prone tasks and watch AI make your life a whole lot easier.

Get started with an easy-to-use tool like Scribe, and hey, it might just be time for a vacation.

Ready to try Scribe?

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