Speaking to AccountantsDaily, Smithink’s founding director, David Smith, said SMSF auditors should be adding value beyond their basic services to cope with the likelihood of the audit process becoming entirely automated.
Mr Smith said because transactions can be automated, systems should, at some point, be able to audit those transactions.
He noted that the next step of automating judgement is “controversial” and would not be possible in the current technological environment.
However, Mr Smith believes artificial intelligence and machine learning will reach a point at which they can deliver what they believe the judgement should be to the auditor.
“It’s a bit like a pilot on an aeroplane," he explains. "The plane flies itself most of the time but the pilot is still saying, ‘Are we still flying properly?’,” he explained.
As artificial intelligence develops, Mr Smith said, he can envision audits becoming completely automated, particularly for SMSFs with simple transactions and structures.
“I do think that’s going to be quite possible, but we’re talking [in] a timeframe a fair way away,” he said.
However, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand’s head of superannuation, Liz Westover, questions whether SMSF audits could ever be fully automated.
“While I agree there are certain aspects of an audit that will greatly benefit from advances in technology, particularly around data feeds and access to information, I challenge the ability to fully automate on the basis that audits by their very nature involve a level of professional scepticism,” Ms Westover said.
“An auditor must use their experience and judgement when conducting an audit. Frequently, this might involve the 'smell test' or a 'gut feel' about a transaction, a client or a set of accounts. This seems to be an innately ‘human’ characteristic, which would be difficult, if not impossible, for a machine to replicate.”
However, Ms Westover noted the industry should not be making too many assumptions about the limitations on technology and automation.