H&R Block Review 2019 - New Features for Tax Year 2018
H&R Block has long been a trusted name in affordable tax preparation. But you can also use H&R Block tax software to prepare your own returns. We have the pricing and features detailed below in our H&R Block tax software review.
- Live CPA advice available online
- Price preview feature helps track costs
- Nationwide locations for in-person help
H&R Block added a couple of new features for tax year 2018. You can access a chat feature to get live advice at no additional cost. And there’s a new Price Preview feature. It lets you see from the start how much your taxes are going to cost to file online, even if you add additional features and services as you go. If you do add a service, feature, or form that costs more money, Price Preview will pop up right away to alert you to the change.
H&R Block’s free DIY version includes e-file for your federal and state taxes. Even the free level will let you import your W-2s from certain employers. It will automatically import last year’s tax return if you used TurboTax or TaxAct. Of course, it’ll also save your returns from year to year if you’ve used this software before.
Plus, the free version will automatically import your federal filing information to your state taxes. It asks you a few additional questions and files your state taxes for free. This is a big benefit. Many other filing software options are free for federal taxes, but charge a hefty fee to file your state taxes.
All versions of H&R Block also come with free audit guidance. You can also pay an additional $19.99 for Worry-Free Audit Support, which comes with in-person representation if you’re ever audited. This could be a huge savings if you have tax situations likely to get you into an audit.
If your taxes are basic, including various forms of income but very few deductions or credits, this might be the level that you want to file your taxes at. Remember, you can always upgrade if you need to add additional forms after you start.
The free version doesn’t give you automatic access to chat-based tax advice, but it does come with the Deluxe version that we’ll discuss below. This is great if you’re confused on some points of your taxes. It’s also a plus if this is the first time you’ve filed them on your own.
After expanding the free edition to so many filers two years ago, H&R Block nixed its Basic edition. Now, you’ll skip straight from Free to Deluxe. The main difference (besides price) is that Deluxe offers forms for more deductions. Right now, it costs $29.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state return.
Deluxe offers all the same benefits as Free, but also includes the DeductionPro tool. This helps ensure that you get all the deductions for which you’re eligible. Supported forms include forms for Residential Energy Credits, Nondeductible IRAs, Health Savings Accounts, and more.
Deluxe is also the version you’ll need if you want to deduct your home mortgage interest and/or real estate taxes and if you want to automatically import last year’s return from H&R Block. You also can access technical support–though not tax advice–by phone with the Deluxe version.
Premium includes everything included in Deluxe, as well as more support for rental property income and expenses, cost basis for home sales, gifts, inheritance assets, and more. It’s a better fit for those with more complicated self-employment taxes, including those who need to use Schedule C-EZ to report simple business income and deductions.
It also includes Schedule D for reporting investment income from stocks, bonds, and other investments. And it lets you determine the cost basis of home sales, dividends, gifts, and inheritance assets, as well as import expenses from some popular apps.
The Premium version of H&R Block costs $44.99 right now for federal filing and $36.99 for state return. That’s a good deal for access to all these available forms.
This option is perfect for self-employed individuals whose income and expenses are too complicated for Schedule C-EZ or for rental property owners. It comes with all the forms from the other options, but includes the full Schedule C form.
A couple of interesting features of the Self-Employed version this year include:
- Business Partner: This tool helps you find additional common deductions for your business.
- Business Booster: This is especially for startups, and it helps you figure out how to deduct your business’s startup costs.
- Business Snapshot: You can get all of your business details in one place, which can be helpful for record keeping or reporting out to others, if you need to do so.
- You can also automatically import Uber driver tax information with this version of H&R Block.
This version of H&R Block’s software costs $79.99 for the 2018 tax season and $36.99 for state return.
Signing up for an account with H&R Block was pretty simple. I didn’t notice additional security protocols, other than having to set three verification questions and meet their parameters for a password. I received an email as soon as I’d signed up.
Right after signing in and starting to file, the software asked how I filed taxes last year:
The basic interface of H&R Block’s software is similar to that of TurboTax, and it keeps getting better each year, with lots of fun little graphics. You can click around to any section, so you can do your taxes out of order. Or you can just let the software walk you through all your options.
The one exception here is that you’ll have to fill out all the personal information before you can jump around to other sections. But this is understandable.
