Tax time: It’s almost upon us. And just as the old idiom says, it’s about as pleasant to think about as death.
Which is why there’s a whole industry built around doing peoples’ taxes for them. For some of us, shelling out our hard-earned cash is well worth it to avoid sifting through IRS forms for hours.
But with such a high demand for tax preparation services, there’s no shortage of options. Even if you narrow down your search to DIY online filing platforms, you’ve still got several to choose from, like TurboTax, TaxAct, and H&R Block.
If you’re trying to make your mind up between these options, we’ve got you covered—we’re taking deep dive on all of them so you don’t have to.
In this post, we’ll walk you through what you need to know about H&R Block’s tax software.
How Does H&R Block Software Work?
H&R Block is a full-service tax preparation company. Along with its all-digital options, they’ve also got brick-and-mortar branches where you can walk consult with a real, live person.
But if your taxes are fairly straightforward, you can probably file them without leaving the comfort of your home.
Like TurboTax, H&R Block offers two tiers of online filing products: a lower-cost range that’s totally DIY, and a slightly pricier online DIY option that includes on-demand, expert help.
Here are the tiers for H&R Block’s basic online filing products. Prices are current as of January 2020 and subject to change.
H&R Block’s most basic online version covers earners whose wages come entirely from W-2 income, and also includes deductions and credits for kids and educational costs. It’s completely free to file both your state and federal taxes if you’re eligible.
The Deluxe Online service includes everything you get in the free version, as well as capability to account for additional deductions for things like home ownership expenses, charitable donations and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
H&R Block Deluxe Online is $29.99, and you’ll pay an additional $36.99 per state return.
Premium Online includes everything from the first two tiers, as well as tools for freelancers, contractors and those with investment income or rental property income. That said, if your sole or primary source of income is from self-employment, the next tier up might be better suited to your needs.
H&R Block Premium Online costs $49.99, plus $36.99 per state return.
If you’re a small business owner or a full-time freelancer, H&R Block’s Self-Employed Online edition has the widest range of capabilities to meet your needs. For instance, an interview-style process walks you through industry-specific expenses and deductions you might miss on your own, and you’ll have access to tools covering asset depreciation.
H&R Block’s Online Self-Employed program costs $79.99, plus $36.99 per state filed.
Like TurboTax (though not TaxAct), H&R Block offers upgraded versions of its online programs in which you gain access to on-demand help from CPAs or other tax experts. These options start at $49.99 (to upgrade the free version), and range up to $169.99.
It’s worth noting that H&R Block is unique among the popular online filing services in that you can also have the company do your taxes for you. The choices are uploading your documents (starting at $49), dropping off your documents (starting at $69), or meeting in-office, one-on-one, with a tax pro to walk through all the details (also starting at $69, but scaling with complexity).
No matter which of H&R Block’s online service you choose, you gain access to a number of standard features.
Easy Tax Document Import
H&R Block technology allows you to populate your tax information simply by snapping a picture of your documents. It also works to make importing your information as easy as possible whenever possible — for example, Uber drivers can add their 1099 information directly from their Uber account.
Peace of Mind Extended Service Plan
If you should be audited after filing your taxes with H&R Block, you’ll be covered by its Peace of Mind Extended Service Plan. That means you’ll be able to bring in any IRS notification to get clarity on what, exactly, it means. And if it is bad news, you’ll have representation by an H&R Block enrolled agent, a value of up to approximately $1,000. (This is not, however, a replacement for hiring legal advice.)
Furthermore, should there be an error in your taxes, H&R Block will reimburse you for up to $6,000 in additional taxes owed due to their mistake.
You’ll know exactly how much you owe in taxes before you even start filing them, and you’ll get real-time insight into your expected refund or tax balance owed as you go.
Free Mid-Year Tax Check-In
H&R Block customers get a free mid-year tax check-in, which will remind you to review (and potentially adjust) your W-4 withholdings, as well as an optional consultation just to make sure everything’s ship shape.
Mobile Apps for Apple and Android
If you want to file from the palm of your hand, H&R Block has you covered with Apple and Android apps rated 4.4 stars and 4.5 stars respectively. (TurboTax also offers highly ranked apps for both platforms, as does TaxAct—though its ratings are a bit lower.)
Refund Advance and Refund Transfer Options
H&R Block offers a line of advance credit to put up to $1,000 of your tax refund in your pocket well before you file. If you’re eligible, the funds will be loaded onto a prepaid EmeraldCard, which works like a debit card anywhere Mastercard is accepted. However, unlike TurboTax’s advance credit option, H&R Block’s isn’t free; there’s a $45 annual fee and the card carries a whopping 36% interest rate.
You can also choose to pay H&R Block for its services using a portion of your refund, so you never see an out-of-pocket cost for your tax preparation. There is an additional $39.95 fee for this service. (Both TurboTax and TaxAct also offer similar refund transfer options.)
H&R Block: Pros and Cons
Every tax filing service has its drawbacks and benefits. Here’s what stands out about H&R Block.
- H&R Block’s commitment to transparency means you get straightforward pricing information ahead of time. With other products, like TurboTax, you often don’t get the full picture of what you’ll be paying until you’re most of the way through the filing process. (Which they pass off as a good thing—“don’t pay until you file!”—but it’s nice to know what you’re getting into.)
- H&R Block strikes a good balance of affordability and versatility, offering a wider variety of filing options than TaxAct while still feeling less overwhelming than TurboTax.
- If you really need to talk to someone in person, H&R Block has you covered where other digital tax preparers don’t.
- Although H&R Block offers a tax advance that can help you access your money early, the advance isn’t free like the TurboTax advance — and, in fact, carries a very steep interest rate.
Who is H&R Block Best For?
H&R Block is an easy online option that still offers tons of support without forcing you to sift through TurboTax’s overwhelming homepage—and which offers more versatility than TaxAct.
H&R Block also might be especially attractive to Uber drivers, given you can auto-import your information from your Uber account at the Self-Employed tier.
Keep in mind that you can always file for really free, if you’re eligible, through the IRS portal. This service is available to filers who’ve earned $69,000 or less, and the page also links to free fillable forms for earners at all levels.
Still comparison shopping? Check out our reviews of TurboTax and TaxAct before you make a decision.
Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com.