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The accountant’s AI toolbox

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AccountingWEB technology editor Tom Herbert rounds up the tools that have emerged from the artificial intelligence undergrowth that promise to help accountants do their jobs more efficiently.

8th Jul 2024
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This article attempts to round up and categorise software that's leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) in a way that’s useful for accounting professionals. I’ve started with the categories that relate most to the day-to-day work of accountants and after several requests, I’ve also included a couple of categories that cover wider work – although this list is by no means comprehensive. 

I’ve set the article up as a working notebook and will be adding to it periodically. The latest update was on 8 July 2024. If you are using a tool that isn’t featured and you think your fellow professionals might find it useful, please feel free to leave a comment about it or contact me via the site. 

As with all software that processes confidential or sensitive business or client data, always follow the correct due diligence procedures before entering any information. Various professional bodies have covered this, including ICAEW and ACCA.

AccountingWEB is predominantly a UK-based publication, so I’ll mainly be featuring tools that can be used this side of the Atlantic. However, for reference, I’ve sprinkled in a few US-based applications as well.

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Tax

Tax on Demand: This tool extracts tax and accounting data from year-end accounts and returns, and runs this source information through its proprietary decision engines to conduct ongoing tax reviews across a firm’s client base. At the time of writing it is in beta testing. Here is my article on its features, and here’s an article about Tax on Demand’s large language model trained on HMRC’s current tax guidance and manuals.

Tax Terrapin: Built by business account provider ANNA Money, Tax Terrapin is a chatbot trained on HMRC documentation to provide up-to-date answers to business tax questions.

TaxAI: Powered by business tax refund specialists Adsum, this chatbot answers a range of tax-related questions, and offers links to the guidance it uses to find answers.

Wolters Kluwer CCH has launched an intelligent automation system for its personal tax product that automates the extraction and categorisation of tax data from client documents, potentially slashing the time spent by advisers on manual processes.

'BudgetGPTs': OpenAI recently opened up the ability to create custom versions of ChatGPT known as GPTs, tailored to focus on one specific task within a closed system. Accountants used this capability to upload Treasury documentation from the recent Autumn Statement and interrogate it with a range of questions.

Bookkeeping

Jenesys: Powered by Jenesys’s proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) technology, the developer has launched co-pilot tool ‘Jack’ with the ambitious goal of improving transactional accounting and shifting accountants from ‘operators’ to ‘validators’. You can read more about it in my AccountingWEB article on Jenesys.

Pinvo: Founded in 2022, Pinvo combines AI-enhanced technology and human bookkeeping expertise to automate document processing, extract key information and identify missing data, manage client communication and send reminders, tackle complex bookkeeping decisions based on historical data and client profiles and generate financial reports. 

Practice management

Pixie (UK and US): Cloud practice management tool Pixie has developed an AI-driven Co-Pilot tool that can draft email responses, extract relevant documents and create workflows. Here’s my article on its features, released earlier this year.

Karbon (UK and US): Karbon is the latest practice management vendor to test the water in the artificial intelligence field with Karbon AI, a tool that can draft client responses, auto-prioritise users’ inboxes and modify writing tone. Here’s my article on its features.

Canopy (US): Via a ChatGPT integration, US practice management tool Canopy allows users to craft an email by adding keywords and adjusting the level of formality of the message with one click. It also allows for rephrasing messages, or quickly correcting spelling and grammar.

Accounts receivable

Chaser: AR platform and credit control service provider Chaser has rolled out an AI-powered “recommended chasing times” feature designed to help optimise collection efforts. The new feature uses AI to predict the best times for businesses to reach their customers via email or text message, and you can read about it here.

Transaction coding

Clearbooks: Cloud accounting tool Clearbooks states here that its AI-powered accounting categorisation engine can suggest the accounting treatment for receipts captured by its Auto Bills function. Users can also import bank transactions directly into Clear Books, and the categorisation engine does the cash coding.

Data analysis

Rows AI: Billed as a “number-crunching sidekick”, US-based developer Rows AI promises the power of ChatGPT inside a spreadsheet without scripts, add-ons or code. 

Silverfin: Post-bookkeeping platform Silverfin has launched an AI assistant tool that can be embedded into its core system, running automated checks on accounting data and flagging outliers or opportunities to accountants.

Syft Analytics: Syft claims to be 'the only AI-first financial reporting company', allowing users to generate insights, interpret data, highlight trends, drive decisions, and save time at scale via its Syft Assist AI tool.

