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accountants and bookkeepers

How accountants and bookkeepers can use artificial intelligence

Technological advancements can bring significant change to various industry sectors, some more so than others. For instance, did you know that accountants and bookkeepers have been manually entering data for thousands of years, with some of the oldest known records bearing witness to this tradition?

However, just because things have been done a certain way forever doesn’t justify its continuation. This is where modern accounting software such as QuickBooks has transformed this practice, reducing time and resource allocation, duplication and error through automation. Today, burgeoning artificial intelligence (AI) technology and tools are paving the way for even more advancements in the accounting industry. While there is so much discussion around the role and place of AI in various industry sectors today, this excitement and curiosity also stokes fear and resentment. 

Does the accounting profession, and accountants, in particular, have anything to be concerned about?

What has become clear is that AI has already begun to have an impact on the accounting industry. There are shifts already underway, and the future looks promising. 

What’s not to like about powerful systems that can improve results, removing the repetitive tasks humans would like to avoid while improving accuracy and freeing time to work on higher-value work? Yet, the way forward calls for a recognition of the role and purpose of AI, recognising its strengths and weaknesses so that it can be used effectively, ethically and safely.

So, how exactly is AI changing the accounting profession today? Let’s dive in. 

How AI is changing the accounting profession

The all-important question, “Will accountants and bookkeepers be replaced by AI?” has been asked in the accounting sphere many times.

It’s understandable that accountants and finance professionals want to see the best that AI has to offer in terms of automating, removing complexity and reducing error. However, the profession is also looking to see how it can leverage AI for planning purposes, better integration, more accurate forecasting and streamlining, 

At its best, AI serves as a complementary force for good. Instead of drowning in repetitive, time-consuming and monotonous tasks such as data entry and tracking, accountants and bookkeepers can focus their time on more complex, strategic work that drives their business forward. 

Will AI replace accounting jobs anytime soon? Yes, for some but not for all. Will AI replace accountants? It's not likely. 

After all, the human touch is still needed for strategic tasks like tax planning and financial analysis. However, it is no longer a case of realising AI’s potential as AI is already here and demonstrating its impact and influence. 

What about the concern around the shifting role of a bookkeeper given what AI can support accounting firms with? Fears about what AI can replace should be met with anticipation and excitement around the evolution of the role into higher-value activities. As The State of AI in Accounting 2024. Emerging Trends, Challenges and Opportunities reports, roles matter. Owners, partners and directors of firms are, as expected, far more enthusiastic about AI than individual contributors are.

For those who have yet to make the leap or are hesitating about AI’s application and value, let’s explore several ways in which AI can be put to great use.

4 useful AI tools for accountants and bookkeepers 

One of the key things accountants and bookkeepers can already begin to do now is to find a way to automate as many repetitive finance and accounting-related activities as possible. 

Driving team efficiencies and finding ways to continually engage and retain top talent by investing in continual training and development as well as technology helps. 

For instance, if you need to quickly create a document, AI tools such as ChatGPT (more on this further down) could assist. If you want to quickly analyse financial data, Intuit Assist may be a great resource to support you.

Let’s take a closer look at four AI tools available that accountants may find useful.

1. ChatGPT

ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is a free-to-use AI system based on complex language models that seamlessly integrate into an accountant’s existing workflow. This natural language processing tool can help with research, content creation, and even basic document drafting. 

In essence, accountants and bookkeepers are freed from repetitive tasks and instead, can focus their energy on handling the more complex financial needs of their clients. 

Accountants can leverage ChatGPT for: 

  • Communication such as email or marketing copy
  • Data sorting 
  • Improving spreadsheet proficiency

Here are six ways you can use ChatGPT as an accountant. 

However, it is important to acknowledge that Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT can sometimes produce inaccuracies or even fabricate information, a phenomenon known as “hallucinations”. 

