Visitors to the Kansas online tax website can now interact with Agent Kay, a form of artificial intelligence that can answer common questions about Kansas taxes.
Agent Kay, called a chatbot, is a computer-powered option that is part of the state's attempt to "make it as quick and as painless as possible to file your state income taxes," said Nolan Jones, general manager of Kansas Information Consortium LLC. KIC is part of NIC Inc., an Olathe-based public company that trades on Nasdaq as EGOV and specializes in government technology.
KIC built the Kansas tax filing website, webfile, and has spent the past year rebuilding that system, Jones said. Agent Kay was integrated into the website in the past month.
"The nice thing with a chatbot is its use of conversational language," he said. "We try to make sure that answers are written in a way that is short and not overly technical. We want it to act like a human being and tell me what I want to know in a way that makes sense to me."
The program is designed to interpret questions in whatever way they are asked, and it focuses on basic questions, Jones said. It does not give tax advice, he said, so questions about how the food sales tax credit might impact someone wouldn't be answered. But a definition of what the food sales tax credit is would be in line with Agent Kay's capabilities.
"It's a toe in the water on the capabilities within tax," Jones said of Agent Kay. "We expect to continue to develop that to become more intelligent and useful for individuals who are filing their taxes to answer even more and more questions."
The first chatbot was launched on Kansas government websites last June, and it is integrated into the main website at kansas.gov, Jones said. That answers more comprehensive questions about the state, and the program is constantly updated as KIC looks at what questions people ask and add those answers.
The same thing will happen with Agent Kay, he said.
Agent Kay is incorporated into the state's social media, so it provides the opportunity for people to interact with the chatbot through Facebook and other avenues, Jones said. It's important, he said, for people to be able to interact with the government through a variety of avenues.
The new program didn't cost the state of Kansas anything, Jones said. NIC utilizes revenue generated through certain services, typically government to business services, Jones said, and builds technology like Agent Kay that doesn't have revenue tied to it.