Audit

Mindbridge is an audit and assurance tool that uses AI to analyse entire volumes of data and surface patterns and make connections between transactions and across sub-ledgers and accounts, identifying the level of risk for 100% of transactions.

datasnipper calls itself "an intelligent automation system in Excel", allowing users to extract, cross-reference and validate the source document of any audit or finance procedure.

Engine B automates the client data standardisation process. Its Integration Engine product sorts, formats and arranges client data into a standard model ready for analysis. AI-enabled tooling allows auditors to ingest from any system and map client trial balances to the financial statement from the start of the process.

Circit is an audit confirmations platform for auditors to verify assets at source.

The big players

The larger general ledger vendors have all made statements about “embedding the next generation of AI into their products”. Some of this seems to have been aimed at placating the stock market or investors, but there has been actual product news as well — here’s what we know so far.

Intuit (US and UK): In this release, the global tech giant announced Intuit Assist, a generative AI-powered financial assistant for small businesses and consumers that sits across the company’s brands, including QuickBooks Online. Potential benefits to customers include the ability to surface cashflow hot spots, identify top-selling products and spot spending anomalies.

Xero will release a beta test version of its 'Just Ask Xero' (or 'JAX') AI assistant in August 2024. While full details have yet to be released, Xero's tech chief told AccountingWEB that the assistant will be designed to enable accounting or business users to complete tasks like generating an invoice or editing a quote more efficiently, either using Xero directly or via apps and devices such as mobile, WhatsApp or email. Xero previously announced a range of generative AI-driven products, including enhanced predictions in bank reconciliation and Xero Analytics Plus, and an AI solution in Xero Central to help deliver accurate support answers faster.

Sage has begun testing its Copilot assistant with accountant users, allowing them to initiate tasks or receive reports via prompts. Speaking to AccountingWEB, Sage CEO Steve Hare said the rollout will be relatively narrow and expand over time – in part to build trust in Sage’s guard-railed system, which the vendor claims will prevent it from ‘hallucinating’ incorrect answers, Other products in development include the ability to automate the creation of client records via a Companies House integration, detect anomalies within client data in Sage Accounting and flag issues such as unreconciled bank transactions, and batch communicate with clients (for example when gathering data for self assessment tax returns).

FreeAgent: In this blog on the FreeAgent site, the NatWest-owned developer explains it has been using AI to help accountants and their clients save time and increase the accuracy of bank transaction explanations since June 2020.

Excel

As you might expect generative AI has myriad applications when it comes to the accounting profession’s favourite tool. You can read a few of them in this article.

In this video, Excel MVP Leila Gharani explains how to Connect Excel to Open AI ChatGPT to make your own chatbot, how to use the chatbot to write Excel formulas, and how to analyse financial statements with AI GPT.

Miscellaneous

AzoraOne API: This API product can be integrated with any accounting software, where it will then learn the data entry, including account coding, for all incoming source documents. Primarily a product for accounting software vendors, accounting firms with the means to develop their own UI for incoming documents can also integrate with this tool.

Hyperwrite: One function offered by the writing tool Hyperwrite is that of an automated AI personal assistant. Its site states it can organise your email inbox and draft responses, book flights, and find job candidates on LinkedIn.

Content writing

ChatGPT: From composing emails to writing blogs, the OpenAI-powered tool is possibly the most recognisable example of general generative AI tools out there. Alternatives include Google’s Bard product, ChatSonic and Claude 2. 

One way to leverage such tools is to think of them as taking care of the first draft. In this example, I asked ChatGPT to write a template letter to clients letting them know about an upcoming fee hike due to the cost of living.

Jasper AI: An AI platform that uses generative AI to write content based on user prompts, create original imagery and repackage content into different formats, tones and languages. Also has a plagiarism checker.

Grammarly: Many will know Grammarly as the Chrome Extension that picks out your typos and grammar boo-boos, but the developer has now added an AI co-creator that can compose, rewrite and reply at the touch of a button.

Video and audio

Veed: As well as recording and editing videos, Veeds adds subtitles and transcriptions, and extracts blog posts and video descriptions from videos already recorded.

Fireflies.ai: Billed as an AI assistant for meetings, this tool generates transcripts, summaries and action points for virtual meetings in Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams.

Otter.ai: As flagged in the comments below by AccountingWEB reader coops456, Otter.ai is a AI meeting assistant that records audio, writes notes, captures action items, and generates summaries.

Synthesia: This AI video generator enables users to create customised videos by typing a script and choosing from a range of avatars.

