Content of the material
- Online vs. CD/Download vs. In-Person
- HR Block Alternatives
- Products offered by HR Block
- Who Should Use H&R Block?
- Tax Prep Housekeeping
- The Interface
- Comparing The Online “Premium” Tax Filing Software
- HR Block vs. TurboTax: User Friendliness
- The HR Block Mobile Experience
- HR Block Pricing
- Online Preparation and Filing
- Free Online
- Online Assist
- Desktop Software
- Deluxe + State
- Premium & Business
- Is the information I share with a tax professional kept private?
- What do you get with HR Block?
- Is HR Block Online Assist worth the cost?
- HR Block vs. TurboTax: Cost
- H&R Block Ease of Use
- About HR Block tax service
- Learn more:
Online vs. CD/Download vs. In-Person
All tax preparation platforms discussed in this article are online. H&R Block and TurboTax also have CDs as well as downloadable software. Only Jackson Hewitt and H&R Block offer in-person filing, though TurboTax has added a new feature, TurboTax Live Full Service, that allows you to meet one-on-one with a “tax expert” via a live video call. Generally speaking, CD/download versions are the least expensive and in-person filing is the most expensive. As features and services offered vary, direct comparison is difficult.
HR Block Alternatives
There are plenty of great alternatives to H&R Block if it won’t meet your needs. Its primary competitor is probably TurboTax, which is similar in price range and features.
When comparing the two rivals, you’ll find that H&R Block is the slightly more affordable choice. Their free version comes with more forms and all of their paid plans are a bit less expensive as well. Their new Online Assist service is also priced below the TurboTax Live plans.
But if you’re self-employed, TurboTax may be the better choice. Their deep integration with QuickBooks is a huge advantage that could make it a lot easier to claim all the small business deductions that you’re eligible for.
It’s also important to point out that while both H&R Block and TurboTax are powerful products, they’re also more expensive than others. You may want to look into cheaper alternatives, especially if your tax situation is fairly simple. These alternatives include FreeTaxUSA, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer.
Products offered by HR Block
H&R Block offers four online tax-filing options: Free Online, Deluxe, Premium and Self-Employed.
- Free Online: Like other major tax-filing services, H&R Block’s Free Online ($0) version allows you to file a basic Form 1040 and take several common tax breaks such as the standard deduction, earned income tax credit, education credits and additional child tax credit. But H&R Block’s free version is better than most because it can also handle unemployment income, bank interest and dividends income, student loan interest, and schedules 1 and 3 — for a total of 39 tax forms in all.
- Deluxe: You may need to upgrade to the Deluxe ($49.99) version if you want to itemize deductions on Schedule A, you contributed to a health savings account in 2021, or you had child and dependent care expenses.
- Premium: The Premium ($69.99) version — which includes everything in Deluxe — is a good choice for investors and landlords who need to file a Schedule D or E or have K-1s.
- Self-Employed: Freelancers and gig workers can report self-employment income on Schedule C using the Deluxe or Premium editions. However, small-business owners will need to upgrade to the Self-Employed ($109.99) version if they want to claim business expenses and report all business deductions and asset depreciation.
If you need extra guidance with any of these editions, you can pay an additional fee to get Online Assist. Pricing ranges from $69.99 to $194.99 (plus extra for state returns) and includes screen sharing, video calling and support from mobile apps. Users who add Online Assist receive unlimited, personalized help from a tax expert, enrolled agent or CPA.
You can import a prior year’s tax return (even from another provider), W-2 forms and several 1099 forms such as the 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, 1099-B and 1099-R. If you need to take a break from preparing taxes, you can save your work and sign out, then pick back up using any device. The mobile app — H&R Block Tax Prep and File App — is available on iOS and Android devices and receives an average rating of 4.65/5 stars. You can take a picture of your forms and even prepare and e-file your taxes all in the app.
Who Should Use H&R Block?
For DIYers, H&R Block makes tax preparation simple by walking them through the process with interview-style questions, clear instructions, and in-depth explanations for different income types, deductions, and tax credits.
Customers can prepare their tax returns online, have their DIY return reviewed by an expert, or turn their return over to a virtual tax pro to handle preparation and filing from start to finish.
This range of options makes H&R Block a good tax software tool for people who want to try filing on their own, but also want the option to call in professional help if they have questions or get stuck.
Tax Prep Housekeeping
Before you create an account on the H&R Block site, you’re asked to designate the version you’ll use. You can get help making this decision. Once you’ve satisfied the site’s security requirements, you’ll move through a lengthy series of pages, supplying personal information about you and your family. This information includes names, addresses, birthdates, and Social Security numbers for everyone in your household who will be included on your return.
If you filed using H&R Block last year, that information should transfer automatically to the present. You can also import data from major competing websites like TurboTax and TaxAct.
