June 12, 2019
LONDON –Across the board, AI adoption is on the rise. Arecent EY survey of US CEOs and business leaders found that mostsenior enterprise decisionmakers (85%) classify themselves as artificialintelligence optimists, while the financial services industry in particular isbenefiting significantly from an uptick in AI adoption.
One area offinancial services quietly undergoing a revolution in AI and automation is tax andaccounting. To gain a better understanding of how AI is being used in taxtoday, we sat down with Charles Brayne and Harvey Lewis from EY. Charles isEY’s UK Chief Tax Innovation Officer and Partner and has a dual role. On theone hand, he works with clients to help them adopt new tax technologies and onthe other, he oversees the implementation of AI technologies within EY’s owntax business. Meanwhile, as EY’s UK Chief Tax Data Scientist, Harvey worksdirectly with tax and law professionals to create and deliver new AI tools andapplications, as well as provide strategic oversight for their automationprojects.
Why is AI a focus for tax?
C: Whilsttax is enormously complicated in so many ways, it’s also very systematic andlogical. We’ve found that a lot of what we do is enormously susceptible tobeing performed in a very different way using various branches of AI, such as pattern-basedmachine learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural LanguageGeneration (NLG), all of which we’re investing in heavily. In all likelihood whatwe do as tax professionals will be fundamentally transformed in the next 3-5years.
In what way?
C: A lot ofthe routine work in tax is around compliance, data cleansing and dataprocessing; being able to identify risks and anomalies, and produce returns. Weare now starting to use technology to deliver this work in a fundamentallydifferent way. People are going to be using a range of technologies to producethose outputs. You could see fewer people doing tax compliance and accountingin future because so much of it will be driven by technology, or at the veryleast, those people will have more time to focus on the outputs of that workand what it means for the business.
What do you see are the benefits, Harvey?
H: For me, there are two primary benefits for AI in tax. Thefirst is that it allows you to deliver old services in new ways. If you thinkabout some of the conventional tax or law-related services that organisationsprovide, AI can make them much more efficient by orders of magnitude.
The second is that entirely new services are possible whenyou apply these technologies. We can look at the data and tasks that we performand apply AI to enable something very different, so whether that’s screeningnew information sources for changes in tax legislation or helping taxprofessionals complete interviews with engineers claiming R&D tax credits.There’s a wide range of applications for these technologies that allow us to gomuch wider and deeper into these services.