IBM’s Watson is probably best known as the computer that beat Jeopardy’s smartest contestants. Now, you can sit next to Watson and watch it work in person as it uses its awesome computing powers to help prepare your tax returns.
H&R Block has teamed up with IBM to bring Watson’s cognitive computing powers to the tax preparation field. Watson will help 70,000 tax professionals at 10,000 H&R Block offices across the country find tax breaks and increase refunds for customers.
Watson and Artificial Intelligence
Watson remembers everything. Watson uses artificial intelligence methods such as natural language processing to sort through and classify extensive amounts of information. It is able to detect even the slightest patterns in data that mere mortals might miss.
The same technology that helps doctors diagnose cancer and rare diseases was also used to digest 74,000 pages of the federal tax code, thousands of yearly tax law changes, and 60 years of tax preparation questions and answers in H&R Block’s data.
Tax professionals at H&R Block worked directly with Watson to teach it how to understand the complex world of tax preparation. In doing so, Watson proposed questions to tax pros about specific filing situations. The tax pros let Watson know when it was right and corrected it when it was wrong.
Over time, Watson honed its skills through the machine learning process. Its answers became better and more attuned to specific occupations and individual financial situations. It learned how to analyze situations that often affect tax filings, such as home purchases, the birth of a child, and marriage. And, Watson will continue to learn as it assists H&R Block’s customers in getting more money back with their tax returns.
Watson Is an Interactive Assistant
Watson isn’t replacing the human role in tax preparation. Rather, it is serving as an always-on, brilliant assistant. In a switch from ways of the past, you’ll be able to watch your taxes being prepared on a monitor in front of you as Watson works simultaneously with the tax preparer. The screen displays your tax filing information as Watson searches for credits and deductions available to you.
This may be many people’s first in-person introduction to Watson, but it will undoubtedly not be their last interaction with artificial intelligence as it continues to work its way into our everyday lives.