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H&R Block Review 2022 – Free Tax Filing & Online Return Preparation


FEATURED PROMOTION

Our rating

4.4/5

H&R Block Pros

  • Option to work remotely with live tax preparers
  • Online and in-person audit support
  • More affordable than other full-service tax prep companies
  • Pay filing fees with your state or federal refund

H&R Block Cons

  • High fees to pay with your return
  • Less experienced filers may need human help
  • More expensive for complex tax situations


Additional Resources

H&R Block makes one of the most popular online tax preparation programs. It’s ideal for a broad range of tax situations, though people with complicated taxes may feel more comfortable paying more to walk into H&R Block’s brick-and-mortar offices for help.

H&R Block sits between affordable DIY services like TaxAct and pricier, more expansive services like TurboTax. It also offers live support and virtual tax preparation services for hands-off filers seeking assistance at below-market prices. Plus, you get on-demand access to tax experts, enrolled agents, or certified public accountants.

The result is an online tax filing system that appeals to almost everyone, including filers wary of the DIY model. But there’s so much more to know about how H&R Block can help you get your taxes done.

H&R Block Plans, Pricing, & Features

H&R Block has four DIY pricing plans. One is a hybrid plan with expert assistance at predefined checkpoints throughout the prep process. The other is a customizable CPA- or enrolled agent-aided plan that’s a remote version of in-office prep.

H&R Block plans and pricing

H&R Block DIY Tax Prep Process

H&R Block uses an interview-style tax preparation process that methodically guides you through your federal and state returns, making sure you’ve entered all sources of income and checked for all appropriate credits and deductions, including commonly missed deductions, along the way.

Whether you have only the barest familiarity with online tax filing or boast years of complex self-prep, you can find a plan or package that suits your needs. That’s the case even if you need to file a Schedule C for self-employment income from freelancing or solopreneurship.

H&R Block Pricing Changes

Like many tax prep software providers, H&R Block raises its fees as Tax Day approaches. The step-up date varies yearly and generally isn’t revealed well in advance. As such, it pays to begin your return as early as possible, even if you don’t have everything you need to complete your return.

On the bright side, H&R Block’s pricing is transparent. You know your final price as soon as you select a plan.

You can select any of the available plans to start. If you attempt to do something your current plan doesn’t support, H&R Block prompts you to upgrade and doesn’t allow you to continue your return until you do. But it’s best to choose the least expensive plan you think you need to start.

Free Online

H&R Block‘s free version is ideal for filers with relatively simple tax situations, including those who need to itemize deductions, report ordinary dividend or interest income, and file Schedule EIC for the earned income tax credit. Your federal and state returns are both free.

Given that it costs you nothing, H&R Block’s free plan comes with a host of handy features.

  • W-2 Importing and Photo Upload. You can import unlimited W-2s and record all W-2 income, which is a big help if you have multiple jobs. Simply snap a smartphone pic and use the secure photo upload tool.
  • Automatic Past-Year Return Importing From Competitors. You can also import prior-year tax returns from competing tax prep services, including popular options like TurboTax and lesser-known services like Taxhub. Just create a PDF version of your prior-year return and drag it into the field when prompted.
  • Importing Other Forms. You can also import several other forms, though not photographically: 1095-A, 1099-DIV, 1099-R, and 1099-INT.
  • Support for Affordable Care Act Requirements. After entering your personal information, you answer a series of questions about your health insurance coverage during the tax year.
  • Technical Support. Free filers have access to H&R Block’s live chat system for technical support only. If you want your tax questions answered by a human, you must upgrade to a paid plan.
  • Refund Advance Loan. If you complete your tax return in a brick-and-mortar H&R Block earlier during tax season, you can take a refund advance loan of up to $3,000. It’s a 0%-interest cash-advance loan on your expected tax refund. H&R Block can load your advance onto a reloadable prepaid debit card within 48 hours.

Deluxe

The Deluxe plan costs $29.99 for your federal return early in tax season and $49.99 as the filing deadline approaches, depending on timing. State returns cost $36.99 to $49.99 each, depending on timing.

It’s ideal for filers with retirement income or investment capital gains or losses and those who made charitable donations with a total value over $500 during the tax year.

