As a whole, I am pretty good with numbers.  As a salesperson, I was always strong at calculating things like margin and selling discount levels.  As an owner of a growing business, there are always numbers to look at…..growth rates, interest rates and payroll are just a few of them.  However, like most people, I dread the word “taxes”.

Sure, I do hate paying them, who doesn’t?  However, I also just hate the thought of them…changing regulations, the burden of paperwork and the concern about what to claim and what not really tire me out.  Luckily for us, we have a great Finance team, but even they struggle with the ever-changing rules.  Apparently, they are not alone.  Many accountants talk about the incredible complexity of a 70,000+ page tax code, let alone annual changes.

Enter Watson.

Our friends at H&R Block are using IBM’s Whiz machine to help find deductions, credits and perhaps Pokemon in millions of tax returns.  They are spinning it as a way to have an extra “set of eyes” go over your return…but let’s face it, it is really the death of accountants in its infancy.

Not to stereotype, but accountants are not usually the most entertaining people to be around.  I mean, if I asked you to list five occupations of people that you would not want to be stuck with on a 4-hour car ride, most people would have accountant in their list.  Their strength is in numbers, not people.  And, numbers are one of the things that is most easily done through automation.

Why aren’t more people freaking out about this?

Watch any US news for 15 minutes and you are bound to hear about manufacturing jobs and how the new administration is trying to protect them.  So, why aren’t we hearing anything about this?

Well, for a few reasons…

No immediate jobs lost?
It is smart of H&R Block to consistently talk about how Watson is being used to help maximize your refund...when it is likely there to reduce the needs of accountants.  However, since most of these accountants are contractors, it won’t show up in the job loss report.

People like to save money, especially taxes
Gotta hand it to the Marketing folks at H&R Block. They did an excellent job in selling the benefit while quietly forgetting to mention any possible downside.

Everyone likes Jon Hamm
I say this in jest, but there is some truth here.  Jon Hamm is one of the most likeable endorsers out there.  He is equally liked by men and women and he carries a certain sense of sophistication and humility.  This helps to build up people’s trust.

The Bottom Line

Make no mistake about it.  This use of Watson will reduce the number of accountants at H&R Block at some point, even if they don’t do so this year.  And, who can blame them?  It seems that this may be an application where the use of Watson will not have any degradation on the level of performance and will do more with less.  So, how long until we see the next announcement? How long until Watson is used to find reductions in your Insurance costs, as an example?  This is the first of many of these, yet no one seems to care.