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H&R Block Review 2014 – Online Tax Filing & Preparation

By Kira Botkin

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4.5
On March 4, 2014
Last modified:May 6, 2014

hr block logoH&R Block prepares about one in every seven tax returns in the U.S., making it one of the best-known names in the business. With more than 10,000 offices, it has a presence in practically every city in America – but you don’t actually have to leave your house to file.

H&R Block offers many of the advantages of its office-based services but at a lower cost and greater convenience.

Key Features

  • Accurate Calculations Guaranteed. H&R Block guarantees an accurate calculation and the biggest possible tax refund you qualify for. If you’re assessed penalties for miscalculation, it pays them, including interest.
  • Step-by-Step Process. Step-by-step questions and answers help you complete your return, one line at a time. Depending upon how tax savvy you are, this level of assistance can either be welcome or overbearing.
  • Customize Your Questions. A checklist of life status changes – whether you’ve gotten married, had a child, or changed jobs – allows you to personalize any questions asked.
  • Easy to Navigate. Skip between sections if you want to jump ahead or add more information later.
  • Free Audit Support Available. Audit support is offered on all editions for free. If you prepare a return through H&R Block and are subsequently audited, you receive assistance deciphering the IRS letter, assembling your documents in preparation for meeting with the IRS, and learning about the appeal process. For a fee, you can also get assistance with returns that were not filed through H&R Block. If you need to appear in front of the IRS, H&R Block can represent you and go in your place for fees starting at $250.
  • Multiple Versions to Fit Your Situation. You’ve got four different online products to choose from depending on the complexity of your situation (Free, Basic, Deluxe, or Premium), or four downloadable products (Basic, Deluxe, Premium, or Premium & Business). Whether you only have a W-2 and a couple of kids to deduct, or you’re a rental property owner who trades stocks, one of these versions can address your needs.
  • Live Tax Help By Chat or Email. You can get help from a live tax professional via chat service, available 10am to 10pm CST Monday through Friday, and 9am to 5pm CST Saturday and Sunday. Email help is also available with an average three- to five-hour turnaround. Live help is free with online products and the Basic download, and is available for a fee with the Deluxe, Premium, and Premium & Business downloadable software.
  • Up-to-Date Refund Estimate. Your estimated refund amount is always displayed as you enter information, showing you the effect of each step.
  • Import Last Year’s Info. Even if you used another program (such as TurboTax or TaxACT) or had your taxes done at an H&R Block office, you can import information like your W-2 and loss carryover data.
  • Wide Range of Forms Supported. Support is offered for almost every form imaginable – estate taxes and partnerships included – as long as you’re willing to upgrade. The more expensive versions of the service can handle rental income, stock and bond sales, and much more.
  • Work at Your Own Pace. Save your return online and come back to it on any computer whenever you’re ready.

h&r block 15% off

Advantages

  1. One Program, Multiple E-Files. You can file taxes for everyone in your family for one price if you use an upgraded version. H&R Block includes one federal e-file in its Free version and five in its paid versions. However, in all versions, each state e-file costs an additional $36.99.
  2. Import W-2 Forms. You may be able to import all the data on your W-2 by entering your employer’s EIN, your “box one” information, and a control number – this can save significant time. More employers than ever are participating in this program, plus, having your W-2 information directly imported helps avoid typos.
  3. Upgrade Only If Needed. Start with the Free edition, and the program can suggest that you upgrade if you need certain forms. It recommends an upgrade level, informs you of the cost, and asks your permission before completing it.
  4. Maximum Refund Guarantee. You’re guaranteed to get the maximum tax refund, or your money back.
  5. Help Files Are Plentiful. You can use the search bar at the top, access common questions about the form you’re looking at on the left sidebar, and click on terms on the questionnaire itself.
  6. Accurate Calculations Guarantee. H&R Block reimburses you should you be served with IRS penalties and interest charges due to inaccurate calculations or a wrongly completed form. This guarantee applies to any return filed with an H&R Block product, whether you paid for it or not.
  7. Multiple Refund Methods Available. You can get your refund in multiple forms, including direct deposit, check, and a prepaid MasterCard.
  8. Pay Fees With Your Refund. You can pay for your tax preparation fees out of your “refund anticipation check,” paying nothing out-of-pocket when you file (though fees of $34.95 for the federal refund and $13 for the state refund apply.)
  9. Stay Organized. Each step (income, deductions, credits, and taxes) starts with a list of necessary forms, allowing you to stay organized and complete your filing more efficiently.
  10. Access From Anywhere. Log in from anywhere on any computer. Also, once you finish, your tax returns are saved. This allows you to access them anytime.
  11. Audit Support Included. Also included in all versions is free support and advice from an enrolled agent qualified to represent you in front of the IRS – usually a former IRS employee – in the event you are audited. For a fee, H&R Block can send an enrolled agent to meet with the IRS on your behalf.

