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Do your taxes at the last minute? ChatGPT is not the time saver you need

Why shouldn’t I use a chatbot to help me prepare my taxes? I use ChatGPT almost every day. If I’m having trouble writing an email, I’ll ask the AI ​​chatbot to give me a first draft that I can then work on. If I need to read a long article and don’t have much time, I’ll ask ChatGPT to provide me with a summary and some key points. If I’m curious about a new topic, I’ll ask him to give me a simple explanation.

This story is part of Taxes 2024CNET’s coverage of the best tax software, tax advice, and everything you need to file your return and track your refund.

Despite my enthusiasm for ChatGPT, I understand that it has its limitations and I know the inaccurate answers it can sometimes provide. This is why I would never use it for anything critical; for example, everything relating to taxation.

Well, what about tax preparation software companies, like H&R Block, that have AI chatbots? These can usually guide you through preparing your taxes by answering frequently asked questions, but they don’t prepare your tax return, they just help you through the process. And they are often part of a paid service.

Learn more: These 6 Common Tax Mistakes Could Get You Audited by the IRS. Here’s what to avoid.

Look at this: 5 tax tips for 2024

With all the hype around ChatGPT, it’s tempting to think that it might prepare your taxes for you (which, by the way, are due on April 15). If you’re considering using ChatGPT to help with your taxes this year, here’s why you might want to reconsider.

To find out more, here is our selection of the best tax software and how to track the status of your tax refund.

Reason #1: ChatGPT can’t give you accurate, up-to-date tax information

In the world of taxes, things are constantly changing. For this tax season, for example, several adjustments have been made to tax regulations: the IRS has increased tax brackets, adjusted tax deductions, increased mileage rates, and expanded the number of people eligible to file their taxes. taxes for free via the IRS Free File. And that’s only 2024.

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So why is this a problem? Since the knowledge deadline for ChatGPT 3.5 is January 2022 and for paid ChatGPT 4.0 it is April 2023, so any changes made to the tax code after these dates will not be found in the ChatGPT training data. To file an accurate tax return, you want to prepare your tax documents using current tax rules, and ChatGPT can’t help you.

“Taxation is constantly evolving,” Scott Brillhart, a partner at Founder’s CPA, a full-service accounting firm based in Chicago, told CNET. “It’s confusing, especially state-level taxation. I don’t think ChatGPT or any other AI service is yet at the level to understand or handle these levels of complexity, especially if it’s not not constantly up to date.”

Reason #2: Don’t share your personal financial information with ChatGPT because hackers

Never share personal information – including your social security number, banking information or address – with ChatGPT or any other AI chatbot.

ChatGPT stores your personal information and usage data when you use the Service, including your prompts, your entered information, and any files you upload. This isn’t necessarily a major problem in itself, but ChatGPT has had data leaks.

In March 2023, OpenAI took ChatGPT offline when it discovered that the chatbot had a bug that allowed some users to see other users’ chat history. Later, in December, OpenAI fixed a data leak after a developer discovered the flaw and posted it online.

During a data breach, unauthorized users can potentially access any personal information you have entered into ChatGPT and then use that information to impersonate you, exploit your bank account, scam other users, and much more .

Reason #3: Math is not a strength of ChatGPT

ChatGPT can help you with many areas – language-related prompts or a creative task, for example – but it is weaker at math and, as with other large language models (or LLMs), can struggle to perform complex calculations.

Language models use prediction models to determine answers, and since it hasn’t been trained on the exact tax-related math problem you enter as a prompt, ChatGPT will spit out the answer it thinks is best. And if that answer is wrong, you’re in trouble.

You can ask ChatGPT the right question, but if it returns the wrong answer, you’re on your own, Brillhart said. If you get a notice from the IRS that your tax return is incorrect, “you can’t tell them, ‘well, that’s what ChatGPT told me.’ They’ll look at you and say, “Sorry, it’s your fault.” »

“There are so many facets to a tax return — whether you’re on the lower end of the spectrum from an income standpoint or the 1 percent of the 1 percent,” Brillhart said. “It makes perfect sense that something like AI would be extremely beneficial to the industry.”

“This will be a valuable tool in the future,” Brillhart said. “But the important thing is that it’s the future. I don’t think it’s now.”

If you’re looking to maximize your tax refund or minimize the amount you owe, getting your tax forms right is essential.

For more on this tax season, here’s our cheat sheet for filing your taxes this year and what to know about this year’s tax deadlines.

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