Other screens ask for answers to questions about, for example, your filing status, citizenship status, and residency. When you’ve completed this section, the site provides a summary for you to check and edit if necessary.
Signing up for an account with H&R Block is simple. I didn’t notice additional security protocols, other than having to set three verification questions and meet their parameters for a password.
Right after signing in and starting to file, the software asked how I filed taxes last year:
If you select “I used H&R Block,” you can automatically import your return from the prior year. And even if you select “I used another company,” H&R Block makes it easy to switch by allowing you to upload your 1040.
H&R Block’s software looks similar to TurboTax in many ways. It’s a clean design that breaks your navigation into six main sections: Your Info, Income, Deductions, Credits, Taxes, and Wrap-Up.
And, like TurboTax, H&R Block uses a question-and-answer style format to guide you throughout the entire tax filing process.
When I select a type of income that isn’t included in the Free version I’m currently using, the software lets me know how to upgrade.
Since you don’t have to pay until you get to the end of the process, you can continue to add forms as needed, and then pay for the lowest possible version when you finish your filing. And, again, H&R Block’s latest pricing tool means that any time you decide to boost your version, you’ll get an alert letting you know your current end-of-use total.
When I got to the end of my make-believe income filing, it asks a few questions about less-common income types. As an example, it asked about income from foreign transactions.
Based on your answers in the Deductions and Allowances section, the software will recommend either an itemized or a standard deduction. This is par for the course with tax software and I’d generally trust the recommendation of H&R Block.
Comparing The Online “Premium” Tax Filing Software
The Premium pricing tier is the tier that supports “investors”. All three software packages support stock and crypto trading, and they have built-in calculators for landlords.
HR Block vs. TurboTax: User Friendliness
Both of these services are known for their ease of use, but TurboTax is generally the more user-friendly of the two. This is generally true for both desktop and mobile users.
TurboTax’s interview-style approach will guide you through the filing process with simple and straightforward questions. There is minimal tax jargon. H&R Block is also user-friendly, but its questions and explanations are not always as clear as you would hope.
The filing process with TurboTax also includes encouraging phrases throughout. This isn’t a necessary feature, but taxes are stressful for many people. Seeing, “You can do this,” throughout the process may help to reduce some anxiety.
Another important consideration is how easy it is to upload documents. Both services do well on this front. H&R Block and TurboTax both let you upload your W-2 by taking a picture of it. Both services allow you to import your previous returns no matter which tax service you used (as long as you have a PDF version of the return). They also make it easy to fill out your state return after going through your federal return. Your information quickly transfers so you don’t waste time retyping everything.
The HR Block Mobile Experience
H&R Block has an Android app and an iOS app. The H&R Block Tax Prep and File app lets you file or access a return you’ve started or completed on another device. As we found last year, the mobile app does a beautiful job of replicating the desktop experience. It offers simple navigation, an able help system, and comprehensive coverage of tax topics.
Screens look like they do on the browser-based version, with a few exceptions. For example, the mobile versions display icons at the bottom of the screen, providing another path to screens and tools. If you’re accustomed to using your phone for productivity applications, you probably wouldn’t find it difficult to complete your return on your mobile device.
HR Block Pricing
H&R Block’s online software includes a free edition for simple returns as well as three paid packages with prices that range from $49.99 to $109.99 per federal return, plus $44.99 per state. If you need the help of a tax pro, its Online Assist version starts at $69.99 per federal return. If you prefer desktop software, you can choose from four tiers with prices ranging from $19.95 to $79.95 for unlimited returns, although you may have to pay extra for e-filing more than five returns.
Online Preparation and Filing
Pricing & FeaturesFree OnlineDeluxePremiumSelf-EmployedFederal Filing($/Return)$0$49.99$69.99$109.99State Filing($/State)$0$44.99$44.99$44.99With Online Assist (Federal)$69.99$109.99$159.99$194.99With Online Assist (State)$39.99$49.99$49.99$49.99Earned Income Credit (EITC) ✔✔✔✔Retirement Income✔✔✔✔W-2 Wages✔✔✔✔Live Phone or Chat SupportN/A✔✔✔Schedule A Itemized DeductionsN/A✔✔✔Schedule D Capital Gains & LossesN/AN/A✔✔Schedule E Rental IncomeN/AN/A✔✔Schedule C Business IncomeN/AN/AN/A✔
The free plan is best for renters, students, and W-2 employees. It includes W-2 photo capture and easy import, and it supports Form 1095 (A and B), 1098 (E and T), and 1099 (B, DIV, INT, and R). While you have access to the software’s help center, you don’t get live customer support.
This plan is for you if you have mortgage interest, real estate taxes, or health savings account (HSA) contributions. It gives you access to all the features of the free option, plus access to live phone or chat support, and its unique DeductionPro tool, which helps you optimize charitable donations.
