H&R Block is reinventing the category it founded more than 60 years ago
by introducing a new, exclusive, consumer-facing experience that
incorporates IBM Watson. The technology will be used by H&R Block’s tax
professionals this tax season to help deliver the best outcome for each
unique tax situation, while helping clients better understand how
different filing options can impact their tax outcome.
The collaboration between H&R Block and IBM represents the first time
Watson will be applied to tax preparation, enabling millions of filers
to benefit from the industry-leading expertise of H&R Block’s tax
professionals, who will now partner with Watson to improve the client
experience and aid in identifying credits and deductions.
“We are introducing something this tax season that is totally new, and
is in fact, a first in the tax preparation category,” said Bill Cobb,
H&R Block’s president and chief executive officer. “By combining the
human expertise, knowledge and judgment of our tax professionals with
the cutting-edge cognitive computing power of Watson, we are creating a
future where our clients will benefit from an enhanced experience and
our tax pros will have the latest technology to help them ensure every
deduction and credit is found. This partnership with Watson means we can
leverage the best technology available to help our clients get their
The field of tax preparation involves massive volumes of data, including
a federal tax code with more than 74,000 pages and thousands of yearly
tax law changes, all of which impacts a client’s tax outcome. As part of
the first phase of the collaboration, H&R Block and IBM development
teams trained Watson in the language of tax, first applying the
technology to the thousands of questions and topics discussed during the
return filing process.
The result is a new cognitive experience for filers offered for the
first time this tax season at H&R Block retail locations. The solution
uses cloud-based Watson services to understand context, interpret intent
and draw connections between clients’ statements and relevant areas of
H&R Block tax professionals can then identify additional areas of
possible tax implications in order to maximize client refunds or reduce
their tax liabilities. The client can follow along with the tax
professional on a dedicated client companion screen that brings to life
key focus areas for deductions, making the preparation process more
engaging and transparent.
“IBM has shown how complex, data-rich industries such as healthcare,
retail and education are being transformed through the use of Watson.
Now with H&R Block, we’re applying the power of cognitive computing in
an entirely new way that everyone can relate to and benefit from – the
tax prep process,” said David Kenny, senior vice president, IBM Watson
and Cloud Platform. “We’re excited to see H&R Block’s tax professionals,
leaders in their field, join their expertise with Watson to enhance the
client experience and help millions of individuals file their returns
during tax season.”
The partnership with H&R Block in a new industry domain for IBM puts
Watson on track to reach more than a billion people around the world by
the end of 2017 as the technology is increasingly used to help
professionals derive insights and support human decision-making.
Organizations are using their data to set themselves apart from
competitors. For example, in applying Watson to tax, H&R Block is not
just tapping into leading technology, it's also maximizing its
competitiveness - its own company insights, amassed over 60-plus years
of preparing hundreds of millions of returns combined with new insights
gained by using Watson. As Watson learns more about navigating the tax
code from H&R Block tax professionals, those learnings will stay with
H&R Block and improve the value it delivers to tax filers.
Watson’s initial training was validated by H&R Block tax experts and the
initial corpus will expand over time through each subsequent tax season.
During the next phase, H&R Block tax professionals will work with IBM to
continue teaching Watson all about tax and apply the technology to
innovate in other areas of their business.
Since 1955 H&R Block has filed more than 720 million returns, amassing
deep insights that inform their recommendations to filers. H&R Block’s
approach to tax preparation is rooted in a commitment to securing the
maximum refund each client can earn. Doing so means avoiding a
check-the-box approach, which can often lead to missed deductions or
filing an inaccurate return.
H&R Block with Watson commercial to run during 1st Quarter of Super Bowl
Block will highlight this new offering with the company’s first Super
Bowl commercial since 2009.
“This partnership with IBM to apply Watson represents a huge innovation
in the tax preparation industry,” said Kathy Collins, H&R Block’s chief
marketing and strategy officer. “We are launching it on the biggest
stage – the Super Bowl – to ask consumers to rethink their current tax
preparation method, and question whether they got back everything they
deserved. We know there is nothing more important than optimizing their
outcome – or, in other words – getting their taxes won.”
H&R Block’s new proprietary client experience with Watson is available
only at H&R Block retail locations beginning Sunday, February 5.