You can now file your tax return with help from a virtual chatbot

Alison Banney 18 June 2018 NEWS

Using artificial intelligence, "TaxBot" will help Australians complete basic tax returns over Facebook Messenger in just five minutes.

A new chatbot powered by artificial intelligence (AI) will launch this end of financial year to help Australians complete simple tax returns over Facebook Messenger. The chatbot will act as a virtual tax accountant, asking the user the necessary tax-related questions and preparing their tax return, before lodging it with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on their behalf. However instead of making an appointment with a human tax accountant, this process will only take five minutes, requires no paperwork and will cost just $20.

TaxBot is a first of its kind and was developed by accounting firm mi-fi and chatbot consultancy inGenious AI, and is a registered tax agent that integrates directly with the ATO's systems. TaxBot gathers basic information, such as the user's name and tax file number, and will then source their data including bank account details and group certificate information from the ATO. Because it's able to source the bulk of the information needed from the ATO, the process only takes roughly five minutes to complete. This being said, TaxBot is currently only able to assist with simple tax returns – those with basic income from wages and less than $300 worth of work-place deductions to claim.

TaxBot CEO and inGenious AI head of conversational design Andi Chatterton said TaxBot has been designed with security and data privacy top of mind. “We source users’ data directly from the ATO in real time, ensuring it’s accurate and secure. Additionally, we’ve developed a system that securely collects user’s information, so Facebook doesn’t have access to the user’s personal data at any point.”

TaxBot uses friendly language and emojis to make you feel like you're speaking with a real person, rather than a machine. It even shares images and videos of cute baby animals to entertain you while you wait for it to gather your details from the ATO.

mi-fi co-founder and partner Campbell King said TaxBot was built to fill a gap in the market for Australians who have simple tax returns and don't need to see an accountant. “The reality is, a lot of people don’t need to be paying an accountant to file a basic tax return for them, but they still want a quick and accurate solution that guides them through the process and gives them peace of mind that they are completing their tax return correctly and claiming appropriate deductions.”

Virtual assistants and digital chatbots are becoming increasingly popular in the financial sector. In May 2017, UBank launched Australia's first AI chatbot to help Australians navigate the complex home loan application process, and in December 2017, nib launched our first health insurance chatbot: nibby. In March this year, NAB launched Australia's first digital assistant for superannuation, developed to answer the top 15 superannuation-related questions customers ask.

Yes, chatbots are becoming all the rage, but will we rush to use them? According to new research released last month by professional services firm Genpact, 50% of Australians said they would be either “not very comfortable” or “not at all comfortable” setting up a new bank account with a digital chatbot or virtual assistant.

Australians can register with TaxBot now and they'll receive a notification when their employer has submitted their group certificate with the ATO. It costs just $20 to use TaxBot to file your tax return, and if you refer five or more friends, you'll pay just $15. You can pay using any Australian debit or credit card.

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