H&R Block Review - What to Know Before Filing
An in-depth look at how this company stacks up when tax season rolls around
H&R Block is a solid choice for a traditionalist who wants to file their taxes online, but also has the safety net of a brick and mortar store.
Access to six years of past tax returns
Guaranteed accuracy and highest return
Progress bar is a good add-on
Help options include live chat option and via phone
User experience not as seamless, though still competitive
Support not as advanced
Setup for app can take a few moments
H&R Block Deluxe Online Tax Filing package is a relatively easy, cost-effective online tax filing option for homeowners with other tax scenarios to take into account, such as charitable donations or Health Savings Accounts (HSA).
Pros of this option include access to the past six years’ of tax returns (for those who can’t quite seem to keep track of all their tax-related paperwork), guaranteed accuracy and highest return, and review of your taxes by a tax pro before you file – without ever setting foot into a tax office. While the free coffee is nice, filing taxes from the comfort of your own home wins out every time. The progress bar, complete with fun graphics, is also a nice plus.
H&R Block also offers some other tech-forward features, such as Snap-a-Pic W-2 Capture, easy input from other tax preparers, even a running tally of your refund throughout the tax-filing process. After all, who hasn’t wondered if the sometimes arduous process of filing one’s taxes is going to (literally) pay off?
Cons of the software are few: The user experience isn’t quite as seamless or intuitive as some of its competitors, and setting up the app can take a bit too long. Support is also lacking and could be more modern.
Read on for a rundown of H&R Block’s online tax-filing options, what is included in each, and their prices, as well as an honest review of the software’s ease of use, its features, and how their support stacks up.
We reviewed H&R Block Deluxe Online Tax Filing, which costs $29.99 (plus $36.99 per state filed) and is ideal for homeowners who have made charitable donations and have an HSA.
H&R Block offers five tiers of online tax-filing packages.
Free Online Tax Filing: As the name suggests, this is H&R Block’s free online filing tool. It includes features such as snapping a pic of your W-2 and easy import, and of course, the cost is a boon ($0 to file and $0 per state filed.) This option is best for renters, and those with tax situations such as the earned income credit, childcare expenses, student loan interests, or Social Security income.
Support for this option is a bit sparse. You can either self-help via the software’s help center, or get live technical support via chat.
Deluxe Online Tax Filing: At $29.99, plus $36.99 per state filed, this is H&R Block’s most cost-effective, perk-heavy option. Here’s what you’ll get: All the features of the free option, plus six years’ access to tax returns, technical support via chat or phone (plus access to the help center), and the use of H&R Block’s signature DeductionPro tool, which promises to optimize deductions. Which, to be fair, is what everyone wants come tax time. This option is ideal for homeowners, those who have an HSA, or anyone dealing with real estate taxes or mortgage interest.
Premium Online Tax Filing: Ideal for freelancers, contractors, and the self-employed, the premium option includes all the features as the Deluxe (so, access to back tax returns, live chat and phone support, and the DeductionPro tool), but includes the ability to import information from popular contracting apps such as Stride.
This package costs $49.99, plus $36.99 per state filed. It’s meant for freelancers or contractors with expenses that are less than $5,000, rental property owners, and those dealing with stock sale income.
Self-Employed Online Tax Filing: The most expensive online tax filing option from H&R Block, this package will set you back $79.99, plus $36.99 per state filed. It’s meant for the self-employed, i.e. those with small business income, small business expenses, and home office or vehicle expenses. While you’ll get all the features of the premium package (think, the ability to import from freelancer tools such as Stride), you’ll also get the use of H&R Blocks’ Business Booster, which helps you figure out how to best write off your startup costs. And as a new business owner, you know that every penny counts.
All of H&R Block’s online filing options will earn you access to tools such as Snap-a-Pic W-2 Capture, easy import from other tax preparers, and a running tally of your refund. Other notable features include data security, technical support, and review by a tax pro before you actually file. Even better? The tax pros have an average of 10 years of experience, so they really have earned that moniker.
If you’re an Amazon online shopping fiend, you’ll like this feature. H&R Block will add all or some of your refund to an Amazon gift card. You’ll then be gifted an additional five percent of your return by Amazon as a thank you. Who can argue with free money?
The Deluxe Online Tax Filing package also offers some great perks once you begin the filing process. For example, you’ll receive tax advice tailored just for you, and you’ll receive communication of tax law changes. The latter is a big plus. After all, who keeps up with tax law changes?
Ease of Use/Design
While H&R Block’s user experience is admittedly clunkier than some of its competitors (ahem, TurboTax) it’s still relatively seamless. There’s also some bits of personalization sprinkled in, such as this little piece of encouragement for first-time tax filers.
The progress bar is also nice and helps lessen the stress associated with filing taxes.
Another perk of H&R Block as a tax filing option? If you’re not quite sure of your selection, many options have clickable questions/qualifiers, so you can ensure that you are selecting the most accurate representation of your tax situation.
During testing, we zipped through the information inputting step via desktop, then sailed through the federal and state sections. Before we knew it, we were filing our taxes and – boom!– one less thing on the old to-do list.
The help section was adequate enough – there was a plethora of information and commonly-asked questions about W-2, for example. However, the live chat was a bit clunky. When you clicked on the live chat option, it opened a new window that looked straight out of DOS circa 1995, and you were told your number in the queue.
The response was relatively fast, but this is where things fell short.
The chat agent was not a CPA and was only able to help us troubleshoot within the software, not answer more complicated, tax-related questions. She did note, however, that the tax professionals would be available for tax-related questions Jan. 2019, and then provided the help line for the IRS.
And if you get audited, H&R Block offers a Peace of Mind extended service plan, which includes audit representation for the life of the tax return. With Peace of Mind, you’ll also get reimbursed up to $6,000 of additional taxes owed if H&R Block makes a mistake when filing your taxes.
Desktop version/Mobile app
Once you get past the headache of creating an account (coming up with a username and workable password can take a few minutes) H&R Block’s mobile app is surprisingly good. There are interactive cue cards, a progress bar at the top of the display (similar to the desktop version), and the touch ID for ease of login Is also a nice feature. Much like the desktop version, the app guides you through the steps of inputting your information, then completing your federal and state taxes before finally, you file. You can also upload a photo of your W-2, or input your employer’s tax code and have the app pull the information for you. The H&R Block Tax Prep app is compatible with iOS and Android.
One major competitor of H&R block is TurboTax. TurboTax is geared toward those with less complicated tax situations and has better support. Case in point: TurboTax has a live video chat with a real CPA to answer all your tax questions, while H&R Block had the aforementioned, old-school chat option.
Prices are also fairly comparable, at least for the versions reviewed by The Balance.
Other competitors are TaxAct, a less expensive option with a price lock guarantee that works well for the self-employed. TaxSlayer is also a popular filing software for the younger set, due in part to its quick file option, though it lacks some features.
The Bottom Line
Filing taxes with H&R Block was a breeze. The easy-click buttons, informative live links, and the simplified progress bar streamline the process. The written content on the site was also just clever enough without being too much.
Overall, this is a solid option for homeowners or those with slightly more complicated tax situations who still prefer to do most things online.