How has artificial intelligence progress affected the accounting profession? Is it under threat?

Artificial intelligence, or AI, will start by taking away the most mundane parts of the job, said Kim Mendoza, assistant professor of accountancy in the Gies College of Business.

“It can’t think creatively, it can’t make judgment calls — not yet anyway,” said Mendoza, who studies the intersection of technology and accounting. “It can’t do the complex tasks yet.”

But for those simpler bookkeeping or tax tasks, accounting firms are already putting AI to work.

“Things auditors used to do to take information one place to another spreadsheet, those are mundane tasks and (AI) can do it very fast,” she said. “Natural language processing, like ChatGPT, can read thousands of contracts and pull out important, pertinent information.”

Where does the modern accountant earn their buck then? Much of accounting requires thoughtful estimation, Mendoza said. For example, how people will use a product’s warranty? What’s the predicted payouts of a pension?

“Some of the other things like tax planning or business consulting, financial planning, estate planning, those are all services an accountant can offer that aren’t as automated,” said longtime Champaign CPA Kim Martin.

AI has a broad, ever-changing set of definitions, Mendoza said, but UI business students have the opportunity to learn about its applications. Gies offers courses in machine learning, or building algorithms that can use data to improve their own performance.

“It’s definitely something were trying to make sure our stdenst are on top of so they know how to work with it,” Mendoza said.

Ethan Simmons is a reporter at The News-Gazette covering the University of Illinois. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@ethancsimmons).