This occurs because the technology relies heavily on complex algorithms and does not inherently verify the accuracy of the information it processes. Therefore, human oversight is often necessary, especially for critical tasks and issues, to ensure the generated content is accurate and reliable.

Verdict: Despite these considerations, there is a significant opportunity for accountants to incorporate this tool in their day-to-day operations and gain benefits from its use.

2. Copilot

Microsoft Copilot is another AI tool, operating on a freemium model, that can assist accountants in their daily tasks. 

Combining the power of LLMs with an accountant’s data in Microsoft Graph and the Microsoft 365 apps such as Excel, Word and Outlook, this chatbot streamlines the process of creating presentations and documents with a single prompt. 

For instance, it can help an accountant generate a visually appealing financial report in Excel. It can even add relevant content from a document that was created much earlier. 

What else can Copilot do? Integrated into Outlook, it can unlock productivity by clearing an inbox in minutes. In Teams, it can summarise key discussion points and even suggest action items. Integrated into Excel, it assists with analysing trends and creating professional-looking data visualisations in seconds!

Verdict: Copilot is not just useful for unleashing creativity and unlocking productivity, it is a trusted companion in levelling up skills in word processing or spreadsheets. Integrated in productivity apps millions rely on daily and designed to learn new skills, it is set to perform even more sophisticated tasks as usage grows.

3. GrammarlyGO

As a cloud-based typing assistant, Grammarly assists by reviewing any text created, focusing on spelling, grammar, punctuation, clarity and engagement. It can also detect plagiarism and suggest replacements for any identified errors. 

GrammarlyGO, a generative AI feature of the writing tool, helps to write or rewrite your work, suggesting ideas based on prompts you provide to it.

Contrary to what you may think, the most important AI use case in accounting is actually communication - that’s right. 

According to The State of AI in Accounting 2024. Emerging Trends, Challenges and Opportunities  report, accountants are using AI to compose emails and refine their writing instead of focusing solely on accounting-specific functions such as audit. 

Perhaps many do not enjoy the writing process. As accountants and bookkeepers are expected to communicate regularly with clients, and frequently with regulatory bodies, this tool is truly useful in helping them write as clearly, logically and persuasively as possible.

Verdict: Not only can Grammarly carry out a once-over on writing submitted, but you can even set the tone and writing style before it begins to generate drafts or rewrites. The benefits? Maintaining a high standard of professionalism, preserving a strong reputation and retaining client trust.

4. QuickBooks Cash Flow Planner

An AI-powered tool, QuickBooks Cash Flow Planner is designed to unlock financial foresight for small business owners. Achieving positive cash flow is every small business owner’s dream state, but the reality is that many profitable businesses run into cash flow problems, making it challenging.

With AI, raw data is transformed into meaningful insights. AI-powered data analytics help identify trends, patterns, and anomalies, providing a deeper understanding of your clients’ financial health. 

For instance, let’s say that you’re working with a small start-up considering business expansion. What would happen if sales were to drop by 30% in the next quarter? What impact would a 15% rise in inventory costs have? Does the business have enough cash in the bank to account for a sudden uptick in demand?

With QuickBooks Cash Flow Planner, you can analyse the client’s financial data and develop forecasts to address a range of scenarios. The AI will analyse the company’s data to provide a sneak peek into each of these scenarios. This will enable you to then advise your client on the best time to expand or review potential risks they should be wary of, thus supporting them in making informed decisions confidently

Verdict: These tools are readily available and built into the Cash Flow Planner in the QuickBooks suite. Secure and reliable, this tool saves you time and empowers you to take control of your financial health, anytime, anywhere.

Streamline your accounting services with QuickBooks Online Accountant

QuickBooks Online Accountant can significantly enhance your accounting and bookkeeping services by automating time-consuming tasks like data entry and by providing valuable, data-driven insights. Manage your practice like a pro and start streamlining your services with QuickBooks Online Accountant today. 

Interested in learning more about the AI-powered tools in the QuickBooks suite? Download our free starter guide.

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