Year after year, I had filed my tax returns online with TurboTax and never thought anything of it. My tax situation was pretty simple to understand. I had one job on the books, and had enough federal income tax taken out of my weekly checks to receive a nice, hefty refund. After about 10 minutes of running through the software, I e-filed and patiently waited for my refund to be deposited directly into my checking account.

In 2009, however, I became self-employed, which means my tax classification became a lot more complicated. When you add in the fact that my previous employer wasn’t kind enough to send my W-2 on time and that I was paying a boatload of student loan interest every year, the free edition of TurboTax wasn’t cutting it. For the first time in my life, I decided to file my taxes online with H&R Block at home, and I couldn’t be happier.

I decided to sign up for the deluxe edition of H&R Block at home because that was the best one for my needs. In choosing H&R Block, I have the option to either file my taxes online or download their tax software for an online or paper file. The prices for the download are slightly higher, but all H&R Block packages are reasonably priced as follows: (State returns are additional on all plans)

Note: The links below go directly to the H&R Block tax software website with discounted pricing on all products.

  • Free Edition ($0.00 online only) – Similar to what other free tax filers provide, H&R Block will take you through your return step-by-step and allow you to e-file your return. This edition is best suited for individuals who have one “on the books” job without a lot of investments or real estate to worry about. The best part is that you can file your state taxes for only $9.99, and if otters automatic import of your W-2 for participating employers.
  • Basic Edition ($16.96 online/ $19.95 download) -The basic edition is similar to the Free edition. It also offers automatic import of your W-2, and it offers automatic import of your 1099 and last year’s tax return from H&R Block, TurboTax, or TaxAct. This version comes with the bonus of free technical support – on the phone or through online chat. And when you pay for the Basic Edition, you can store and access your tax return for 6 years.
  • Deluxe Edition ($25.49 online/ $44.95 download) – The Deluxe Edition is suitable for homeowners and others who will itemize their taxes. This version will walk you through deducting the maximum expenses for charitable donations, mortgage interest, and more. It will also guide you through dealing with real estate taxes, dividend and capital gains reporting, retirement income, and other complex issues. Deluxe also offers a Refund Reveal, which explains why your refund amount increases or decreases with each step of your return. This can give you some ideas for planning for the future.
  • Premium Edition ($42.49 online/ $64.95 download)-This version of H&R Block online offers Schedule C and Schedule E filing, making it perfect for self-employed individuals and those with rental properties. The Premium edition offers cost basis calculators for home sales, dividends, gifts, and inheritance assets. Again, this edition offers a Refund Reveal feature.
  • Premium & Business ($67.96 online/ $79.97 download) –The Premium & Business edition is great for more adventurous business owners who want to have all of the forms included in Premium, but need more business features. This program helps you maximize your business expenses by walking you through all the options. It will create payroll and employer Forms 940 and 941, as well as other business forms like Form 1120 and Form 1065.
  • Best of Both Edition ($79.99 / online) – With Best of Both, you can file most of your information online, but then finish up your tax return with a professional. You’ll answer some basic questions online, and then a professional will review your taxes for any deductions or credits you might have overlooked. The service comes with a 100% accuracy guarantee, maximum refund guarantee, and audit support.

This Year’s Deal

In 2014, H&R Block is offering a bonus deal. If you put at least part of your federal refund towards the purchase of e-gift cards, H&R Block will add a 5%-10% bonus to your refund:

The Process

When filing with TurboTax in previous years, the entire process took me around 30 minutes from start to finish. A lot of that had to do with the simplicity of my filing status. Only reporting one source of revenue, a few deductions and credit or two wrapped things up pretty quickly. When filing for the first time with H&R Block, I expected the process to be much longer, and it was. Almost two hours long.

Even though it took a good amount of my time to complete, there was not a single instance of confusion or perplexity because every minor detail had an FAQ section, and each section had recommendations I’d never even seen before. The process was very straightforward and was split into four sections.

  • Personal Information – You can’t do anything these days without the basics and entering your general personal information is a cinch. Nothing out of the ordinary and in 5 minutes it’s time to get to the meat and potatoes.
  • Income– I had two forms of income this year, one coming from a 9-5 job and the other coming from my contracting work after leaving the office for good. Entering my W-2 was painless and entering my 1099 was also easy. With each new document that I entered, my refund meter continued to change positively and negatively. I was terrified to see at one point in the process, I owed the government money!
  • Deductions – Never being one to deduct much, this year wasn’t any different, and I once again claimed a standard deduction. Now being self-employed, almost assuredly for the entire year, I will need to think about claiming some home office deductions and such, but I still don’t think it will be enough to get over the “hump”.
  • Credits– Finally, the most exciting of all tax return sections is the credits section because it changes every year. H&R Block took me through pages and pages worth of available credits, some of which I had no idea existed and even though I didn’t qualify for any of them, I’m already thinking of ways that I can next year!

After finishing up everything above, I was given a page that summarized my tax return. The summary showed me the amount of federal taxes I already paid for the year, what I still owed, the amount of self-employment tax (I hate that tax!) that I needed to pay, the amount of my deductions and credits, then finally the number that mattered: my refund. Extremely satisfied with what I saw, I e-filed the return and 12 hours later, they were accepted by the IRS. I received my refund just a few days later!

Having used H&R Block, I have the freedom to log in and out of my account (landing page above) and review my returns. Printing them was a snap and even though the process took longer than I anticipated, it was so easy that I didn’t mind at all. Using another tax software may have been just as easy but for me, the price was right, and the service was fantastic.