The year is 2035, will accountants be around? Will accounting even be needed? No one has a crystal ball and predicting the future is impossible. Yet, it’s a good question.
On one hand, there is so much talk about automation and artificial intelligence basically providing all the information we need- similar to a Star Trek episode. On the other hand, our tax laws are defined by people and by governments and therefore computer system can never keep up with the never ending always evolving tax code. Think about all the local, state, federal and country by country treaties for a minute. The tax laws and complexities of these inter human interactions make it impossible for a computer system to adjust and “reprogram” itself on the fly. Then of course there is the “Gray area” where the tax laws are not so clear and can be interpreted in different ways- computers don’t like that!
Whichever direction our future will take us, we can arguably say, “Accounting is not going away”. Accounting has in the past served as the lifeblood of countries to finance countries’ expansions and wars. Accounting serves to provide the basic services that we need both at the city, state and federal level. Accounting is the overall underpinning profession that keeps and glues the entire world together. If money is what makes the world go around, then accountants are the spinners. So, in my mind it’s well established that we need accountants and accounting.
I would be considered a false prophet to predict what the accounting profession will be like in 20+ years from now, but, young accountants can bet on the following advice.
There will be always be a human element to accounting. Tax preparation/bookkeeping is not just about preparing numbers, rather knowing what numbers to apply and why. Financial planning involves so many variables and unknown circumstances that only a “CPA” whom a client can speak with, can consider not just the financial aspect but the emotional impact of a lifelong financial decision.
Kind of on the same lines of the above, it’s really important to have an open and continuous dialogue with a client. I personally like the fact that I have an open-door policy with my accountant. When I need financial advice, I know that there is someone that I can speak with to evaluate and help guide me through the maze of making complex and life lasting decisions. After all, businesses thrive because they are focused on what they do best and not because the business owner is the: CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, CTO all rolled up in one person.
Computers will help guide a professional to evaluate the multiple options and even suggest based upon an algorithm the optimal choice, but, remember, these are recommendations NOT DECISIONS. There will always be the human element and the human thought process that comes when dealing the most important asset we have outside of family- “Money”. We will always want a human brain to confirm and validate our decision.
Technology is always evolving. Yesterday it was desktop software, today’s buzzword is “cloud accounting” and tomorrow’s buzzword will be…..? No one knows who the bookkeeper of the future will look like. The way I look at AI and accounting is much the way Star Trek predicted the future. Computers will help us navigate the universe and take us where no man has boldly gone before, but it’s the Captain that sets the course and chooses when to leap into “hyperspace”, the same can be said about accounting and financial planning.