If you’ve sold stocks, bonds, or other investments that must be reported on Schedule D, you’ll need the Premium edition. In addition to all of the features in Deluxe, Premium also helps you claim rental income and deductions on Schedule E and import expenses from your favorite expense tracking applications, such as Stride.
Get this plan if you own a business that reports on Schedule C. It includes everything in Premium, plus the ability to claim all small business expenses, including asset depreciation. If you’re an Uber driver, this plan also allows you to import your tax information directly from Uber.
Each online package includes an Online Assist version with live tax pro support, which gives you unlimited access to live tax experts with share-screen and on-demand chat or video. You can file your returns at an office or virtually.
Pricing & FeaturesBasicDeluxe + StatePremiumPremium & BusinessFederal Program Including Federal E-Filing Fees for 5 returns$19.95$44.95$64.95$79.95State Program$39.95Includes 1 State (additional states are $39.95)State e-Filing Fee$19.95$19.95$19.95$19.95Have Children✔✔✔Wages (Form W-2)✔✔✔✔Itemized Deductions (Schedule A)N/A✔✔✔Rental Property (Schedule E)N/AN/A✔✔Self-employed (Schedule C)N/AN/A✔✔Partnership (Form 1065)N/AN/AN/AN/ACorporate & S-corp Returns (Forms 1120, 1120S)N/AN/AN/AN/A
If you’re an employee or a parent who needs simple federal filing, then Basic is for you. It includes features like drag-and-drop importing of prior-year returns, photo uploads, and free in-person audit support.
Deluxe + State
This product suits you if you’re an investor or a homeowner who wants to maximize tax deductions, such as your charitable donations and home mortgage interest, and report investment income. This plan also includes everything in Basic.
If you’re a self-employed individual, a freelancer, an independent contractor, or a rental property owner, Premium has the tools you need to manage your taxes. Get Premium if you have income reported on Form 1099-MISC or Form 1099-NEC.
Premium & Business
If you’re a small business owner, this plan is a necessity. You can create employer forms (Forms W-2 and 1099) and payroll forms (Forms 940 and 941). However, it appears that a few important forms are no longer supported, which include partnership and limited liability company (LLC) tax returns (Form 1065), corporate and S-corp returns (Forms 1120 and 1120S), nonprofit returns (Form 990), and estate and trust returns (Form 1041). You can also prepare your individual return with the same features as the Premium edition.
Is the information I share with a tax professional kept private?
Most licensed tax preparation professionals are fiduciaries, which means they must act in the best interest of their clients. Also, reputable tax prep companies like H&R Block will have safeguards in place to protect your information online and keep it private.
What do you get with HR Block?
- Easy tax form import and upload. This is one of H&R Block’s best time-saving features. In a matter of seconds, you can upload a PDF version of your tax form or import it from your employer, bank, or investment company.
- Mobile version. Work on your taxes on the mobile or web versions, or switch back and forth.
- Step-by-step guidance. This is something H&R Block excels at. Any time you’re required to answer a question or provide a number, one click will populate a side-bar with a helpful explainer that breaks down, in layman’s terms, what it means.
- Option to upgrade for live support. Pay extra and you can consult a tax expert, or hand off your documents to a professional to prep everything for you.
- Multiple refund options. You can get your federal refund deposited into your bank account, sent as a check, or loaded onto a prepaid debit card. You can also use your refund to buy an Amazon gift card in increments of $100 and H&R Block will add on a 3.5% bonus. This is probably only worth doing if you have a large refund, otherwise the bonus is negligible.
- Tax return storage. H&R Block will store your finished tax returns in your account for up to six years.
- Accuracy guarantee. H&R Block will pay IRS penalties and fees related to calculation errors up to $10,000. If it’s determined that you entered information improperly, the guarantee does not apply.
Is HR Block Online Assist worth the cost?
Online Assist is an extra service that can be added on to any of the H&R Block tax preparation plans. It costs $40 for Free and Deluxe plans, and adds $60 to the price of Premium and Self-Employed Plans.
The service provides virtual tax assistance from a professional online. It lets you share your screen so the pro (again, not necessarily a CPA) can see exactly what’s going on in order to solve your problem.
Most taxpayers with common tax situations won’t need online assistance. However, whether or not Online Assist is right for you depends on your comfort level with doing your taxes alone and the nature of your own specific tax situation.
You can always add Online Assist at any time during the tax filing process. If you run into questions you can’t answer yourself when running the H&R Block software, you might consider adding Online Assist to your plan.
HR Block vs. TurboTax: Cost
Cost is always a consideration when you choose a tax filing service. H&R Block and TurboTax are the two most comprehensive online services available and likewise they are also some of the most expensive. However, while H&R Block was once cheaper than TurboTax, the companies are now nearly perfectly aligned when it comes to cost.
