H&R Block review - is this personalized tax prep. software worth it?
H&R Block offers the best of online and in-person help. They offer online tax software combined with the option to visit in person with an H&R Block tax expert.
- Online support
- In-person support
Editor’s Note: Pricing is up to date as of March 3, 2019.
H&R Block is certainly not the cheapest tax software, but it’s definitely one of the best tax software programs available. Here’s our full review.
This tax season promises to be the most interesting in decades. The Trump Tax Reform bill that was passed in late 2017 for 2018 has radically changed the US tax code. Even if you’ve had a good comfort level with preparing tax returns in the past, this year’s changes may challenge your confidence level.
To help deal with the many changes that have taken place, tax software programs like H&R Block can make all the difference. The company’s name is synonymous with income tax preparation, as they’ve been doing taxes since 1955.
You can use one of four different tax preparation software plans, but if you need to have your return reviewed—or even fully prepared by a tax professional—H&R Block can accommodate you. They even offer full audit protection, including live representation before the IRS. There are a lot of tax software programs out there, but most don’t offer that level of protection.
Overall, H&R Block offers one of the better tax software programs around. It isn’t the cheapest, but it’ll give you the level of performance and confidence you’ll need to prepare your returns.
How does H&R Block work?
H&R Block is almost unique in the tax preparation software space, in that it provides both a do-it-yourself tax preparation software option, as well as full on live income tax preparation from one of their many tax preparation offices throughout the United States.
Not only does the company provide four different tax preparation software options, but they also offer the ability to engage the services of a tax professional online to review your return, and even to help you complete it.
But if that’s not enough, you always have the option to bring your return into one of the company’s more than 12,000 retail tax preparation offices. There, one of their experienced tax professionals can prepare your return for you, at only a fraction of what it will cost to have the same return prepared by a CPA.
When preparing your return, you’ll have various options to import information. This could include information from last year’s return prepared on H&R Block, or by other popular tax preparation software plans, like TurboTax and TaxAct. But you can also import your W2 information, as well as information from various 1098 and 1099 forms. This will greatly reduce the amount of inputting you’ll need to do in preparing your return.
H&R Block features
H&R Block has more features than we can include in a review of any reasonable length, but below are the highlights:
You can use this tool to come up with an accurate value on used clothing and household goods that you’re claiming as charitable contributions. The tool will provide the value based on up-to-date thrift shop prices, which is a pricing method commonly accepted by the IRS.
The Refund Reveal tool provides information on specific deductions on allowances, and how they will impact your refund or tax bill at the end of the year. It gives you a rough idea what your tax liability or refund will be before you even begin preparing your taxes.
Available only on the In-Office Appointment plan, Watson is H&R Block’s software program that analyzes all 74,000 pages of the US tax code and builds deep insights from over 600 million data points. It will enable your tax preparer to uncover every deduction and credit available to you.
Check refund status anytime
You can track your refund with H&R Block. They’ll direct you to the IRS Where’s My Refund tool. By entering your Social Security number, filing status, and the exact refund amount shown on your return, you can find out the status of your refund, and when you can expect to receive it.
Pay nothing out of pocket
This is done using H&R Block’s Refund Transfer. It allows you to pay nothing out of pocket for your tax preparation fees, which are then deducted from your refund after services are complete.
H&R Block Emerald Prepaid Mastercard
This is a prepaid debit card that allows you to make purchases, pay bills, and run other financial transactions. It’s accepted everywhere debit MasterCard is accepted. You can even fund it with your tax refund.
Up to $1,000 advance credit
Offered through the H&R Block Emerald Advance, you can get a line of credit giving you the ability to borrow and repay up to $1,000. The line of credit is subject to bank approval.
Tax audit and notice services
H&R Block will verify the accuracy of the IRS notice, and then a dedicated tax expert will work with the IRS to solve the problem. Local tax experts are available year-round, and charge one flat fee after a free consultation. The audit service can help you with unfiled returns, IRS penalties, amended returns, and of course full IRS audits.
