What Can ChatGPT Do for Accounting Professionals?

ChatGPT has been in the news almost daily. It’s the latest “hot” technology. You might be wondering what’s so great about it? What can it do for accountants?

When we answer that question, we really need to answer a couple of questions. First, what can it not do, or what shouldn’t we use it for? And second, what tasks are safe or low risk that we can use it for to increase our productivity?

What NOT to Use ChatGPT for

There are many, many things ChatGPT can do. But that doesn’t mean you should use it to do all those things. High-risk tasks such as asking it to generate legal contracts and engagement letters should be avoided at all costs.

ChatGPT is pretty terrible at writing biographies or even facts about people. It’s also not good if you need up-to-date information as its database as of this writing was only current through September of 2021.

For any tasks that need to be accurate, you will always want a trained expert to review the work. ChatGPT can “hallucinate,” meaning it is not always very accurate. ChatGPT was designed to be “creative” in every sense of the word, so avoiding tasks that need precise, black-and-white answers makes sense.

It’s essential that you do not input any private confidential information, especially client data of any sort, into ChatGPT. It is a public database. However, you can anonymize your data to get a task done. Anything that you want to keep the copyright on, you should not ask ChatGPT to write.

ChatGPT is also not very good at being an in-depth expert. If you ask it questions about anything that needs deep expertise, it likely won’t be able to generate anything more than a superficial answer.

ChatGPT tends to be verbose. However, with the right instruction, or prompt, you can fix that.

What to Use ChatGPT for 

ChatGPT is very good at generating initial drafts of things such as business forms. You can ask it to produce any type of form from a credit card authorization form to an employee performance review. You can then copy and paste it into your Microsoft Word® document and edit it to customize it to your needs.

It’s also fairly good at generating checklists and procedures. The answer can be superficial, so you’ll need to add your expertise as well as the quirks of your own firm, but it saves time by generating a first draft. Most accountants I know dread having to write procedures, so this is a good tool to avoid the drudgery and get the task done quickly.

ChatGPT can write articles, social media posts, email replies, client letters, reports, test questions, and quite a bit more. Again, the first draft it generates will save you time. Then, you can edit it to add the expertise you have and correct any errors the technology makes. Beware of the terms of service of ChatGPT: OpenAI owns the copyright on anything that is generated from ChatGPT. You’ll want to heavily edit it at the very least if copyright is an issue. Just remember to anonymize the data if you’re working with private client information.

You can ask ChatGPT hundreds of questions and get an answer. For example, you can ask it to translate a document into another language, create a travel itinerary for you, come up with a gluten-free recipe for cookies, compare product features of a racing bicycle you plan to purchase, or make a playlist based on artists you provide.

ChatGPT can do accounting tasks as well. You can ask it to generate an amortization schedule, suggest a Chart of Accounts, code transactions, calculate depreciation, reconcile lists, manipulate spreadsheet data, and report on budget-to-actual variances.

Two Rules to Follow 

When using ChatGPT, there are always at least two rules you’ll want to honor when you use it.  First, use ChatGPT for only the low-risk tasks, and honor the boundaries your firm has in place for using ChatGPT. And second, make sure you review every piece of information and run it by an expert, because there is no guarantee that any of it is accurate.

When used properly with training and following the rules of your firm, ChatGPT can be an enormous productivity tool for accounting professionals.

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