AI-Powered Tools Will Soon Help Accountants Reduce Time Spent on Payroll

If you’re an accountant, there’s no avoiding it – you’ve probably already gotten a million client questions about how the evolution of AI will affect your firm and the services you can provide them. 

For cutting edge accounting firms, I believe there’s incredible opportunity ahead – but also huge potential for distraction. Gusto’s new Chief Data Officer Jeremy Welland recently shared his perspective on how AI is in its “awkward teen years” in his blog post.

Generative artificial intelligence represents one of the biggest, most transformative changes to how we work. The accounting industry is already facing a number of challenges limiting its potential – for example, we’re facing a massive talent shortage. Our research has found 6 in 10 accounting firms have had to decline new clients or let go of existing ones due to hiring issues. So it’s clear we need every advantage we can get to best serve our clients and grow firms’ revenues. 

I’m really excited about how AI will help level up the accounting industry as a whole. But it’ll be critical to tap into its full potential for serving people through augmenting their skills and productivity, not replacing them. 

That’s why at Gusto, we’re focusing on harnessing the power of AI for specific use cases designed to save accountants and their clients both time and money. We believe technology like this will be an incredible enabler – but never a replacement – for accountants serving SMBs.

That’s why we recently announced we’re building new AI-powered tools designed to both prevent and resolve tax notices, quickly build customized reports, and generate job postings.

And now, we’re taking the first of many steps in making AI useful for accountants by building new features designed to make running payroll faster than ever.

Save hours of manual data prep

As a former accounting firm owner myself, I know how much you do for your clients. In the past, I often took on work they couldn’t complete themselves – like doing some of their most time-consuming payroll tasks, or helping them troubleshoot tax notices. 

We know accountants struggle with complex payrolls for hourly employees in industries like restaurants and retail, often taking up valuable time that could otherwise be spent growing their firms. 

One of the most time-consuming parts of payroll is ensuring client payroll data is ready to go. In fact, our research found 86 percent of the time spent on preparing to run payroll is spent on adjusting and inputting data. We’ve also learned 56 percent of our accountant partners report having clients that manually log hours and rely on their accountants to clean the data and move it into Gusto. 

Whether you’re a payroll administrator or an accountant running payroll for clients, we can all agree that that’s a lot of manual work. Now imagine if it all just went away. 

That’s why we’re building AI-powered payroll flows, purpose-built for accountants like you. 

We are looking at ways of improving payroll data imports into Gusto. Our goal is to enable Gusto partners to automatically drop spreadsheets into Gusto Pro in any format. With the power of AI, Gusto will automatically map the data.

AI-driven import experiences will be able to take unstructured or messy data and determine how to map the data to Gusto automatically. As an example, it will be able to match up employees listed by nickname with the right employee in Gusto listed by their legal name, or correctly assign a reimbursable expense listed separately as a note in the spreadsheet.

This will empower everyone to focus efforts on more meaningful work. Imagine what you could do with hours of time back – for example, you could bring clients even more value with proactive advice on their finances, or guidance on how they could grow their own teams and retain their best people. 

Our vision for the future? To give you an all-new, accountant-centric payroll experience designed to help you run payroll in just minutes. 

Over the past five years, the number of small and medium-sized businesses on Gusto supported by an accountant has grown by 65 percent. Today, nearly two-thirds of our customers work with an accountant. We know that when an accountant supports an SMB, they are much more likely to be successful. 

By harnessing the power of AI to make accountants’ jobs easier, we’re excited to better serve SMBs. We’re eager to create opportunities for accountants to take advantage of AI and other new technologies, while evolving the industry as a whole.

Will Lopez Will Lopez is Gusto's Head Ambassador to accountant partners and customers. Previously, he empowered accountants as Head of Community & Education. He has dedicated his career to supporting accounting professionals and small businesses with more than 20 years of public- and private-sector experience, including founding and building a modern, cloud-based accounting firm.
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