When it comes to doing your taxes, you have many different options to choose from. One of them is H&R Block, a retail tax firm similar to competitors like Jackson Hewitt and Liberty Tax Service. If your tax situation is basic and uncomplicated, you will likely be fine with any tax service option, including filing with an H&R Block tax professional.
However, if your taxes are complicated, or if you want to fully explore your options, it may be worthwhile to carefully compare H&R Block to competing tax services. Keep reading for a brief explanation of how H&R Block stacks up against alternative options.
What Does H&R Block Offer?
H&R Block states that its tax professionals have access to its Tax Institute, which is “staffed primarily by certified public accountants (CPAs), enrolled agents, tax attorneys, and former IRS agents.” This is a good thing—there’s lots of experience there.
However, this may raise a question for you: What’s the expertise of the individual who will actually be preparing your tax return? When and why should this person reach out to the professionals who are manning the Tax Institute?
While it doesn't rise to the level of what's required of Tax Institute staffers, H&R Block tax professionals do go through rigorous training. Tax professionals at H&R Block have an average of 12 years of filing experience and more than 60 hours of tax training. All returning tax professionals must complete an additional 30 hours of training.
Therefore, these tax professionals only reach out to the Tax Institute when they have questions that their training has not prepared them to answer. For many filers with fairly simple returns, H&R Block's tax professionals will likely have the competence required to handle your taxes on their own.
If you need your taxes done in a hurry, or you want the convenience of dropping by an office without an appointment, going to a retail tax office like H&R Block is ideal.
What Are My Alternative Options?
H&R Block is just one of the many options you have for how to file your taxes. Here are a few alternatives.
Another Retail Tax Firm
Other retail tax firms like Jackson Hewitt and Liberty Tax Service offer many of the same perks and characteristics of H&R Block. One company may hold some benefits over another for you—an office may be closer to your home, or you may have a deal for a discounted service at a company, for example—but in general, the pros and cons of all retail tax firms are similar.
An Independent Accountant
The specific benefits and drawbacks of filing with an independent accountant will depend on what kind of accountant you choose.
One major distinction is whether or not your independent accountant is a CPA. A CPA will likely complete 150 hours of coursework at an accredited institution before passing the Uniform CPA exam. That exam earns them a CPA certificate, but they must meet other educational and experiential requirements before they officially become a licensed CPA.
A "regular" accountant has typically completed fewer hours of coursework and has not has taken the extra steps required to become a CPA. These are the types of tax preparers you would likely encounter if you were to schedule an appointment at H&R Block. However, there could be differences when it comes to an independent accountant's prices or level of personalization.
Above all, no matter where you find your tax accountant, you should expect them to be helpful, courteous, and knowledgeable.
Tax Preparation Software
If your tax situation is pretty black-and-white, and you don't have any particularly complicated quirks to your taxes, then you have the option to cut out the tax accountant altogether. There are many tax preparation software services that streamline the bulk of the tax filing process.
Most of these programs charge a modest fee—so you'll still have to pay something to file your taxes. However, the price may be much cheaper than filing at an in-person appointment with an accountant. The software programs guide you through the process, and some even have staff available to answer your questions if you run into a problem. By and large, the software will prompt you to enter simple information found on tax documents like a W-4, and then it uses that information to calculate your tax return.
Tax laws change periodically, and you should consult with a tax professional for the most up-to-date advice. The information contained in this article is not intended as tax advice, and it is not a substitute for tax advice.