It comes with all the features and functions of the free plan, plus:

  • Itemized Deductions. You can itemize your deductions (file a Schedule A) with this version. If you’re unsure whether to itemize, H&R Block’s interview questions can guide you toward the appropriate choice.
  • Support for Filers With Charitable Donations. This version offers detailed guidance and support for those who made cash and noncash charitable contributions worth more than $500 during the tax year (IRS Form 8283).
  • Automatic Past-Year Return Importing From H&R Block. This plan comes with free automatic importing for prior-year returns from H&R Block without requiring a PDF conversion.
  • Expert Phone Support. Deluxe filers have free unlimited chat access to H&R Block’s in-house tax experts during posted business hours. That’s different from the live tax experts service, which charges extra for expert work.
H&R Block tax situations

Premium

The Premium plan costs $49.99 for your federal return early in tax season and $69.99 as the filing deadline approaches, depending on timing. State returns cost $36.99 to $49.99 each, depending on timing.

Premium is ideal for filers with significant investment income, including rental property owners and those with some self-employment income. It includes everything that comes with the Deluxe plan, plus:

  • Support for Freelancers and Independent Contractors. If you’re a freelancer or independent contractor with substantial self-employment income but minimal business expenses, Premium provides all the necessary forms and support to complete your taxes. If you’re not sure whether you qualify as self-employed, check the IRS website.
  • Support for Schedule B. Filers with more than $1,500 in ordinary dividend or interest income generally need to file Schedule B. This version provides full support for doing so, including checks for appropriate credits and deductions.
  • Support for Schedule D. If you incurred capital gains or losses from the sale of securities, real property, and other assets, you likely need to file Schedule D. H&R Block Premium offers support and guidance.
  • Support for Schedule E. If you own and earn income from rental real estate and certain other sources, you’re likely required to file Schedule E. Premium offers full support for Schedule E filers, including all supplementary forms, and double-checks for credits and deductions.
  • Expense Importing From Compatible Apps. If you use a third-party app to keep track of tax-deductible personal or business expenses, this plan may allow you to import them automatically without any need for manual entry. Check H&R Block’s website to confirm your app is eligible.

Self-Employed

The Self-Employed plan is ideal for business owners, the self-employed, and others with complex tax situations. Unincorporated sole proprietors and solopreneurs with formal legal business structures can also use this plan.

Self-Employed costs $84.99 for your federal return early in tax season and $109.99 as the filing deadline approaches, depending on timing. State returns cost $36.99 to $49.99 each, depending on timing.

This plan comes with all the features and functions of the Premium plan, plus:

  • Support for Schedule C. If you own your own business or have substantial income from business activities and valuable business deductions to match, you’re likely required to file Schedule C. The Premium plan provides all the support necessary to do so, including double-checks for all applicable credits and deductions.
  • Support for Rideshare Operator Income. If you work part time or full time as a rideshare app driver, you need to upgrade to this plan.
  • Support for Partnership and Trust Income. If you earned income from a partnership, trust, or S corporation, you’re likely required to file Schedule K-1. H&R Block’s Premium version provides all the necessary support.

Live Tax Experts

H&R Block’s live tax experts assistance product (formerly known as Online Assist) is available with all plans, including the free one. It includes unlimited online help from qualified tax experts and tax prep specialists, including enrolled agents and CPAs. 

You can access these experts on demand with no limitations and share your screen with them from any device.

This service is ideal for DIY filers eager to have their work checked by a professional without schlepping to an H&R Block office. This option adds at least $39.99 to each plan’s final cost and more if you need to file a state return.

Virtual Tax Preparation

H&R Block’s virtual tax preparation service, formerly known as Tax Pro Go, is a remote tax prep service that taps H&R Block’s army of certified tax professionals. It’s far more hands-off than H&R Block’s DIY software offerings, and you can complete the entire process in the comfort of your own home without ever setting foot in an H&R Block office.

Virtual tax preparation pricing is customized based on the nature and complexity of your tax situation. Pricing starts at about $80 for the most basic federal returns, with additional fees for state returns. More complicated situations can cost well over $200, though.

