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Accounting Today

AI targets tax refunds, and other tech stories you may have missed

By April 10, 2024No Comments

(This column originally appeared in Accounting Today)

1. AI-fueled scams target tax refunds

Tech correspondent Ryan Heath warns of the increase of AI-generated scams this tax season. Culprits are taking full advantage of these advanced tools to reproduce taxpayers’ images, videos and other sensitive information to steal their refunds. After gathering the required information, they file with the IRS impersonating the individual. (Source: Axios)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Given the known risks the Internal Revenue Service recommends people file as early as possible; ignore emails that contain any IRS language; and open an account with the IRS online portal.

2. Massive changes coming to Google Chrome

Major changes are on the horizon on account of Google’s plan to restrict third-party cookies on its web browser Chrome, which gets the highest amount of web traffic (compared to Safari and Firefox). (Source: Yahoo Finance)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: One of the basic functions of cookies — small bits of data generated by web browsers — is to inform websites about the user. A third-party cookie is placed on a website by someone other than the owner — such as an advertiser — to track browsing habits of potential customers. The elimination of third-party cookies will upend digital advertising capabilities. Not only will advertisers lose the ability to locate new customers, but revenue will also be lost.

3. AI to create a half billion new jobs

Lucas Mearian of Computerworld presented an optimistic take on the subject of AI and its impact on jobs. Rather than eliminating jobs, AI will reorient employees in their daily routines, allowing them more time to focus on other tasks and enhance their productivity. Mearian cited intriguing data from research firm Gartner that projects half a billion jobs will be created by AI by 2033. Companies are also increasing their hiring rates based on their needs to integrate the technology. Breaking down those numbers, Mearian included an Upwork survey of 1,400 business leaders across industries on how AI will directly impact their business. Almost half (49%) said they plan to hire more freelancers, and 64% of C-suite leaders indicated they’ll “hire more professionals of all types due to generative AI.” (Source: Computerworld)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Technology always replaces jobs. How many blacksmiths do you know? Typing pools? Horse and buggy drivers? People evolve and find other — and mostly better — things to do. As a business owner, don’t worry about jobs. Instead, think about how AI can be used to make your people way more productive and to get more things done with fewer people involved.

4. Nvidia CEO AI hallucinations are solvable

According to Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang, general artificial intelligence, or AGI, will be here before the end of the decade. Unlike generative AI (classified as “weak AI”), AGI functions autonomously, can make its own decisions, and follow self-guided instruction without human input. It’s consciousness. This type of AI — characterized as “strong AI” — will possess human-level intelligence with the capacity to surpass the limits of our understanding. Huang also says that AI hallucinations — inaccurate data that’s been produced by tools such as chatbots — can be resolved “easily” by applying “retrieval-augmented generation,” the practice of comparing the AI’s answer to “known truths.” “The AI shouldn’t just answer; it should do research first to determine which of the answers are the best,” Huang said. (Source: TechCrunch)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Within a few years, inanimate objects like cameras, speakers and, of course, robots will be thinking, feeling and acting like humans. I’m not sure anyone can fully understand how this will impact our businesses and our lives. Yes, it’s terrifying. But it’s also exciting and — I believe — a major advancement in human civilization for the better.

5. Never leave home without this charger

Writer Jack Wallen featured a handy solution to keep your devices charged when on the go or at home. The Baseus 10-in-1 charging station is Wallen’s pick for both size and price. For $50 dollars, it includes a surge protector, laptop and cell phone charger. An ideal size for travel, it’s available in 35W, 65W or 100W. He uses 35W — “more than adequate,” he affirms. Other standout features noted: the number of ports (six), a digital display that shows charging levels, and fast charging time (an iPad can be fully powered in 30 minutes). The power regulations chart, Wallen says, is the one feature that you’ll need to spend time with, especially when charging multiple devices at once. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: As a frequent business traveler I’m buying this!

