Doing Your Taxes at the Last Minute? ChatGPT Isn’t the Time-Saver You Need


Why shouldn’t I use a chatbot to help me prepare my taxes? I use ChatGPT nearly 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 from. 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 subject, I’ll ask it to give me a simple explanation.

Despite my enthusiasm for ChatGPT, I understand it has its limitations, and I’m familiar with the inaccurate answers it can sometimes provide. That’s why I would never use it for something critical; for instance, anything tax-related.

Well, what about tax-preparation software companies, like H&R Block, that have AI chatbots? Those generally can guide you through tax preparation by answering frequently asked questions, but they’re not preparing your tax return, just helping you through the process. And they often are part of a paid service.

Read more: These 6 Common Tax Mistakes Could Get You Audited by the IRS. Here’s What to Avoid.

Watch this: 5 Tax Tips For 2024

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

For more, here are our picks for the best tax software and how to track the status of your tax refund.

Reason No. 1: ChatGPT can’t give you accurate and up-to-date information about taxes

In the world of taxes, things are constantly changing. For this tax season, for example, there have been several adjustments to tax regulation: The IRS increased tax brackets, adjusted tax deductions, raised mileage rates and expanded who is eligible to file their taxes for free via IRS Free File. And that’s just in 2024.

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So why is this a problem? Because the knowledge cutoff date for ChatGPT 3.5 is January 2022, and for the paid ChatGPT 4.0 it’s April 2023, so any changes to the tax code after those dates won’t be found in ChatGPT’s training data. To file an accurate tax return, you want to prepare your tax documents using current tax rules, and ChatGPT can’t help with that. 

“Tax is consistently changing,” Scott Brillhart, a partner with 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 other AI service is at the level yet to understand or to deal with those levels of complexities, especially if it is not consistently up to date.”

Reason No. 2: Don’t share your personal financial information with ChatGPT because hackers

Never share personal information — including your Social Security number, your banking information or your address — with ChatGPT or any other AI chatbot.

ChatGPT stores your personal information and usage data when you use the service, including your prompts, input information and any files you upload. That isn’t necessarily a major problem on its own, 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 user’s chat history. Later, in December, OpenAI fixed a data leak after a developer discovered the flaw and posted about it online.

During a data breach, unauthorized users can potentially gain access to any personal information you’ve entered into ChatGPT and then use that information to steal your identity, tap your bank account, scam other users and more.

Reason No. 3: Math isn’t a ChatGPT strength

ChatGPT can help you with many things — language-related prompts or a creative task, for example — but it’s weaker with math and, as with other large language models (or LLMs), can struggle with complex calculations

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

You may 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 wrong, “you can’t go to them and say, ‘well, this is what ChatGPT told me.’ They are going to look at you and say, ‘Sorry, that is on you.'”

“There are so many facets to an income tax return — whether you are at the lower end of the spectrum from an income perspective or the 1 percent of the 1 percent,” Brillhart said. “It absolutely makes sense why something like AI would be massively beneficial to the industry.”

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

If you’re looking to maximize your tax refund or minimize how much you owe, getting those tax form calculations right is key.

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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