H&R Block’s software is a solid contender in the crowded market for tax software, and its network of brick-and-mortar locations offers a warm, fuzzy security blanket. The interface is straightforward and easy to use, and the free version is one of the best on the market.
H&R Block’s prices
H&R Block’s free version is better than most. Like the free tax software from most of its competitors, H&R Block’s free version lets you file the new Form 1040 (the IRS killed off the 1040EZ and the 1040A in 2018) and allows you to take the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit and the credit for the elderly or disabled. But it also lets you file the new Schedules 1-6, which is a bonus. Still, if you plan to itemize, were a landlord, had capital gains, freelanced or ran a small business, or had any other situations going on that require filing a separate schedule, you’ll probably need to get a paid version.
H&R Block’s paid versions offer solid choices, though. It may not be as flashy as TurboTax, but it’ll get you from Point A to Point B on your tax return without any trouble. At list price, it isn’t discount software, but it’s also generally not the costliest option either. All of this makes it a solid choice for value-seekers who still want sturdy support options and modern features.
The list price of H&R Block’s highest-end package is cheaper than the comparable package from TurboTax, which means self-employed people or folks with rental properties could save a few bucks.
Available packages and list prices
One note about prices: Providers frequently change them. We’ll keep updating this review, but you can verify the latest price by clicking through to H&R Block’s site.
H&R Block also offers desktop software, but it’s not part of our review. Desktop means your return doesn’t reside in the cloud; it stays on your computer while you work on it. People who have used the desktop version before will see a cosmetic difference with the cloud, but the steps are similar — and, of course, the math is the same.
H&R Block’s features and ease of use
H&R Block’s interface is good-looking, straightforward and easy to use, plus there are handy tools like a W-2 photo import, which lets you avoid time spent keying in numbers from little boxes. Because the software is online, you can log in from other devices if you choose to work on your return here and there.
Help is available within the preparation process — many terms are hyperlinked so that you can read a definition or get more information, and the software is quick to send confused users to a searchable knowledge base. Like most software packages, a banner running across the top keeps track of where you are in the return process.
All versions will import last year’s return from other tax prep companies, and you can import your 1099s, too. The free version does not automatically import last year’s return, though.
Support options with H&R Block
H&R Block’s online tax packages have a unique second line of defense: an enormous band of human tax preparers at the company’s 12,000 or so offices around the world. Help at a brick-and-mortar stores isn’t free, of course (in-office appointments start at $59, but it helps to know you can go there if you get hopelessly wrapped around the axle.
Ways to get help
- Searchable knowledge base
- Free 24/7 tech support via chat for all; via phone for paid users
- Live, on-screen human help (if you paid for it)
- About 12,000 brick-and-mortar locations
H&R Block is competing hard against rival TurboTax with two offerings this year.
First is H&R Block’s new “Ask a Tax Pro” service, which gets you unlimited, on-demand chat sessions with a tax expert. You can share your screen with the tax pro to discuss specific questions. It works on mobile and tablet, or you can talk using a phone instead if you like. Hours of operation for on-demand chat are 8 a.m. to midnight Eastern time Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern on weekends during tax season. The downside: it’s not free — it costs $39.99 for Free and Deluxe users and $49.99 for Premium and Self-Employed users.
Second is H&R Block’s Tax Pro Review, which offers a one-on-one review of your entire return with a tax pro who will go over your documents and check for accuracy and possible missed deductions or credits within three days; the tax pro will even sign and e-file your return for you. You communicate with the tax pro on-demand via a secured message center or arrange for a phone call if you prefer. Users of the Free edition can tack it on for $49.99; Deluxe users pay $79.99; and Premium and Self-Employed users pay $89.99. You can also buy the service as a standalone product for $119.99 plus $36.99 for every state return you file.
Not all of H&R Block’s tax pros are CPAs or enrolled agents, but the company says they undergo more than 60 hours of training and complete additional 30-plus hours of annual training to get ready each year for tax season; it also says the tax pros who help its online filers have 15 years of experience on average and get additional training specifically around the company’s online products.
If you’re audited
Getting audited is scary, so it’s important to know what kind of support you’re getting from your tax software. First, be sure you know the difference between “support” and “defense.” With most providers, audit support (or “assistance”) typically means guidance about what to expect and how to prepare — that’s it. Audit defense, on the other hand, gets you full representation before the IRS from a tax professional.
H&R Block offers online users a product called Worry-Free Audit Support. This gets you contact with an Enrolled Agent to help guide you through an audit. It includes IRS correspondence management, audit preparation and in-person audit representation. That runs $19.99.
On top of that, you can buy something called Tax Identity Shield, which helps you apply for an Identity Protection PIN or Identity Theft Indicator if it turns out criminals have used your personal info to file a fake tax return. That runs $14.99. (If you buy Tax ID Care and Worry-Free Audit Support together, you’ll pay $24.99, which saves ten bucks).
Tax refund options
No matter how you file, you can choose to receive your refund via direct deposit to a bank account (the fastest option), loaded onto an H&R Block Emerald prepaid debit MasterCard or in the form of a paper check. Other options include applying the refund to next year’s taxes or directing the IRS to buy U.S. Savings Bonds with your refund. And H&R will up your refund by 5% if you load the amount to an Amazon e-gift card.
If you buy a paid version of H&R Block, you have the option of paying for it out of your refund (if you’re getting one). But there’s a $39.95 charge to do so.
The bottom line
H&R Block offers solid filing options at a reasonable price, and it’s a solid competitor against TurboTax — especially this year with Tax Pro Review and Ask a Tax Pro. Plus, if you want to file your taxes online but would feel better knowing you can run to a human at a desk in a brick-and-mortar office if you get stuck, H&R Block is a good choice.