Since November 2022, talk of ChatGPT has been unstoppable. OpenAI’s revolutionary chatbot can provide human-like answers to users’ queries. It can write lines of code for would-be developers. Suggest social media post ideas for entrepreneurs. It can even translate text into 95+ languages.
As it uses machine-learned technology from trawling the internet for new information, ChatGPT is constantly evolving. Consequently, people are discovering unique ways to harness its power – especially small business owners looking to streamline their daily tasks. And while ChatGPT is by no means 100 percent accurate at the time of writing, it is a free tool that SMEs can use to reduce costs and improve their knowledge instantly.
How can it help with accounting?
Financial management is one of - if not the - most important areas of a business and crucial to your success or failure. But finance is often packed with impenetrable jargon that can confuse the layperson. The first port of call with any issues is usually an accountant who you can pay to decipher things. A professional expert will almost certainly provide the correct advice - for a price. However, ChatGPT can be used to generate the answers that you require quickly and easily. In fact, it can explain complex financial matters so succinctly that even a child could understand it.
Here’s what ChatGPT replied when asked to “explain corporation tax to a child”...
“Have you ever heard of a company? A company is a big group of people who work together to make things or provide services, like making toys or selling clothes. When a company makes money (or "profits"), the government takes some of that money as a tax called "corporation tax." It's like when you get allowance money from your parents, but they might take a little bit back to help pay for things like food or electricity. The government uses corporation tax to pay for things that we all need, like roads, schools, and hospitals.”
Clever, right? This is just one example of ChatGPT’s ability to break down tricky queries. What’s even more impressive is that not only can it help SMEs understand financial terminology, but it can provide practical solutions that assist with the day-to-day running of a business.
You can ask ChatGPT to build an invoice template for your company. 30 seconds later, you’ll have a basic format to drag and drop into a document, fill in the required blanks and use as an official invoice. This invoice can then be used for the lifespan of an SME without costing a penny to produce.
ChatGPT will even forecast your company’s profits for the year ahead or beyond. Just tap in the relevant numbers (overheads, staffing costs, etc.) and it will calculate the year’s results in context of your chosen country’s tax laws. Again, this is an area of interest that was once nigh on impossible to understand without paying an accountant for access.
One of the most common uses of ChatGPT in finance is its ability to create spreadsheets that track income and expenditure. SMEs no longer need to employ the skills of a Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets whizz to build a robust document that is easily maintained. Just tell ChatGPT what you need and it will create a step-by-step tutorial to follow. It suggests the column headers to use, provides the code for each cell that can be copied and pasted directly, and tells you how to get the most out of it.
Where to be careful
With all this said, ChatGPT seems almost too good to be true. It’s certainly a great way for SMEs to understand the realities of their finances better, however, it’s not without its issues.
As with every industry it has threatened to overtake, ChatGPT won’t be held responsible if anything goes wrong. That’s why you should always keep a trusted accounting expert at hand. They can check the finer details and dive deeper into complex issues to give you a much clearer picture of what’s going on. Even if they can’t explain gross income tax to an infant in the same jaunty manner as the latest tech tool, you can count on accountants to provide years of expertise and human nuance on all financial matters.
ChatGPT can and will help SMEs with their accounting issues. And as it never goes to sleep, you can tap in a query at any time of day or night. But it’s best to think of it, and other AI players that will arrive from now on, as the first steps to eliminate unnecessary admin costs. Also, as a good way to familiarise yourself on a topic, so you can have a more educated conversation with the accountant and maximise the time you’re paying for. Used in tandem with a professional, AI has the potential to spark growth for SMEs. The ChatGPT hype train is most certainly real, but just make sure you have a capable driver to keep your business on track.