Using TurboTax or H&R Block? You Might Want to Avoid This New Tool

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Artificial intelligence (AI) might just change the world someday. But as many people have found out, the current technology does not always live up to the hype, at least to this point.

The latest example of such disappointment can be found in tax software from TurboTax and H&R Block, according to a report in The Washington Post.

Technology columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler says he recently tried new AI chatbots that have been added to the software of those tax preparation companies.

His experience was unsettling for those who rely on such software to file their tax return:

“Question after question, I got many of the same random, misleading or inaccurate AI answers.”

The chatbot answers were so bad that even for “lightly challenging” tax questions, you might be left confused — “or maybe even audited,” Fowler writes.

For example, Fowler asked both services where his child should file taxes if she attends college in another state.

The TurboTax bot — dubbed “Intuit Assist” — offered “irrelevant” suggestions related to tax credits and extensions.

Meanwhile, H&R Block’s “AI Tax Assist” bot answered that Fowler’s child should file in both states. That is not true: The child should file only in the second state if she earned income there.

For more than half of the 16 questions Fowler asked the TurboTax bot, he received bad answers, including many “wildly irrelevant responses.” Even after TurboTax improved its bot, it was unhelpful with one-quarter of the questions.

The H&R Block bot gave unhelpful answers more than 30% of the time, Fowler writes.

At least such dismal results suggest a silver lining for some folks. Beverly Goodman​​​​, a tax manager at EP Wealth who helped Fowler judge the accuracy of the chatbot advice, quipped: “I feel that my job as a tax professional is very secure.”

Fowler characterizes his experience with the new AI chatbots as one more example of a “parade of terrible AI products.” Fortunately, you can still use either TurboTax or H&R Block software to file your return while simply ignoring the chatbots, Fowler writes. His verdict:

“My experience shows we should be especially wary of generative AI when there are real-life consequences to it being wrong. And we can’t necessarily trust companies experimenting with AI to make the right decisions to protect our interests.”

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