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HMRC boots up artificial intelligence trial

3rd Jul 2017
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Digital illustration of number tunnel

HMRC will soon begin artificial intelligence (AI) trials in some of its processes, starting with customer contact and casework, according to the man responsible for the Revenue’s digital transformation

Speaking at the Public Sector Show in London, HMRC’s interim chief digital and transformation officer Mike Potter stated the plans were being conducted with the ultimate aim to “take the graft out of people’s jobs” so they could “focus on higher value work”.

The trials will be launched “in the near future” as part of a move towards automation, with the Revenue initially looking at using AI to manage routine processes.

Potter’s presentation provided little information about the tests, stating that there was “a need to talk with staff” before making more details public.

However, he stated that the tax authority is exploring three areas it believes are viable to explore AI options, and a slide in his presentation included the following early use cases:

  • contact handling: AI to direct people to the right places or information without human intervention;
  • casework, where AI would be used to enhance decision-making;
  • and AI prompts to assist taxpayers with effective self-service.

Such trials are part of a government-wide push to use data more intelligently and to supplement its workforce and processes with machine learning.

According to UKAuthority, HMRC is the latest department to trial AI, with the DWP currently doing proof of concept work in automating processes and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport drawing up plans for research and development into AI as part of the national digital strategy.

‘No such thing as AI – yet’

Nichola Ross Martin, managing director of Ross Martin Tax, has been studying the use of machine learning and AI in tax, and while the benefits of adoption for the Revenue are obvious in terms of streamlining processes at a basic level, she believes there are fundamental problems which tially lyhoritass=""> aphine learning.

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