h&r block screenshot

Disadvantages

  1. State E-File Fees Add Up. The extra fees for state e-filing can add up if you worked in more than one state or are filing for multiple members of your family.
  2. Only One Federal E-File Is Free. Only one federal e-filing is included in the Free version. If you’re filing for multiple people, you may need multiple accounts, or an upgrade to the Basic version.
  3. Overly Complicated Help Files. The software often uses tax terms unfamiliar to many filers (for instance, do you know what a “net operating loss carryover” is?) or poorly worded statements, making it hard to understand exactly what you need to do. H&R Block does offer plenty of help, but the content of the help files is often educational and may not answer the question at hand. It could be confusing to somebody looking for a “yes” or “no” answer.
  4. Difficult To Get Organized. The software is organized by tax form, which is helpful only if you already have a working knowledge of them. You are prompted at the beginning of each section to pull out certain forms, but if you have a folder full of papers and receipts, you won’t get a lot of guidance if those papers don’t have an IRS form number on them.
  5. No Free Version Download. The free version is only available online, so if you prefer downloading and installing software, you won’t be able to do it for free.
  6. Extra Tools Require Upgrades. While a cheaper version of the package may support entry of certain items – such as charitable donations of clothing or household goods – it provides no guidance other than prompting you to enter a dollar amount. To use tools that can help maximize your charitable goods donations, you have to upgrade to a more expensive package in which the current IRS deductible value is assigned to each item donated. Not only is this more accurate, it may get you a bigger refund. The deluxe and premium versions also offer similar item-by-item tools for business expenses and home improvements.

Available Packages

Free Edition – Free

This edition works perfectly well for people with simple taxes – a W-2, full-time job, kids, and a house, for example. It is more comprehensive this year than in previous years, as it now includes support for mortgage interest deductions, student loan interest, and charitable donations. However, it does not allow you to import prior year taxes, support small business filing, or offer any of the H&R Block tools that can help you maximize deductions and credits.

Basic Edition – $19.99

The Basic edition includes everything in the Free edition, plus five free federal e-files and the ability to import last year’s return. It supports a great many common forms, such as Schedule A, Schedule C, and 1099-B, so it can handle the majority of needs for many filers. While the Deluxe and Premium editions are recommended specifically for homeowners or self-employed filers, the Basic edition does support mortgage interest forms and all schedules. However, it does not offer support for the home improvements deductions tool or business expenses tool available in the Deluxe version – the program simply asks you to input numbers with no additional guidance. If you’ve filed before and don’t feel you need the extra help, this may be all you require.

Deluxe Edition – $29.99

This edition has more deduction and credit maximization tools for homeowners and investors, including tools to help you deduct home improvements and track and calculate cost basis on investments. These tools include a charitable deductions calculator that helps you determine the correct IRS-mandated value of donated items, and a Schedule C tool that helps appropriately classify small business expenses. However, if you think you can do a good job figuring out your deductions on your own, you may do just as well with the Basic edition.

Premium Edition – $49.99

For self-employed filers and rental property owners, this edition includes everything in the lower tiers, plus additional calculators and guidance on rental property and other investments’ cost basis, depreciation, and inherited assets. It does not handle returns for filers with employees or those with a partnership, trust, S corp, and select items higher on the tax food chain, nor for those who need to create W-2s or 1099s for others. However, you do get priority support, which is a useful perk.

h&r block comparison

Final Word

H&R Block offers some of the best support in the business, and its free version covers much of what the average filer needs. However, the state filing fee is pretty steep at $36.99, and that can get expensive if you’re filing for others or you worked in more than one state.

If you feel pretty confident about doing your taxes and know what the difference is between a credit and a deduction, this is a great program for you. Likewise, if you have a complicated tax situation, it offers support for almost everything, and provides calculators to help maximize deductions and credits. Plus, tax-savvy people get a lot of mileage out of the chat service and the extensive help library.

However, if you tend to get sweaty palms just thinking about your taxes, it’s not necessarily a warm experience – the help files are not always written in the simplest manner, and you might get overwhelmed by the advice if you don’t know what applies to you.

Looking to file your taxes online using a different service? See a comprehensive comparison of H&R Block vs TurboTax vs TaxACT.