Once I dug into the financial piece of the software, things were interesting. It’s nice because the software gives you access to any type of income you might possibly file, like this:
When I select a type of income I know isn’t included in the Free version I’m currently using, the software lets me know how to upgrade:
Since you don’t have to pay until you get to the end of the process, you can continue to add forms as needed, and then pay for the lowest possible version when you finish your filing. And, again, H&R Block’s latest pricing tool means that any time you decide to boost your version, you’ll get an alert letting you know your current end-of-use total.
Even though H&R Block includes all the options you might need in this main income interface, it doesn’t offer to walk you through all the options step-by-step like TurboTax and other software options do. If you already know what types of income you have, this may not be an issue. If you’re less familiar with tax filing, you might need the step-by-step help others offer.
You’ll want to come up with a system to ensure that you use the information on every single tax form you get in the mail–from your W-2s and 1099s to interest information from your bank. That way, you can be sure you won’t miss anything, even if the software isn’t asking you specific questions.
This isn’t to say that H&R Block doesn’t ask any questions. When I get to the end of my make-believe income filing, it asks a few questions about less-common income types. As an example, it asks about income from foreign transactions.
Based on your answers in the Deductions and Allowances section, the software will recommend either an itemized or a standard deduction. This is par for the course with tax software, and I’d trust the recommendation of H&R Block, since they have such a great reputation.
Adding Live Support
H&R Block is also allowing a new Tax Pro Review feature this year, which will let you have a professional review your taxes before you file your return. This feature is available as of January 2019 and will add to the overall cost of your taxes. Right now, Tax Pro Review is priced at $119.99 plus $36.99 for state filing.
As with most reliable tax software services, this one uses bank-level encryption technology to ensure that your information is safe while it’s being stored and sent to the IRS. It also encrypts data from your web browser to H&R Block’s servers, and uses multi-layer authentication to ensure that it’s actually you logging into your account.
H&R Block also uses external security firms to do audits and assess their software for potential risks as needed. And they have a security protection team that monitors for potential security issues around the clock.
H&R Block has two different apps, both available for Apple and Android.
The MyBlock app lets you upload tax documents ahead of time, keep up with your taxes throughout the year, check out your completed return and e-file status after you’ve filed your taxes, and estimate your taxes throughout the year. You can also check your H&R Block Emerald Card balance, view transactions, and more.
The H&R Block Tax Prep app lets you actually prepare and file your taxes. It gives you access to all of the above features in a mobile format.
Customer support is available around the clock during prime tax filing season–January 15 to April 17. And it’s available during extended business hours the rest of the year. You can access support through online chat, phone, and email.
As with most tax services, the free customer service option is for technical issues with the product. But if you need actual help with your taxes beyond very basic questions, you’ll need to pay for the additional services for a live CPA to help with your taxes.
Pros and Cons
H&R Block is consistently rated as one of the best products on the market, and the additional ability to get in-person help at any of their nationwide locations can be a great bonus. They have made substantial improvements to their interface since I first began reviewing their software several years ago. Now they have great guidance to talk you through your taxes. Here are some other pros:
- The various levels of H&R Block let you pay as little as possible to get the tax forms and guidance you need for your personal situation.
- Speaking of levels, the new price preview option is great, so you always know if adding another form or service is going to increase your price.
- Live advice from CPAs or other experts is also available online via screenshare, so you don’t have to go into a physical location if you don’t want to.
- H&R Block is one of the more expensive services around. And it doesn’t have the best customer service reviews online, though you should always take those with a grain of salt.
There are plenty of great alternatives to H&R Block if it won’t meet your needs. Its primary competitor is probably TurboTax, which is similar in price range and features. But you can also look at cheaper alternatives, especially if your tax situation is fairly simple. These alternatives include FreeTaxUSA, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer.
I’d be most likely to recommend H&R Block to a friend with very simple-to-file taxes or to a friend who is experienced in filing his or her own taxes. I might actually use it myself this year and save some money on the software use fee. It’s best, though, for those who aren’t likely to miss forms and who don’t need the step-by-step help other tax software offers.
And it’s worth checking out for a tax filing option for your W-2 and standard deduction taxes in 2018. It’s a good choice if you have simple deductions that are not included in other providers’ free tax filing versions.