Virtual tax preparation is more process than package. The typical process is:

  1. Onboarding Questions. Answer a few questions about your life and tax situation — things like marital status, dependents, income sources, and investments. Based on your answers, the system matches you with an H&R Block tax pro qualified to assist with tax situations like yours.
  2. Upfront Pricing. See the price upfront before continuing with the process. Your price won’t vary as long as your situation isn’t materially different from your representations.
  3. Document Upload. Upload every document necessary to complete your return. You don’t have to upload everything at once, so you can start early in the season and return to the upload interface as documents trickle in.
  4. Tax Pro Consultation. The consultation allows you and the tax pro to discuss specifics. Following the consultation, you can use a secure messaging system if you need to follow up.
  5. Return Preparation. Your tax pro prepares your return within five business days. They then send you a draft copy of your return with detailed explanations of everything, from credits to deductions. Review everything, and don’t be afraid to ask pointed questions if there’s anything you don’t understand.
  6. Payment and E-File. As soon as you sign off on your return, the system prompts you to pay your agreed-upon prep fees by electronic financial transfer, credit card, or refund draw (which incurs an extra fee). The IRS notifies you when it accepts your return. 
H&R Block selling points

Additional Features of H&R Block

In addition to its paid plans, H&R Block includes noteworthy features and add-ons for all customers.

Accuracy Guarantee

For all plans, H&R Block has an accurate calculation guarantee. If the software makes an error that results in an IRS penalty, H&R Block agrees to pay that penalty and any associated interest, up to $10,000 per tax year.

Free Chat Support

All H&R Block customers have free unlimited live chat access to technical support staff capable of troubleshooting and answering basic questions about the service. The live chat feature is operational during extended business hours in Central Time. Check H&R Block’s website for exact operating hours and availability.

Real-Time Refund Updates and Explanations

As you prepare your return, the amount of your federal refund — visible on the left sidebar — fluctuates with each new piece of information you enter. These updates occur in real time and come with detailed explanations about the change, a useful feature if you want to learn more about how taxes work.

Create Your Account Later

H&R Block allows you to begin preparing your tax return without creating an H&R Block account. You still have to create one before you file and pay or if you want to save your return to finish later.

In-Person Audit Support

H&R Block offers in-person tax audit support to all filers as an add-on that costs about $20, regardless of plan. Support is available at your local office and includes:

  • Reviewing and interpreting notices
  • Recommending and helping you gather documents to respond to an audit
  • Reviewing audit findings
  • Offering advice on how to respond (including how to appeal, though H&R Block’s audit support doesn’t include appeals)

Pay With Your Refund (Refund Transfer)

H&R Block’s Refund Transfer service allows you to pay for its tax preparation services with your federal or state refunds, eliminating the need to pay out of pocket when you file. 

There’s a processing fee of $39 to pay your federal filing fees with your federal refund. Check H&R Block’s website for up-to-date information about the cost of paying state filing fees with your state refund.

Prepaid Debit Card Refund

H&R Block lets you receive your refund as an Emerald Prepaid Mastercard, a reloadable prepaid debit card. 

Once you’ve spent your refund, you can continue to reload the card and use it as you would any other Mastercard-branded payment card. Fees for reloading, ATM withdrawals, and other activities may apply, but there’s no setup fee or monthly maintenance fee.

Refund Bonus

When you elect to receive your tax refund on an Amazon gift card, you’re eligible to receive a 3% bonus on your total refund balance — for example, $30 on a $1,000 refund. There’s no bonus for refunds received via any other method, such as direct deposit or credit against quarterly estimated tax payments.

Tax Identity Shield

For an additional cost of about $20 per year, H&R Block offers year-round tax identity theft protection and restoration through its Tax Identity Shield program.

Tax Identity Shield is less comprehensive than traditional identity theft protection and restoration services like LifeLock. It’s specifically for taxpayers concerned about people filing false tax returns in their name — and pocketing their refunds. 

H&R Block advantages of working with a pro

Advantages of H&R Block

H&R Block’s highlights include several user-friendly features that give you flexibility and save time.

