H&R Block, the tax preparation giant, has unveiled its latest offering, a conversational AI chatbot called AI Tax Assist, aimed at answering taxpayers' queries.
This feature, accessible through paid versions of H&R Block's DIY tax software, enables users to seek information on tax rules, possible exemptions, and various tax-related issues.
Notably, AI Tax Assist not only guides users but also directs them to a human tax expert for more personalized advice, with plans to incorporate AI-driven personalized recommendations in the future.
In a demonstration, H&R Block showcased how individuals with complex tax filing scenarios, such as gig workers, can initiate their tax returns.
They can then engage with AI Tax Assist, asking questions like, "What business expenses can I deduct as an Uber driver?"
The AI responds by presenting a list of allowable deductions, allowing users to choose whether to incorporate this information into their final filing.
H&R Block is transparent about the AI-driven nature of this feature, displaying a banner to inform users and providing sample prompts.
Recognizing the importance of trust, the company believes that the existing trust relationship with customers will encourage the adoption of this AI-powered tool.
According to Chris Linderwell, Vice President of Consumer Tax Products at H&R Block, users are not merely seeking directives on tax matters but desire a comprehensive understanding of the tax filing process.
AI Tax Assist caters to this by offering insights into various tax exemptions and the treatment of assets like cryptocurrency under the tax code.
Linderwell emphasized the platform's goal to retain users within the H&R Block ecosystem, steering them away from resorting to external sources like Google for tax-related queries.
The company envisions AI Tax Assist evolving over time to provide increasingly personalized responses to user inquiries.
While AI Tax Assist is not available on the free version of the app, H&R Block assures users that subscription prices for accessing the conversational AI platform will not increase. The paid plans start at $35.
Built with models from OpenAI and Microsoft, AI Tax Assist underwent training exclusively on H&R Block's tax laws library.
The company stresses that the model didn't pull information from the internet and was refined with the assistance of its team of accountants, lawyers, and tax professionals.
H&R Block aims for users to experience AI Tax Assist as akin to interacting with human accountants.
In case of concerns or doubts, users can seek assistance from the company's team of live human experts via phone.
In the competitive landscape, other tax preparation apps like Intuit's TurboTax are also leveraging AI. Intuit's approach involves using AI to identify missing information in tax filings and provide recommendations for maximizing deductions.
Filing taxes, historically a complex process, has fueled the success of companies like H&R Block and Intuit.
Despite ongoing efforts to simplify and potentially reduce the cost of tax preparation, the government is exploring its own direct tax filing software. However, private platforms are expected to remain popular choices for many individuals in the coming months.