Home Artificial Intelligence Can AI do my taxes? Here’s what to know

Can AI do my taxes? Here’s what to know


As the clock ticks toward the tax filing deadline, some people might be desperate enough to turn to a bevy of new AI chatbots to do it all for them.

One word of advice: Don’t. 

There’s a reason we warn kids not to use ChatGPT to write an essay or finish their history homework. And the bot is especially bad at math. Add in the intricate and often ambiguous realm of tax laws that vary by state, and it could be a recipe for disaster − or even worse − an audit. 

This question of whether it’s a good idea to use generative AI for tax help comes at a time when the nation’s most popular tax preparation companies, Intuit’s TurboTax and H&R Block, launched generative AI “assistants.” 

So far, reviews of “Intuit Assist,” specifically in Turbo Tax’s DIY “Self-Help” section, and H&R Block’s “AI Tax Assist,” which is part of their paid packages, underscore why this sort of AI won’t replace human expertise any time soon. 

Not that they’re meant to, Turbo Tax spokeswoman Karen Nolan said on a Zoom call. And it’s important taxpayers understand that. 

How can generative AI help with my taxes?

Intuit Director of Design Jim Fell and Nolan walked me through some of the most common ways people can − and cannot − use the new tool. 

“Our AI is a digital front door to simple help flagging missing information or inconsistencies while also providing access to expert help from a human being,” Nolan explained as Fell showed me specific use-cases on screen. 

The main ways the AI chatbot pops up right now are to flag an accuracy check, such as missed information or potential “clumsy-thumb” typos. It also offers deeper, more detailed explanations of finished returns and can quickly translate between languages for filers who might be overwhelmed trying to figure everything out in English. 

That last part is the most impressive bit of AI magic that’s easy to see firsthand. The rest of the machine learning tools run mainly in the background and have for years. Nolan says it has been checking for tax return accuracy, cutting down on repetitive tasks, and helping find obscure deductions for nearly a decade.

Does H&R Block have a new AI tax tool?

H&R Block’s new “AI Tax Assist” is a more prominent part of its website and similar to what many of us have played around with using ChatGPT, Copilot or Gemini. 

Like Turbo Tax’s Intuit Assist, it’s best to use H&R Block’s AI Tax Assist more for a simple query or as a failsafe for common mistakes. For instance, it does well defining tax terms and explaining something you might not understand (such as the simplest, most easy-to-understand terms in the filing process). 

Is AI just bad at math? 

Remember when I said that AI doesn’t do “facts” very well? It’s abundantly clear that you can’t ask ChatGPT or any other AI conversation bot a critical or confusing tax question and trust its answers. 

That’s largely because different AI assistants are trained on different types of information, kind of like if you raised a child without ever teaching her what colors are called, then asked her what color an apple is. She might try to come up with an answer, but without being taught, a guess is as good as you’re going to get. 

In the case of Intuit Assist, the company says the bot was trained on current tax code as well as the company’s own vast data trove based on its tax prep experience. That information, combined with whatever it learns from your own tax documents along the way, forms its knowledge base and dictates the answers you receive when asking it a question. 

H&R Block’s AI Tax Assist works in a similar way, and the company says it used its own archive of tax laws, with a few tweaks here and there from their own accountants, tax law experts and the like. 

Neither of these bots is trained from information scraped from the internet, which is reassuring, but that doesn’t prevent them from falling victim to AI accuracy issues. All versions of consumer AI currently have a “hallucination” problem. They often spit out information that sounds “right” but is out of date, inaccurate or just plain made up.

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Here’s how not to use AI to do your taxes

In some early reviews of Intuit Assist and AI Tax Assist, a fellow technology columnist asked the tax chatbots a slew of much more specific and nuanced hypothetical questions, and it didn’t go well

Both company’s bots responded with vague, misleading or just wrong answers, specifically when his questions were around cryptocurrencies, multi-state returns and other uncommon filing situations. 

For example, when asked a question about where a college student should file taxes when they go to school out of state, the journalist reported that TurboTax’s bot provided “irrelevant advice” and H&R Block’s AI assistant erroneously suggested the student would have to file in both states. The truth is, the person would have to file only in a state where they earned income, but neither AI helper nailed the answer. 

These situations reveal the limitations of artificial intelligence, but those specific shortcomings aren’t necessarily applicable across the board, spokespeople from both companies say. 

“If Turbo Tax is powering the AI, you can trust it,” Nolan said. “We don’t expect our customers to try to manipulate it the way (that journalist did). That wouldn’t really happen if you’re doing your taxes.”

When I asked Nolan about the trouble people might have turning to an AI chatbot in the Self Help section specifically, she explained, “If you have questions like that, a DIY product is probably not what you need.” 

Nolan also reiterated that in the hypothetical instance it gives you bad advice, the company’s system would flag that before it allowed you to finish and file. 

“AI won’t file your taxes for you, even if you’re using our mobile app and not speaking with a human. AI is not filing your actual return. We will absolutely capture inaccuracies before anything gets to the IRS,” Nolan said. 

Be sure to read the fine print

Turbo Tax identifies its AI chatbot as a Beta version product, which mean it’s still working out the kinks. It has several disclaimers in the fine print that warn people advice might not be spot-on. Same with H&R Block. 

“Gen-AI for the industry is still in its infancy,” Nolan said. “You won’t see us using AI to do math. We have other things doing the math.”

To TurboTax’s credit, the Intuit Assist bot did help me along the way, even if the standard checks and issue alerts would have accomplished the same thing, albeit a bit later in the process. But the most important thing about these AI tax bots is that they’re designed to get better over time. Fast-forward a few years, and both tax assistants will probably be miles better than they are today, and they learn as they go. 

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Will we use AI to do our taxes in the future? 

Future versions of these tax-minded assistants will be smarter and more robust than the versions we have today. That’s the promise of generative AI, and we’ll all grow to expect it as artificial intelligence gradually takes over more of our daily tasks. 

You know those prescription drug commercials on TV? It’s kind of like that right now. Here’s this amazing new tool that can save you time, give you “more confidence” and maybe even save you money. But the list of potential problems using it without guardrails on something as crucial as your taxes comes with a list of potential “side effects” so long it makes you laugh out loud. 

Fortunately, humans at TurboTax and H&R Block are still running the show, and they both guarantee the accuracy of your tax return, regardless of whether you use the available AI features. If you get audited, they’ll give you advice and guide you along the way, but additional safeguards like TurboTax’s Audit Defense or H&R Block’s Peace of Mind Extended Service Plan, where the companies actually deal with the IRS on your behalf, still cost extra. 

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech columnist and on-air correspondent. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY. Contact her at [email protected]



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