  • More Affordable Than Some Alternatives. H&R Block offers a mix of affordability and comprehensive service. Though the free version can’t handle complex tax situations, the Deluxe and Premium plans can — at a lower cost than the comparable TurboTax plan. And while H&R Block isn’t as cheap as some value competitors, its robust suite of add-on services is worth the added expense for many taxpayers.
  • In-Person Audit Support Inspires Confidence. If you receive a request for clarification or formal audit notice from the IRS, the company makes its tax professionals (in a network of about 10,000 physical tax preparation franchises) available to assist you for a small fee, regardless of your plan or filing method.
  • You Can Pay Filing Fees With Your Federal and State Refunds. H&R Block allows you to pay your tax prep fees with your refunds. That means you don’t have to pay upfront, which can be convenient if cash is tight.
  • Easy Access to Physical Branches. If your situation is more complicated than you anticipated and you’re not confident enough to complete your return on your own or with online assistance, your nearest H&R Block probably isn’t far.
  • Live Tax Experts Option Is Convenient for Busy Filers. If you want the peace of mind of a pro reviewing your return but are too busy to take your documents into H&R Block, the live tax experts service entitles you to a comprehensive professional review for an additional fee that won’t be higher than H&R Block’s in-person prep fee.
  • Robust Importing From Other Tax Prep Programs. Drag-and-drop importing eliminates the need to convert your prior-year tax return to a compatible file type. No matter where you last filed, you can switch to H&R Block with just a couple of clicks.
  • Virtual Tax Preparation Is an Easier, Cheaper Alternative to In-Office Prep. H&R Block’s virtual tax preparation is a time-saving option for filers who lack the time for DIY or in-office tax prep but want a professionally prepared return. It’s only a little more expensive than DIY and significantly cheaper than working with an independent CPA. 

Disadvantages of H&R Block

H&R Block isn’t without its downsides, however few. Lowlights include the expensive Refund Transfer fee, a tax prep process that can be confusing for novices, and higher fees for complex tax situations than some value-driven competitors.

  • Paying With Your Refund Can Be Expensive. Though it’s convenient to pay for H&R Block’s tax prep services with your refund, it doesn’t come cheap. H&R Block’s Refund Transfer service charges a heftier processing fee than most competitors.
  • Interview Process Can Be Confusing for Novices. While H&R Block is constantly tweaking its DIY tax prep process, the interface has long been less thorough than some competing full-service tax prep platforms. If it’s your first time doing your taxes on your own, it could take longer  or force you to pay more for human help.
  • Expensive for More Complex Tax Situations. H&R Block isn’t the most expensive online tax prep option, but it’s closer to the top than the bottom for filers with more complex tax situations. If you’re comfortable doing your own taxes, consider a budget-friendly option that requires more DIYing.

How H&R Block Stacks Up

H&R Block shares the spotlight with numerous other online tax prep programs. Perhaps its best-known competitor is TurboTax, another full-service provider that offers multiple levels of tax expert assistance.

H&R BlockTurboTax
Free PlanYes, for simple situations (including Earned Income Tax Credit)Yes, for simple situations (including Earned Income Tax Credit)
Expert AssistanceYes, online starting at $40; prep by pros starts at about $80Yes, free online for simple situations; prep by pros starts at about $80
Pay With Your Refund?Yes, for an additional feeYes, for an additional fee
Cost for Self-Employed FilersStarting at about $85Starting at about $110

Final Word

Your online tax preparation program decision isn’t one to make lightly. Whether you expect a refund or know you’ll owe money, you want to minimize your liability. And if you have a complicated tax situation, you need to avoid making mistakes that could raise your risk of an audit.

H&R Block has many fantastic features, a long track record, and a well-known brand behind it. But it’s not the only choice out there. Before deciding, take some time to review as many options as possible.

For more online tax choices, check out our list of top-rated free online tax preparation services.

FEATURED PROMOTION

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The Verdict

Our rating

4.4/5

H&R Block Pros

  • Option to work remotely with live tax preparers
  • Online and in-person audit support
  • More affordable than other full-service tax prep companies
  • Pay filing fees with your state or federal refund

H&R Block Cons

  • High fees to pay with your return
  • Less experienced filers may need human help
  • More expensive for complex tax situations
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

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