H&R Block Review
As a company that was established over 50 years ago and that now has over 12,000 tax preparation offices nationwide, it would be hard to argue that H&R Block is anything less than a remarkable success. Although there's no question that the company's reputation stems from its physical presence across the country, it is precisely this network that enables H&R Block to be the only online tax preparation service to offer free audit protection. We tested the online tax preparation software offered by H&R Block to determine if their internet services live up to the hype of the company's popular brick and mortar tax filing services.
Founded on: October 1955
Headquarters: Kansas City, MO
Like many tax preparation services, H&R Block offers free federal filings and a choice of different packages. Their prices are comparable to some of the best tax software packages we tested, though we noted that H&R Block doesn't offer their software in a CD version, although they do offer a downloadable version which allows for up to 5 federal filings and 1 state filing per download. Like most of the top online tax preparation services, H&R Block offers a free federal filing for the most straightforward returns, as well as a "basic plan" which offers additional services such as extra customer support and free imports of information from last year's filings and other financial software.
|Ideal For||Online Filing||Downloadable Version||Optional State Online Filing Fee|
|Free||Users filing uncomplicated federal tax returns only||FREE||N/A||$29.95|
|Basic||Simple tax situations||$34.95||$19.95||$39.95|
|Deluxe||Homeowners and investors||$49.95||$44.95||$39.95|
|Premium||Self-employed tax filers||$74.95||$64.95||$39.95|
|Premium & Business||Small business owners, filings including estates and trust notifications||N/A||$79.95||$39.95|
Perhaps the most useful feature we found on H&R Block's website was their Tax Preparation Checklist, which is useful for both those who file online and those who prefer to hire a live accountant. Although this feature isn't entirely unique among other online tax preparation services, there's no question that the checklist offered by H&R Block is the best we've seen. With clear check boxes, an easy printing option and the ability to make a personalized checklist, everyone filing taxes can take advantage of this highly-organized tool, even if they're not using H&R Block.
Another impressive tool we enjoyed was free access to the company's DeductionPro software, which allows you to easily itemize your donations of money and items, and to record tax deductible expenses. Unfortunately, DeductionPro is not compatible with Google Chrome, but it does work well in Internet Explore and Firefox browsers.
H&R Block online tax preparation also offers a range of features in each of their plans, including:
|Free Service||Basic Plan||Deluxe Plan||Premier Plan||Home & Business Plan (Best of Both)|
|Federal filing included|
|State filing included|
|Easy transfer of information from prior year's filing|
|Real-time assistance||Phone support is for paying users only|
|Data transfer from other financial websites|
|Provides IRS forms|
|Measures and reduces risk of audit|
|Accurate Calculations Guarantee|
|Free audit support|
|Coverage for all needed forms|
|Maximum Refund Guarantee|
|Extra guidance about tax breaks, deductions and credits|
|Guidance for self-employment income|
|Maximized deductions for home mortgage interest and real estate taxes|
|Guidance for reporting retirement income, dividends and home sales|
|Live tax advice from an H&R Block tax expert||One session||Unlimited sessions|
Ease of Use
Online tax filing from H&R Block is relatively straightforward, though it wasn't quite as easy as using some of the other top tax preparation services. For example, we found that H&R Block informs users how to fill in numerical fields, but doesn't auto-correct the fields as TurboTax does. We also noticed that more scrolling down was required when using H&R Block's online tax preparation service as compared with its competitors, and that much of the explanatory material was integrated into the filing, not offered as purely supplemental information, which means that even those who are familiar with the tax filing system will have to either read the material or make an effort to skip it.
Snapshot of H&R Block's preparation software
In another instance, we requested use of the Child and Dependent Care Assistant, but, to our surprise, were not automatically directed there.
This request for help was left unanswered by H&R Block
Nevertheless, H&R Block's online user interface is rather straightforward, and once users complete a screen or two they should be familiar with the system. As an incentive or encouragement during the process, H&R Block tells you what percentage of the filing you've completed each time you move to the next screen, an element that we found rather comforting.
Another thing we found helpful is that we received a warning before our unregistered account was logged out due to inactivity, whereas with TurboTax, we were automatically logged out and our information wasn't saved.
Audit protection is a concern for most people who file their taxes online, and H&R Block responds to these concerns directly, by being the only online tax company that offers free audit support to its paid users. The service includes three parts. The IRS Correspondence Management means that an H&R Block representative will correspond with the IRS or State Department of Revenue on your behalf. Audit Preparation is a service through with H&R Block offers guidance about how to prepare for the audit, and when necessary, the company will send an Enrolled Agent to guide you. Audit Representation ensures that an Enrolled Agent will attend the audit with you to help manage the entire experience. Although this audit protection does not include legal advice and is limited to tax advice only, it is likely the most comprehensive audit protection we've seen among the best online tax preparation services, and its free price tag makes it all the more appealing.
Unlike their competitors, many of whom offer extra services for a fee, H&R Block's online tax preparation software includes all services and fees, though only the Home+Business (also known as the Best of Both) package includes a live meeting with a tax professional, and users must register for this package to enjoy this feature. In 2010 the company also offered a beta version of their new TaxPro Live service, which allows users to video chat with customer support. The company is likely to bring this system to the masses in the coming year. A final feature that interested us was the smartphone app which answers popular tax questions instantly, and is currently available for Android and iPhones only.
Customer support is accessible and available by phone for all inquiries, though chat support is deeply buried in the recesses of the site, and is available only to those who have registered for an account. We did not find any email support, but we did test the company's phone support, where we received a helpful and friendly response in less than 1 minute.
We tested the company's chat support system, and while we were accepted quickly into a session, we found that the agent was unresponsive and needed constant prodding in order to answer our inquiries.
The company also offers a Get It Right Community, where tax professionals answer questions online during peak season only.
H&R Block's online tax preparation services are convenient and enable users to file from the comfort of their home, on their own schedule. However, we suspect that the true strength of the company lies in its real-life tax preparation support. Still, free audit protection and reliable tax filings are the hallmarks of the company, and their availability with H&R Block's home tax filing services makes this company an option worth considering.
- Free audit protection
- Regular updates to inform users how much of the return is left to complete
- Free live support at an H&R Block retail location if necessary
- Not as comfortable to use as its competitors
- Get It Right Community support is not available all year long
- Overly wordy explanations of the filing process are distracting for users who have filed taxes before