Online chat is available 24 hours a day, seven days per week, from January 15th until April 15th. After the tax filing season, it’s available from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday. It gives you access to H&R block tax professionals, and is available on all but the free version.
H&R Block plans
H&R Block offers four online tax preparation plans. But they also offer their TaxPro Review, which is a premium service that can be added to any of the four primary plans.
A tax pro can remotely check your return, and make sure it’s being filed correctly. Finally, there’s yet another option that sets H&R Block apart from the competition, and that’s it’s in-office appointment, where you can have your return fully prepared by a live tax professional.
Each tax software option gives you the ability to file up to five federal tax returns, and one state tax return.
Free online tax filing
With the Free Version, you can file your federal return for free, and then $29.99 for a state tax return. This version works for simpler tax returns, but it can accommodate the earned income tax credit, child care expenses, student loan interest, Social Security income, retirement plan income, and the child tax credit. That’s more tax situations than are normally included in free filing software.
Specific features offered with the Free Version plan include:
- Import last year’s return from other tax software, including TurboTax, TaxAct and Credit Karma or another tax preparer
- Snap-a-pic W2 import
- Import 1095-A, 1098, 1098-E, 1098-T, and Forms 1099-B,- DIV, -INT, and -R (retirement income)
- Refund Reveal
- Technical support by chat
Deluxe online tax filing
The Deluxe Version handles more complicated tax situations, including itemized deductions, unreported tips, and health savings accounts. This version is available for $49.99 for the federal return, plus $39.99 for each state return prepared.
Specific features offered with the Deluxe Version includes all the features of the Free Online Tax Filing plan, plus:
- Automatic import of last year’s H&R Block return
- Technical support by phone
- Six years’ access to prior returns
- DeductionPro to optimize donations
- Unlimited tax advice by chat
Premium online tax filing
This Premium Version is available for $69.99 for the federal return, plus $39.99 for each state income tax return filed. It’s designed for freelance and contractor income with expenses of less than $5,000, as well as stock sales income, and rental property income.
Specific features offered with the Premium Online Tax Filing plan includes all features of the Deluxe Online Tax Filing, plus:
- Stocks, bonds, retirement, and other investment income (Schedule D)
- Import expenses from popular apps like Stride
- Unlimited tax advice by chat
- Schedule C-EZ for freelancers and independent contractors with simple expenses
- Import 1099-B investment income, including cost basis
- Help to determine the cost basis of home sales, dividends, gifts and inheritance assets
- Rental property income and tax deductions (Schedule E)
Self-employed online tax filing
This plan is available for $57.99 for the federal return, plus $39.99 for each state income tax return filed. This version is specifically for small business income and small business expenses, including home office, depreciation, and vehicle expenses.
Specific features offered Self-Employed Online Tax Filing plan includes all the features of the Premium Online Tax Filing plan, plus:
- Expense imports from popular apps like Stride
- Business Booster to write off your startup costs
- Unlimited tax advice by chat
- Get common deductions for your business with Business Partner
- See all your business details in one place with Business Snapshot
- Import Uber driver tax information
Tax pro review
This is not really a specific version, but rather an add-on for any of the above plans. If you’re unsure of the preparation of your return, or if you’d just prefer a higher degree of assurance, you can add Tax Pro Review to your preparation.
Tax Pro Review is priced at $59 for the review of your federal return, plus $59 for each state tax return filed.
Basically, Tax Pro Review offers the ability of a trained tax professional to review your return remotely. That is, you can take advantage of the H&R Block professional tax preparer network without leaving your home or office.
Tax Pro can also file any form you need, even if it’s not included with the plan you selected. And once you return is reviewed by a tax pro, you’ll be guaranteed to get the maximum refund.
This is a feature practically unique to H&R Block, due to their extensive network of tax preparation offices across the country. Rates for this service are not fixed, but start at $59 for filing your federal tax return, and $59 for each state tax return filed.
