✔ Support options
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.
- Free version includes support for Schedule A, meaning itemizers can use it
- Interview-style Q&A interface
- 12,000 locations and options to get face-to-face help
- More expensive than other competitors
- For the price you pay, you won’t get best-in-class features
H&R Block’s prices
Start by taking a look at H&R Block’s free edition, also called More Zero. It’s one of a small number of providers whose free version is truly free. (Some providers’ “free” version does only federal returns for no charge — you still have to shell out for a state return.) Last year the free version was available only to people who qualified to file the 1040EZ or 1040A, but the company has added the 1040 and Schedule A to the offering, which means a whole lot more people might be able to file for free. Be sure to check the supported forms before you decide, though — more complex situations will still warrant buying a paid version so you can get access to the forms and schedules you need. If you need to file a Schedule C, had gambling winnings or rental income, for example, you’ll need to upgrade.
As for those paid versions, think of it this way: If tax-software packages were cars, H&R Block is what your dad would call “good, reliable transportation.” It’s not flashy, but it’ll get you from Point A to Point B without any trouble. And 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 considerably cheaper than the comparable package from TurboTax, which means self-employed people or folks with rental properties could still save a bundle here.
Available packages and list prices
This option allows you to file a 1040EZ, 1040A or 1040 and a state return for free. The free version can’t store your tax return (paid versions can store for six years).
Good for itemizers. If you’re filing a Schedule C-EZ (for freelancers with very simple expenses), this version also has you covered — which means you might be able to avoid having to buy the Premium version.
If you’re self-employed, run a small business, or have rental property (that is, you need to file a Schedule E), this is for you. But if you need to generate W-2s and 1099s, the Premium & Business desktop package may be a better idea.
One note about prices: Providers frequently change theirs. 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.
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H&R Block’s features and ease of use
H&R Block’s interface is 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.
Decent 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 TurboTax, Tax Act or any other tax prep company, and you can import your 1099s, too. The free version does not automatically import last year’s return, though.
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Support options with H&R Block
H&R Block’s online tax help can’t compete with the enormous band of human tax preparers at the company’s brick-and-mortar offices nationwide, but Deluxe and Premium package users do get free online chat with a tax professional. If you want someone to check your homework, you can purchase the Best of Both add-on feature, which starts at $40.
And let’s not dismiss those brick-and-mortar offices. H&R Block has about 12,000 of them, and they’ll help you if you’ve gotten irreparably wrapped around the axle. However, those services aren’t free — even if you’ve paid for software.
If you’re audited
Ways to get help
- Searchable knowledge base.
- Free tech support via chat.
- Expert tax advice via chat (paid users only).
- About 12,000 locations.
- Best of Both add-on (starts at $40).
First, if you’re concerned about an IRS audit, be sure you know the difference between “support” and “defense.” With most providers, audit support typically means one-on-one guidance from a tax pro 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 sort of combo product called Worry-Free Audit Support. This gets you one-on-one contact with a tax professional to help guide you through an audit. It costs $19.99 and includes IRS correspondence management, audit preparation and in-person audit representation.
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.
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 beware: There’s a $34.95 charge to do so out of your federal return and a $13 fee if you’re paying out of your state refund.
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How H&R Block compares
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|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.
|TurboTax stands out for how easy it is to use and its intuitive design and flow.|
It’s pricier than most, but while confident filers may not need the bells and whistles and can find better value elsewhere, many people will find this experience to be worth a few extra dollars.
|TaxAct’s no-nonsense design will be a turnoff for some, but the cost is lower than many competitors and there’s free email and phone support.
The interface isn’t fancy, and there’s less of a Q&A feel than other packages, but the data-entry process in general is similar to most and there are plenty of tools to help you along.
The bottom line
H&R Block offers solid filing options at a reasonable price. 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.
Tina Orem is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated Jan. 13, 2017.