Scribe: For accounting professionals who have to write instructions for internal staff or clients, Scribe uses AI to turn any process into a step-by-step guide.

If you are using a tool that isn’t featured and think your fellow professionals might find it useful, please feel free to leave a comment below with a brief description of what it is and what it does.

And if you’re keen to find out more about how AI is being used in accounting now, you can register to watch our Accounting adventures in AI show by clicking on the link.

Replies (14)

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David Carr
By david-clearbooks
12th Oct 2023 11:43

Hi Tom - great article! One to add - Clear Books uses AI to code bank transactions, as well as when entering bills. This is live today.

We also offer this service as an API to other software developers.

Here is our blog post about it - happy to share more! https://www.clearbooks.co.uk/blog/transforming-accounting-with-ai-the-ev...

Disclaimer, I work at Clear Books :)

Thanks (1)
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By johnjenkins
12th Oct 2023 11:45

PML, sorry Tom, but as the saying goes "yor avinn a larf".

Thanks (1)
By coops456
12th Oct 2023 11:51

Otter.ai - can record audio and generate a summary. I've used it to transcribe entire audio files into text and found it very accurate on both an Estuary accent and a Yorkshire one!

Thanks (1)
Replying to coops456:
Tom Herbert
By Tom Herbert
16th Oct 2023 16:37

Thanks coops456 - have added it to the list and will try it out.

Thanks (1)
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By The_Enquirer
12th Oct 2023 11:53

Tried Terrapin and https://chat.taxai.uk/chat and on both occasions it gave me an irrelevant and even incorrect answer. I am afraid you cannot rely on their answers. Much prefer Vantage tax advice helpline. And no, I don't work for Vantage.

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Tornado
By Tornado
12th Oct 2023 14:58

What I really want is AI that can accurately predict the winners of any horse race, I would be a millionaire ................ but wait, if everyone tried this, any winnings would be in pence and hardly worth the effort. Doh!

How to kill competition in one stroke as everyone using AI will be getting the same information and probably only those that are not using AI would be the winners.

Thanks (2)
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By Pnelson2008
12th Oct 2023 17:30

Hey Tom

This is an amazing article, absolutely essential read for accountants looking/thinking about AI solution to current issues.

Who knows, if one could devise the perfect cocktail of the AI apps above, might be able to spend 90% of my time on beach somewhere.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Pnelson2008:
Tornado
By Tornado
13th Oct 2023 08:52

Why settle for 90% of your time on the beach when it seems possible that you could spend 100% of your time on the beach.

The downside of this, of course, is that you would no longer have a job because all of the AI's had banded together and decided that they didn't need you any more.

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Replying to Tornado:
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By johnjenkins
17th Oct 2023 09:26

I notice that the US Writers guild have won a significant deal over AI.

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Mark Lee headshot 2023
By Mark Lee
15th Oct 2023 11:31

Great post/summary Tom. Those who are doubtful as to the power and value of AI to accountants need to note that what we have currently is just the start. Unlike many previous innovations, this one will get better, cleverer and more valuable in time. AI will never be as stupid in the future as it is today. It is learning, faster than humans have ever done.

Thanks (1)
Replying to bookmarklee:
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By johnjenkins
15th Oct 2023 12:07

Mark, I totally disagree.
The reason is quite simple. It will be abused just like the internet.
All these things are great in the right environment but as soon as they get into everyday life they become a burden. Scammers and fraudsters will have a field day.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
Mark Lee headshot 2023
By Mark Lee
16th Oct 2023 12:20

johnjenkins wrote:

It will be abused just like the internet.
All these things are great in the right environment but as soon as they get into everyday life they become a burden. Scammers and fraudsters will have a field day.

That's fine John. You and I have often disagreed in the past. Sticking with your analogy I doubt many accountants could continue operating if they ignored the development and potential uses of the internet either. The same will become true for AI too.

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Replying to bookmarklee:
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By johnjenkins
16th Oct 2023 12:37

The only reason why we might not be able to operate is because that we won't have a choice, not because it is a good thing. Tim has actually stated that he wished he hadn't come up with the world wide web.
We have to file by internet. Not because it is better, it saves time for HMRC.
Have you tried to rent a property, buy or sell a house, contact a solicitor with work after 6 months of your previous encounter. It's an absolute nightmare to do everyday things that were so easy to do pre "high tech" days. That, Mark, is not progress.

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By BrianL
07th Dec 2023 14:22

Tom writes "Tax on Demand: .....Here is my article on its features, and here’s an article ..."

About "features" not "benefits"!

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