This is an excellent option to have, if you lack either the experience or the motivation to prepare your own tax return. Or perhaps your return has a sufficient degree of complication that you’d rather turn it over to a tax professional. What’s more, tax preparation by H&R Block is less expensive than hiring a CPA for a similar return.
The in-office appointment option offers the following benefits:
- Drop off tax service
- Refund and payment options
- Tools to protect your tax identity
- Flexibility to fit your life
- Convenient locations and hours
- Finding money other prepares miss
- Expertise back by Watson
- Average tax pro experience of 10 years
Even if you never use this service, it’s a nice option to have available.
Pros & Cons
- Support — Offers online and in-person help
- Easy — Easy-to-use
- W-2 — W-2 upload option
- Cost — Cost is on the higher side
Who is H&R Block good for?
Much like TurboTax, H&R Block is a better choice for those who have more complicated tax returns. It offers the ability to have your return checked by a tax professional. An extensive network of tax preparation offices throughout the country gives you the ability to transfer your return over to a live tax professional, if you decide that’s the better course of action.
One area where H&R Block is almost unique is its ability to process returns for rideshare workers. You can import Uber driver tax information into the Self-Employed Online Tax Filing plan. That’s significant because tens of thousands of people are participating in Uber, and ridesharing is virtually a unique type of business activity, requiring at least somewhat specialized tax preparation capability.
H&R Block is one of the few tax preparation software programs that also offers live audit representation before the IRS. Nearly all tax preparation software offers audit assistance, but that’s only about helping you to prepare for an audit and explaining technical terms. But the ability to provide direct representation is the kind of audit protection most tax filers will need at some point.
If you believe your return is reasonably likely to be audited, H&R Block is an excellent choice for tax preparation.
Who isn’t H&R Block good for?
If your primary motivation is finding the least expensive tax software available, H&R block will certainly not be your first choice. Other software is available at a lower price, and some even provide free preparation filing for both federal and state returns.
If you’re very familiar with the tax preparation process, and have the confidence to largely prepare your return on your own abilities, you may not want to pay the higher price for H&R Block. But if you need more support, and even direct assistance, H&R Block is one of the front runners. You’ll just have to be prepared to pay a little bit more for it.
How does H&R Block compare to other tax software?
However, H&R block is generally a more advanced platform than the lower priced competitors. And it offers something that the others don’t, which is the ability to have your return prepared at one of their thousands of local offices.
|Free Version?||Other Plans||Customer Support||Refund Tracking|
|TurboTax||For simple tax returns||Deluxe: $39|
|24/7 live support over the phone||Yes|
|Cash App Taxes||Yes||N/A||24/7 live support over the phone or through the app||Yes|
|24/7 live support over the phone or chat. Email form also available||Yes|
|Liberty Tax Online||N/A||Basic: $24.95|
|24/7 live support through the app. Email support available every day from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. EST||Yes|
|H&R Block||For simple tax returns||Deluxe: $29.99|
|Support over the phone or at a physical location||Yes|
|TaxAct||For federal tax returns||Deluxe: $24.95|
|Support over the phone or email. Hours vary||Yes|
|E-File||For federal tax returns||Deluxe: $20.99|
Premium Plus: $37.49
|Support over email. Some versions include phone support as well||Yes|
But two of the biggest advantages offered by H&R Block are direct audit representation, as well as the ability they have your return either reviewed or fully prepared by a tax professional in one of their thousands of offices across the country.
Overall, H&R Block is one of the better tax software programs available. It’s certainly not the cheapest, but it provides you with enough plan options that you can choose the one that will work best for your situation, without having to pay top price for a premium version. In fact, the Deluxe Online Tax Filing plan, at $49.99, will work for most taxpayers.
If you’d like to get more information, or you’d like to order one of H&R Block’s programs, check out H&R Block here.