H&R Block at Home
The average cost of paying a tax professional to prepare a state income tax return was $129, but sometimes more than $200 for complicated taxes. Many Americans are switching to free efiling because it’s cheaper, easier and puts the power back in your hands. Join the millions of Americans who file their own taxes and get the most out of their returns without paying an accountant.
Quite a few tax software providers are on the market, and they all have different features and, of course, different prices. e-File.com, ezTaxReturn and Liberty Tax Service are the most well-known, but what are the real differences between them? Which one is right for you? We stress tested the three major online tax software providers, and H&R Block came out first.
- Covers every tax variation
- Highly personalized
- Potentially time-consuming
Getting to Know “The Block”
H&R Block is a tax preparation company that began in 1955. It’s expanded from one office in Kansas City, Missouri to 11,000 across the United States and 1,700 more in other countries. H&R Block at Home is one of its most popular products. It’s a software product that takes a user through the tax filing process step-by-step. Chances are, you know someone who had their taxes done by H&R Block.
When doing your taxes online became common, H&R Block kept its focus on face-to-face service and left the online tax market open to TurboTax and TaxACT. It’s 2014 now, though, and even H&R Block realizes the independence of today’s consumer. People want to do their taxes online, but still have the security of a professional backing them. H&R Block at Home was specially designed to meet this need. The company wanted it to be functional and affordable, two things they’ve always stood behind.
The Downside of H&R Block
H&R Block is no longer in its infancy, but some people are still hesitant to give them another chance after using eFile back in the day. Since TurboTax and TaxACT are incredibly reputable, why should you give H&R Block a shot? Simple. H&R Block learns from their mistakes and the mistakes of others. Their platform is designed by tax professionals and is very intuitive to use. It’s also cheaper than TurboTax and just as cheap as TaxAct.
The Upside of H&R Block
H&R Block has found the perfect balance between functionality, features and price. They offer four plans, each with a different price.
H&R Block at Home - Free The first package is free and usually enough for people who are only filing a 1040EZ. You’re probably thinking, “Well, TaxAct is free too.” That may be, but several things make H&R Block better:
- Free advice from H&R Block experts
- Free support and representation in the case of an audit
- Guaranteed accuracy*
*H&R pays all penalties and interest resulting from the inaccurate file under most ordinary circumstances. Maximum $10,000. You must first pay the IRS, then H&R Block will reimburse you.
H&R Block at Home Basic - $29.95
Extended Download Service - $5.99
Backup CD of Digital Order - $10.95
Sometimes you need more from online tax software. With this package, you can import your information from last year. This package is usually enough for most people who have fairly easy taxes that are just a bit too complex for the 1040EZ.
H&R Block at Home Deluxe - $54.95
This package is geared toward homeowners and investors. It includes a more personalized approach to your taxes, more guidance and it searches for hundreds of claimable gains and losses on stocks and bonds for you. It also helps calculate your mortgage interest and charitable tax deductions.
H&R Block at Home Premium - $74.95
For those of you who are self-employed, the premium package is the one you want. It comes with live tax advice from an H&R Block representative, help filling out Schedule C, rental income assistance and all other forms, deductions, exemptions, and write-offs.
About the Filing Process
Most tax software requires you to create an account before you can file your return. With H&R Block, you don’t have to do that. You can file your entire return from start to finish, without ever signing up.
Another nice thing about H&R Block is that they don’t feel the need to assault you every ten seconds with aggressive advertising. They give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that you know which package suits your needs. When you start a return, they inform you of the available options, state that the free version is great, but don’t pressure you into buying something more than you need. At the end of your return, you’re again reminded of their other services. But that’s it, no other ads.
H&R Block also allows you to enter more than one life-changing event, which helps personalize the software to meet your needs. H&R Block is also tracks how far you’re into the filing process. The interface is very user friendly with most common deductions and adjustments readily available, without bombarding you with rare exceptions. If you do have deductions and adjustments that are a bit left-of-center, you can find them in a dropdown menu.
Finishing Your Taxes
Once you have finished your basic return, the program asks if you want to itemize your deductions or use the standard deduction. The system’s default recommendation is whichever of the two is higher, but you’re left making the final decision.
Upon reaching the credits screen, H&R Block gives a full summary of your return. Check and double check this summary for accuracy. Export all of this data and transfer it to your state return. To file your state return, answer five questions and pay $29.95 for an e-file.
H&R Block marries a cost-effective solution with features, usability and support. We love its appearance and ease-of-use. You pay only for what you need, which means that millions of Americans can file their taxes absolutely free.
Even if your taxes are complicated and you choose to pay $29.95, $54.95, or splurge for the $74.95 package, you’ll get your money’s worth. If you want to know more about TurboTax and TaxACT, see their reviews and then read our article that sums up all three tests.