H&R Block will be using IBM Watson this tax season to help inform clients about their filing options and other factors affecting their tax outcome.

A screen demonstrating the interaction of IBM's Watson and tax prep
H&R Block's Watson screen HRB Tax Group Inc.

“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, in a statement. “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 taxes won.”

The solution uses cloud-based Watson services to understand context, interpret intent and draw connections between clients’ statements and relevant areas of their return. H&R preparers can then identify additional areas of possible implications to maximize refunds or reduce tax liabilities. As the software interacts with preparers and clients, it is expected to learn more about the workings of the Tax Code, improving its recommendations.

It is expected to be the biggest deployment of Watson in retail locations so far.

Block and IBM 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,” according to the tax prep chain.

Block was expected to run a Watson commercial during the first quarter of the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, the day of the Watson rollout to Block offices.

Jeff Stimpson

Jeff Stimpson is a veteran freelance journalist who previously served as editor of The Practical Accountant.