6. TurboTax and H&R Block’s AI chatbots: ‘Awful’

Tech columnist Geoffrey Fowler reported on the chatbots H&R Block and Turbo Tax have integrated into their online filing systems. According to Fowler, the results were poor based on the experimental questions he asked the AI at each company. Example: Fowler tried the TurboTax’s self-help AI, which “flubbed” half of more than 16 questions he asked and offered “wildly irrelevant” answers. Those answers were then passed on to Intuit, which changed how the chatbot’s chose its answers. With H&R Block, Fowler said the AI was unhelpful on more than 30 percent of the questions and “confidently recommended an incorrect filing status.” He notes that both companies tag their chatbots as “works in progress.” His overall assessment is the AI has its limitations and could create headaches for taxpayers who rely on the technology. (Source: Washington Post)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: This is a great example of companies rushing out their products before they’re ready for prime time — and killing their credibility at the same time. Accountants and business owners will read this piece and shy away from this stuff for who knows how long. Get it right the first time, people — especially when it comes to something as important as taxes!

7. Mass Gmail rejections started this month

The clock’s ticking for Gmail users to authenticate their emails. In an ongoing report, Forbes has confirmed account holders who send at least 5,000 emails per day will, starting this month, need to follow Google’s authentication requirements or they’ll be blocked from recipient inboxes. In an effort to reduce spam and “keep email more secure” Google has been working with other companies like Yahoo to strengthen protections due to the volume of daily email traffic. The company stated they plan to ramp up rejection of “noncompliant traffic” in April. (Source: Forbes)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: If you’re sending 5,000 emails a day, you should probably be using a good email campaign platform like Constant Contact, MailChimp and others. These services are designed to deliver your messages and have many controls to stop spam and deal with restrictions like Google’s.

8. Cybercrimes focus on fintech and ecommerce

Security solutions company Qrator Labs released a report that evidenced an upsurge of cyberattacks in 2023. Fintech and e-commerce were the most targeted of all sectors — comprising more than half of total incidents. Remote working was cited as one of the causes for the significant increase, as well as the “expansion of communication channels.” Victor Zyamzin, global head of business development at Qrator Labs, pointed out, “Attackers are now using local traffic sources more often to bypass geo-blocking and get closer to their victims’ regions.” He underscored the “critical need” for enhanced cybersecurity in the rise of malicious actors who are finding new ways around network protections. (Source: TechRadar)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: If you have clients in financial services or e-commerce, security should be their №1 priority. It’s also critical to make sure their security access to their financial systems is as tight as possible, using multifactor authentication, complex passwords and security keys.

9. Salesforce launches ‘Pro Suite’

Salesforce announced the addition of ‘Pro Suite’ to its Starter CRM plan for small businesses. As VentureBeat reports, the company is offering Pro Suite for $100 per month per user. In addition to basic tasks such as tracking sales leads, customer service, and email management, Pro Suite “expands on the capabilities of Starter Suite,” offering advanced capabilities such as workflow automation, increased lead generation, sales forecasting and AI-powered tools. It also provides web messaging to address customer questions in real time. This latest addition is an effort to expand its small-business client base and keep pace with other CRM companies like Zoho. (Source: VentureBeat)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: My company sells Zoho and also implements Salesforce and I’m not bullish on this move. At $100 per month per user, the pricing is still significantly higher than Zoho and other products like it. Salesforce has been trying for years to shake off its stigma as a big-company platform and its sales efforts are oftentimes too aggressive. Maybe I’ll write about this separately, but my advice for Salesforce is that if the company wants to go after small businesses, it should create and rebrand a small business CRM on its own.

10. The world’s first comprehensive AI law

A repost of the BBC News story, the European Parliament has drafted a law to pull back the reins on AI, outlining parameters to prevent unrestricted applications of the technology that could “cause harm to society.” The Artificial Intelligence Act aims to regulate the use of AI. Restrictions would be enforced based on the degree of risk. Examples of high-risk scenarios include infrastructure, law enforcement and elections, which already have people on alert given the deepfake material that’s already circulating. “The EU AI Act is the world’s first and only set of binding requirements to mitigate AI risks,” Enza Iannopollo, principal analyst at research company Forrester. Included in the act are provisions around chatbots and other generative AI. Those involved in the law’s momentum are hopeful it will inspire other countries to follow suit and create clearly defined stipulations depending on the scope of application. “The adoption of the AI Act marks the beginning of a new AI era,” Iannopollo said. (Source: Yahoo Tech)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Given the terrifying risks of AI this is a step in the right direction. But how to enforce?

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