As mentioned, both services offer a free option, covering simple returns. You can also file some additional schedules and forms with this option. However, H&R Block does cover more forms and schedules with its free option. It also allows you to file multiple state returns for free. By contrast, the free plan from TurboTax includes only one free state return. This all gives H&R Block a slight advantage if you qualify for the free option.
It’s great if you can file your taxes for free, but the average filer will need to upgrade to another option. The Deluxe option is enough for many filers. Both Deluxe options include deduction-finding software, help with charitable donations and access to tax financial experts through online chat.
There are a couple of big differences between the options in the forms that they support. TurboTax’s Deluxe option supports Schedule SE, which allows you to file self-employment taxes. It also allows you to file Schedule C and Schedule C-EZ if you have business income to report but do not have any expenses to report.
If price is your primary concern, you may want to consider a cheaper service like TaxAct. TaxAct is well-known for being affordable but it doesn’t quite provide the same level of simplicity and educational material that these two services offer.
H&R Block Ease of Use
Preparing your tax return online with H&R Block is similar to sitting down with a tax preparer. The software walks you through the tax preparation and filing process with a series of interview-style questions.
As part of my review, I went through the process of preparing three sample returns. Here’s how long it took me to get from start to filing for each one:
- Single taxpayer, no dependents, W-2 income and the student loan interest deduction: 23 minutes
- Married couple filing jointly, one dependent, two W-2s, Child Tax Credit and child and dependent care credit: 30 minutes
- Single taxpayer, no dependents, self-employment income, federal and state estimated tax payments: 30 minutes
I did run into one stumbling block while preparing the sample return for a married couple filing jointly. On the Alabama state return, the software doubled their income, showing they had $260,000 of taxable income rather than $130,000 and owed taxes and an underpayment penalty. After spending several minutes going back through the interview forms, I couldn’t figure out how to fix the issue without deleting everything and starting over, so I gave up.
Such a problem could really derail an inexperienced DIYer and potentially even lead to significantly overpaying their tax return if they didn’t understand what was going on and reach out to tech support (or pay extra to get on-demand help from an H&R Block tax pro).
Despite this issue, I found H&R Block’s interface to be pretty user-friendly. A banner on the left-hand side of the screen keeps a running tally of the estimated federal and state refund or amount due throughout the process.
A banner on the left side of the screen keeps a running tally of the federal and state tax refund or balance due.
There are also plenty of FAQs sprinkled throughout, so if you aren’t sure how to answer a question or why it matters, clicking the embedded link brings up a helpful tip on the right side of the screen.
Users can click the embedded links to get tips for answering on-screen questions.
If you get stuck along the way, you can click the “Get expert help” button in the top right-hand corner — just keep in mind that extra help will cost you.
You have two options:
- Online Assist. Get unlimited on-demand help from a tax pro via chat or video and the ability to screen share with a tax pro. Additional cost: $60.
- Online Assist + Tax Pro Review. Get all of the features included in Online Assist, plus the tax pro reviews, signs, and e-files your tax return after you approve it. Additional cost: $89.99.
Online Assist is only available Monday through Friday, 7am through 11pm Central, Saturday and Sunday, 9am through 9pm Central.
Compared to TurboTax, which subjects users to near-constant urging to upgrade to a more expensive package or purchase add-on features, H&R Block’s upselling is relatively mild. If you try to add income or tax breaks not allowed by the version you’re in, the software will prompt you to upgrade. And after the accuracy review portion of the Free Online filing, H&R Block offers a chance to upgrade to Plus for an additional fee, which would:
- Store tax documents digitally on H&R Block’s servers for up to six years (otherwise, they’re only available online until November)
- Provide live, unlimited tech support from a product specialist via chat or phone (product support specialists help with login and technical issues you might have while filing — they typically don’t provide tax advice)
- Allow free e-filing of a 2021 amended return, if needed
You’re also offered the chance to upgrade to have a tax pro review and sign your return for an additional fee before filing. Those were the only offers to upgrade I encountered while preparing the sample returns.
About HR Block tax service
Founded in 1955, H&R Block has grown to become one of the largest retail tax firms in the U.S. and has completed more than 800 million tax returns in its existence. The company employs more than 60,000 tax professionals who must take at least 60 hours of training and pass a rigorous certification program. The typical H&R Block tax pro has about 10 years of experience and can help customers either online or at one of the company’s retail locations in all 50 states and U.S. territories, and on U.S. military bases around the world. For no-contact help, you can drop off your tax information at one of its offices without making an appointment.
Taxpayers can also prepare returns by logging in online or downloading tax-prep software. Each of the four online-filing programs walk you through a simple interview-style interface, where you answer questions about your tax situation. The program enters your information on the appropriate tax forms accordingly.
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