How Tax Pros are Transforming the Customer Experience with Watson

By | 3 minute read | February 1, 2017

As an H&R Block tax pro and Enrolled Agent, I’ve seen just about everything that you can see in the tax world. From someone who tried to claim a cruise as a tax deduction and someone else who wanted to deduct their expenses from playing in a Fantasy Football League.

Tax preparation sometimes gets a bad rap. People never seem to think of it as the most exciting career, as a job where you can be creative and use new technology to upend old ways of doing things. But that has never been my experience, and it will definitely not be my experience next week, when I get to see another first in the tax world: For the first time, I’ll be working with a cognitive system to help customers “get their taxes won.”

Watson is coming to the consumer tax business.

This isn’t just a first for me. It’s a first for the tax preparation industry – and the world of consumer tax writ large. Beginning next week, those walking into an H&R Block office will witness a completely new kind of tax-filing process, one that helps filers get more of their money back thanks to a partnership between the world’s most advanced AI system and tax pros like me.

Are my child’s clarinet lessons deductible? What about veterinarian bills for my service dog? Believe it or not, these items are tax-deductible in certain cases. The problem is that not enough filers ask those questions in the first place, and so it’s often difficult for someone like me to help them navigate the relevant portion of the code. We need more information.

This is where Watson comes in. During my conversations with clients, Watson is helping me drill down on the important questions – learning more about what happened this past tax year and how it may impact each client’s tax situation. Then, Watson helps me as I work with that client, suggesting areas I can explore with the client where he or she may qualify for deductions. And all the while, clients are part of the process as they follow along with us on a companion monitor as together we make sure they get the best possible outcome.

The partnership between H&R Block and Watson represents the broadest single group of professionals to ever use Watson – 70,000 tax preparers like me will be using the technology while serving more than 10 million tax filers this season.

This isn’t some random innovation. This new solution relies on cloud-based Watson services to understand context, interpret intent and draw connections between clients’ statements and relevant areas of their tax return. Our tax pros worked to teach Watson the language of tax, focusing on how they work with clients throughout the filing process, and emphasizing both common, and not so run of the mill, areas that may impact clients’ returns.

This is a solution that H&R Block and tax pros worldwide have needed for years. You see, in the past, the know-how of our H&R Block tax professionals has always been hidden behind their screen. If you’ve ever walked into an H&R Block for tax advice, you know what I’m talking about. And now, thanks to Watson, the process will be more engaging and interactive. This season, the tax pro walks the filer through the tax process using a dual visual display, highlighting key financial tax events personalized to them and identifying tips to help improve their tax situation for the next year.

Customer service is at the heart of everything we do at H&R Block, and this new experience will make that heart beat faster and stronger. By combining the expertise and knowledge of H&R Block Tax Pros with the cognitive computing power of Watson, we’re going a step further to get the best tax result for each and every client, while letting them be an active participant in the process.


H&R Block with Watson
Discover how H&R Block tax pros are working with Watson to help filers get their taxes won.