Students looking for a major often ask the same question about accounting: “When will the machines take over?”
Automation has revolutionized many parts of the accounting and finance world. The stock market is a major example of this. But, does this fate await accountants?
Many people look at the world of accounting and just see a bunch of numbers. Machines like numbers, don’t they? Accounting programs now allow business owners to do most of their own bookkeeping. Why can’t that software expand to take over an accountant’s job?
Are Humans Obsolete in Modern Accounting?
The reality of accounting is more complex than just putting numbers into a software program and pressing the calculate button. Accountants do much more than a computer can do now or anytime in the next decade. Here are some things that would be hard to duplicate with modern technology:
Assessing the accuracy, completeness, and conformance with reporting and procedural standards.
- Offer advice on business operations, revenue, costs, and obligations based on projected future income and costs.
- Survey company operations to make sure all accounting needs are met
- Provide representation to the IRS
- Advise business leaders on tax strategies and resource use
- Provide guidance on employee-related topics such as compensation and benefits.
- Provide help to private clients on estate planning and retirement
- Appraise and evaluate property and equipment.
- Audit the finances of individuals, companies, and government agencies
It is the human side of accounting that a computer will likely never replace or not in the next few decades at least. Accountants can help non-financial people understand what is going on with the money side of life.
They can sit down with a client, go over their finances, and give advice on tax strategy and estate planning. More importantly, they can listen to a client’s concerns and answer any questions that come up.
Accountants also make judgment calls that would be almost impossible to duplicate with computer programming. Computers don’t understand intrinsic value versus actual value. Can a computer decide whether you should declare income earlier or later based on your costs? A computer cannot determine if an expense declared is truly a business expense or a personal expense in disguise.
Computers can recommend actions based on pure numbers. However, they cannot capture the details that the human mind sorts through in these kinds of judgment calls. They cannot provide an analysis of the current business climate and offer advice on ways to lower tax liability and maximize profits.
The Bottom Line
It comes down to this. Computers will continue taking over the repetitive tasks accountants deal with. But, they will not replace the analysis and human side of the job. Accountants are still and will remain vital members of the professional community that businesses and individuals depend on to navigate the complexities of the modern world.
For those that have an interest in the field of accounting, the first step is education. You can begin your journey by earning an online bachelor degree in Accounting. Get started today.