How artificial intelligence is shaking things up

The Tax
Institute lecturer Tom O’Sullivan 
shares his insights on how artificial intelligence (AI) is creating phenomenal value, but is also troubling tax professionals about their career prospects.
In this
changing environment, problem solving skills as well as the ability to nurture
client relationships will be just as important as maintaining expert knowledge
in the tax adviser’s areas of specialty. Tom O’Sullivan, former Deputy Head of
Content at Wolters Kluwer and lecturer on the
tax foundations subject at The Tax Institute, reveals how amidst all the change the tax professional role will still be important.
Tom has
extensive experience working in the tax profession as a lawyer and lecturer,
mainly dealing with income tax issues. He says the integration of artificial intelligence
(AI) into tax advisory work will change how tax work is done. AI can be used to
scan thousands of pages of tax information (e.g. legislation, cases, rulings,
etc) and generate solutions for tax problems.
In 2017, an Adelaide practitioner designed and launched a law
firm staffed solely by AI called the 
Intelligent Legal Information Research Assistant (Ailira)
, providing tax and
estates law services. AI, like Ailira, breaks down the cost barriers to accessing
legal and tax services and companies are adopting it because it removes the
‘fees’ of having humans sift through documents. 
“This will
change how tax work is done because the software will be able to write routine letters,
as well as complex advice, to clients,” Tom explains.
“The tax
professional will still need to be on call to provide oversight and to exercise
judgment over the solutions that AI generates, particularly in more nuanced
With reports estimating 40
per cent of Australian jobs to be automated by 2025, McKinsey predicts that
approximately 22% of the tax professionals job will be replaced and approximately
35% of those in an assistant role.
will need specialised tax knowledge so that they can continue to add value and
remain relevant to their clients,” Tom says. 
professional education and lifelong learning is a must, including keeping
abreast of emerging technological solutions.”
Practical learning
Tom says CTA1
Foundations helps advisers structure their tax knowledge base from the outset,
which can then be built on in the more advanced subjects and in their
day-to-day work.
program is highly practical so candidates develop the skills necessary to solve
common problems that clients present,” he says.
enables candidates to apply what they’ve learned in their day-to-day work.
There are examples and case studies throughout the subject that consider
real-world scenarios and assist candidates in improving their applied tax
subject will help candidates ascertain their clients’ tax liabilities and
advise them about relevant tax issues.
“The education
program also equips candidates with some skills to prepare tax returns and activity
statements,” adds Tom.
Perseverance is critical
advice to new practitioners is to keep learning and be patient doing so.
“I would
advise new practitioners to continuously update their knowledge and skills so they
remain relevant to clients,” he says.
“The Tax
Institute’s education programs and professional development conferences are an
excellent opportunity to do this as well as to expand your network.

Tax practitioners of the future require deep technical knowledge complemented with broader technology and business skills, such as leadership and problem solving, which cannot be automated yet.

“It is important to be patient in your learning of the tax system as there is so much to learn.

“But don’t give up: perseverance is critical as you work to deepen your
understanding of the tax system,” he adds.

not too late to hit your career goals in 2018. Find out more about building
your foundations of tax with the Institute’s CTA1 Foundations subject.
Enrolments close soon.


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