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- The coronavirus pandemic prompted the federal tax deadline to be postponed to July 15.
- I filed my taxes back in February with H&R Block. It was my third time using the online service, and it was simple, quick, and helped me get my maximum refund.
- Although I didn’t qualify this year for free filing, I gladly paid $67 for H&R Block’s Deluxe Online package to file my federal and state returns.
- H&R Block is cheaper than TurboTax and more helpful and comprehensive than free options like Credit Karma Tax.
- See Business Insider’s picks for the best tax software »
It’s no wonder H&R Block is a leader in tax software.
Taxes can be overwhelming and confusing, even for the well-versed. I love that H&R Block simplifies the process without dumbing it down. Each step provides clear instructions and comprehensive explanations of tax concepts and forms. The interface is easy to navigate and you can save your progress at any point and return to the same page later.
Although the coronavirus pandemic caused the federal tax deadline to be postponed to July 15 this year, I filed my taxes back in February.
It was my third time using H&R Block, and even though I had to pay to upgrade for the first time this year (and hit a minor roadblock while doing so), I still think it’s the best option out there for me.
H&R Block pricing
As part of the IRS Free File Alliance, H&R Block offers free state and federal filing for taxpayers between the ages of 17 and 51 with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $69,000 or less and active members of the military. I qualified for free filing in 2018 and 2019, but this year I just missed the mark.
You can still file for free with H&R Block if your AGI is over the cutoff if your tax situation is very simple. Because I have a Health Savings Account (HSA), I wasn’t able to.
- Free Online: $0. H&R Block’s free version supports W-2 income, interest income, dividend income, retirement distributions, the student loan interest deduction, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is more than TurboTax covers for free. However, you can’t itemize deductions.
- Deluxe Online: $50. Everything the free version includes, plus the mortgage interest deduction and Health Savings Accounts (Form 1099-SA), and you can itemize.
- Premium Online: $70. Supports everything in the Deluxe version, plus rental property income and freelance/contractor income below $5,000. You can also import mileage and other expenses from common tracking apps.
- Self-Employed Online: $105. This is the highest-tier online package offered by H&R Block. It’s ideal for self-employed people, including small business owners, partners, and contractors who earned more than $5,000.
The fees above are for filing your federal return. If you’re filing a state return, you’ll need to pay an additional $45.
My situation is pretty simple — I have W-2 income, an HSA, and interest income from a high-yield savings account. I don’t own a home, have any dependents, or invest outside of my retirement accounts. I opted for the Deluxe Online and paid a total of $67 — prices were discounted when I filed in February — to prepare and file both my federal and state returns.
Don’t get stuck in the Free File program like I did
I hit a minor roadblock when I started preparing my return. Because I created my H&R Block account a couple years ago when I qualified for the Free File program, it was locked into that version.
After uploading my W-2, H&R Block told me that my AGI was too high to use the Free File program so I would need to upgrade. Fine — I had expected to. But when I saw that the upgrade options were more expensive than the prices currently advertised on H&R Block’s website, despite being the exact same products, I felt slighted.
The only way forward that I saw was deleting my account and creating a new one. H&R Block holds on to your tax returns for up to six years if you opt in and I didn’t want to lose those digital versions, so I downloaded them, deleted the account, and set up a new one and reuploaded them within a few minutes. To get the service I wanted, I went directly to the product page on H&R Block’s website and clicked “start for free.”
It’s not too surprising that I’d come across this, since both H&R Block and TurboTax have used deliberately misleading tactics in the past to get unsuspecting taxpayers to pay for upgrades when they don’t need to. It’s a good reminder to stay vigilant.
For an extra fee, you can get professional help without leaving your house
If you’re concerned about making mistakes, missing deductions, or getting lost amidst the tax forms, H&R Block can connect you with a professional for an additional fee.
- Online Assist: $40 – $140 (plus state filing fee). These packages are nearly identical to the online filing options mentioned above, but you can chat instantly and share your screen with a tax expert, CPA, or enrolled agent.
- Tax Pro Go: $49 – $249 (plus state filing fee). This is H&R Block’s newest offering, which takes the work out of finding an accountant on your own and going into an office. You just need to answer a few questions about yourself to get paired with a tax professional. Then upload all of your tax documents to your online account and your tax pro will prepare your return(s) within five days. You’ll review and sign your return(s), pay, and the tax pro will file them.
What sets H&R Block apart
H&R Block offers many of the same features as TurboTax for a cheaper price. Some of the highlights include:
- Easy tax form import and upload is one of my favorite 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. Once all the fields auto-populate, I double-check the numbers myself and I’ve never found an incorrect entry.
- Step-by-step guidance 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. If you’re still confused, you can search for more within the same side bar, all while remaining on the same page. I used this tool liberally and found every answer I was looking for.
- Refund options. If you’re getting a refund, you can direct deposit in up to three separate savings or checking accounts or you can load any amount onto an H&R Block Emerald Prepaid Mastercard. You can also use your refund to buy an Amazon gift card and H&R Block will add on a 4% bonus. This is probably only worth doing if you have a large refund, otherwise the bonus is negligible.
H&R Block got me the maximum refund
I tried to get as close to breaking even on my taxes this year. In other words, I set out not to get a huge refund by matching my withholding to my true tax liability. I did pretty well, but I still got a few hundred dollars back from the government for overpaying in taxes throughout the year.
Before filing with H&R Block, I also prepared a tax return with Credit Karma Tax in part because I was curious whether there would be differences in my refund amounts, and there were. While the federal refund amounts were identical, H&R Block got me about $200 more for my state refund.
Who is H&R Block best for?
If you’re doing your own taxes this year and, like me, willing to pay for convenience, you’ll find an online filing option that suits your situation at H&R Block. Anyone who hasn’t filed taxes solo before or recently experienced significant life changes would benefit from the guidance H&R Block provides.
The tax form import and upload capabilities are a big time saver, but if you’re OK with entering the numbers on your own and want to save some money, there are cheaper (or free) options out there.
It’s worth noting that we named TurboTax our overall winner for best tax software this year. When considering all the products available at TurboTax and reviews from other experts, we decided it offered the greatest breadth of options for all types of filers at reasonable price points. It also allows QuickBooks integration for self-employed filers who use Intuit, and supports trust and estate income, which H&R Block doesn’t.
For my personal tax situation, which consists of ordinary income and a straightforward Health Savings Account, I found that H&R Block better serves me right now.
- More tax day coverage:
- When are taxes due?
- How to file taxes for 2019
- Should I do my own taxes?
- Credit Karma vs. TurboTax
- Where is my tax refund?
Still have tax questions? Connect one-on-one with a tax professional through JustAnswer, a Business Insider partner »
Take control of your money. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with a financial planner in your area in 5 minutes. Learn more »
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.
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