Will Software Really Replace Accountants?

carlsbad-226250_1280In July, an article in AccountingWeb caught my attention: “Can Software Really Replace Accountants?” Around the same time, the Don’t Mess with Taxes blog published a story saying that a recent study indicates that tax preparers have a 99% probability of being replaced by robots someday.

I think the 99% figure is over-dramatic.

If I ran a tax-preparation business that relied on preparing a high volume of simple tax returns, I would be worried. In fact, when people ask if they should start a tax preparation business, I respond by saying no, unless you can find specializations and take on more complex work.

The day is coming when a person with just a W-2 will be able to take a picture of the W-2 with their phone, upload it to an app, and send it off to the government.

But there will ALWAYS be a need for tax preparers and accountants.

Plugging numbers into a computer doesn’t mean you’ve done it right. Anyone can prepare their own taxes. Businesses can, too. The software will accept whatever the user puts into it … but it doesn’t mean it’s done correctly.

The AccountingWeb article seems to be geared more towards software replacing accountants for bookkeeping and financial statement services. On that front, again, business owners can keep their own books but it doesn’t mean they’re doing it right.

There’s also the time factor. The owner keeping his own books makes sense for a startup. But as the business grows, so will the time constraints.

On the web, software providers like QuickBooks and Xero show faces of smiling business owners happily keeping their own books. It’s all so easy and fast!

The reality is, once a business reaches a certain size, keeping the books will become a big drag on the owner. No software solution can overcome the crunch of time.

My opinion on all of this is: technology will certainly change the way we do business but it won’t eliminate our industry. The accounting industry is not like a stagecoach service at the dawn of the automobile.

Image courtesy of Martin Str on Pixabay.com