Kira Botkin
Kira is a longtime blogger and serial entrepreneur who enjoys gardening, garage sales, and finding stray animals. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, where football is a distinct season, and by day runs a research study for people with multiple sclerosis. She hopes that the MoneyCrashers team can help you achieve your goals and live a great life.

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  • cbpercy

    BEWARE! I have been a Tax Cut user (via CD) for years, but for some stupid reason decided to do the online version of the new At Home program. After entering ALL of my info, the program froze and I could not return to my return. Over two hours with top tech support did not resolve the problem, so I am relegated to REDOING my taxes from scratch on April 5, 2010.

    I will NEVER use this program again….not ever.

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    • Milt R. Smith

      The big omission in TC(whatever name) is lack of automatic import of interest, dividends, etc., etc. from such as brokerages – a feature which saves pages of typing and is found in TurboTax. This makes TC strctly a second choice product.

  • Don Hartman

    The new H&R Block Deduction Pro Onlines sucks at best. It is slow and clunky. Whoever thought to take this product online rather than a stand-alone product as it has been in the past should be fired.

  • Cindy Eiger

    Wanted to let as many know as possible; just tried to use H&R Block at home and it failed me. Had a schedule D for my husband–his assets alone–not mine. And it wouldn’t let me override my name and put his. Finally was told after numerous phone contacts with customer service–“you will have to file by mail!”

    My suggestion–DON’T USE H&R BLOCK!

  • SG Coleman

    it’d be great if the support I P-A-I-D for with this CD actually existed!!!!!!!!!!! i have spent way too much money over the 10yrs I have used this tax system to spend this much time trying to resolve my issues — NEXT YEAR, TURBO TAX – INDEED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bill Grosz

    What master genius decided to remove Deduction Pro from the CD? Started using the on line version to track this year’s deductions and upon trying to return to it discovered that the file was empty. That was the second time I had found the file empty after re-entering all the info. I have been a Tax cut/H&R tax program user since 1990, but I will try a different program next year. I truly detest not being able to recover data. And the program is of no help nor is the help line. No answer to an e-mail question on the topic.

    • Angry User

      Same experience with entering the data only to find the file empty when I saved and returned. When I finally got a download with data, I could not import the data into my return. I was on a chat with a “technician” three times. No one really knew the
      answer. I was told I had to select “import” on the opening screen even
      when starting a new file. The only “import” option was to import last year’s
      data, which browsing for the file could not find. It also messed up my downloading options last year. When looked at the files in the deduction pro folder I found ALL my downloads from whatever source in that file. What a mess this program is. It used to work great on the CD. Now the program is online and the data is on your computer. It cannot be opened or imported.

  • angry accountant

    Worst software ever. Very clunky, difficult to navigate back and forth or see your return while in process. My state efile failed for no reason or fault of my own. Rather than allow me to efile again after this error, the software insists that I have to mail in my return which is not true. Technical support is a joke.

  • Chaderack77

    H&R Block problems
    This year the problems got bigger good luck getting return filed, tech support is aware of the problem but doesnt know how to fix, she said erase cookies, restart try again. nothing she then pulled the
    “your phone is breaking up, hello..and hung up on me after she ran out of things for me to try.
    then she got my personal info n said i would have to pay a fee if i want to print my last years return when I told her I was gonna try a different company. what a joke.
    dont waste your time, or money. . hopefully they get it fixed next year but it doesn’t seem like they care, especially Kewellin. lol that was the name she gave me. Anyway good luck.

  • Redjeepdog

    Last year when H&R decided to not have a disk for DeductionPro and ALL data in one file/place I swore never again. Forgot and this year am fighting having the Deduction Pro on line, is very clumbersome and difficult to use. The “old” Deduction Pro was great, everything in one package. For 2012 TurboTax or ??? here I come. 10 years with H&R and Never Again

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1073050995 Lisa Wood

    Oh my gosh. I tried to use HR Block at home this year. What a nightmare. First of all, the navigation is horrible; terrible user interface. Then, the system tried to tell me I was going to have to pay a penalty for excess IRA contributions. My contribution was $2,500 – the limit is $5,000. Then, it found an error in my deductions, but wouldn’t let me change it, no matter what I did. What a horrible, horrible product. I sent them “feedback” and told them I was going elsewhere.

  • Alabmez

    I have windows xp os and when I put in the cd it will not run. The device is working properly. Since I bought it at a store and opened the box I’m stuck with it. Guess I will have to buy another tax program. Not taking any more chances on H&R block. Going to Turbo Tax.

  • thinkerman

    The Canadian online version is awful compared to what it was last year (Safari 5.x on Mac). Too many failings to list. We are abandoning it and starting over. How does something that was pretty good turn into complete drek like this?

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