H&R Block Review 2020 - New Features for Tax Year 2019
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 has long been a trusted name in affordable tax preparation. In addition to having over 11,000 offices scattered throughout the United States, they have a DIY tax filing option as well..
What’s new this year, and what level of H&R Block’s online software might work best for your needs? Get the details in this review.
If you’ve used H&R Block in the past, you’ll notice that a few new features and services have been added for H&R Block customers. Here’s what’s new for 2020 (tax year 2019).
In the past, getting professional help with your H&R Block tax returns has been a bit of an all-or-nothing prospect. Their do-it-yourself online software has been their most affordable option, while Tax Pro Go has been a good option for customers looking to offload their tax prep to a tax expert.
But this year, H&R Block is unveiling their new Online Assist program–which seems to strike a nice balance between the other two programs. Online Assist is available as an add-on to each of H&R Block’s Online products for an upcharge of $40 to $60. Customers who pay for Online Assist can get help at any time from tax experts, CPAs or Enrolled Agents.
H&R Block’s tax professionals are available via chat, screen share, or phone call. And, keep in mind that filers can still take advantage of a Tax Pro Review (for an additional fee) before submitting their return.
Amazon Gift Card Bonus
As in previous years, H&R Block is offering a refund bonus to customers who load part of their refund onto an Amazon gift card. This year the Amazon gift card promotion is worth a 4% refund bonus.
Here’s how it works. If you’re owed a refund, you can designate a portion of the refund (in $100 increments up to $9,000) to go on an Amazon gift card, as opposed to direct deposit or other payout methods.
H&R Block will give you a free 4% bonus on whatever amount you decide to load onto the Amazon card. So, for example, if you use $250 of your refund toward the purchase of an Amazon gift card, H&R Block will load an extra $10 on the card.
Depending on the size of your refund, you could net a sizable bonus with the gift card promotion. But keep in mind that gift cards aren’t as flexible as cold, hard cash. Only buy Amazon gift cards in increments that you could realistically use without changing your normal spending habits.
H&R Block has four editions of their online software: Free, Deluxe, Premium, and Self-Employed. Let’s take a closer look at the key features and pricing of each version.
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. And even if you can’t import your W-2 directly, their snap-a-pic import feature will get you up-and-running in no time.
H&R Block can automatically import last year’s tax return if you used another provider. 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.
One of the great things about H&R Block is that they do offer chat support to customers who use the free version of their software. Chat support is available to everyone, whether you pay for Online Assist or not.
H&R Block says that the free edition of their software includes more tax forms than their rival, TurboTax. A few of the tax situations that their free version can handle include Earned Income Tax Credit, child care expenses, student loan interest, retirement plan income, social security income, and the Child Tax Credit.
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.
Deluxe offers all the same benefits as Free and a few more features. The main difference (besides price) between the versions is that Deluxe includes more deduction forms. If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) or paid real estate taxes or mortgage interest in 2019, then you’ll need to bump up to the Deluxe edition.
In addition to the extra forms, Deluxe includes a few more benefits. For instance, the DeductionPro tool will help you optimize your deductions from charitable donations. And you’ll also get access to up to six years of tax returns.
Finally, you’ll get more support with Deluxe. While the free version does come with chat support, Deluxe customers are also able to talk to support representatives over the phone. Right now, it costs $29.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state returns.
Premium includes everything 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 who need to use Schedule C-EZ to report simple business income and deductions. Plus, you’ll have the option to import expenses from several of the most popular tracking apps.
Side hustlers with less than $5,000 of freelance or contractor income can probably manage with Premium. But if you earn more than that per year in self-employment income, you’ll probably want to choose the Self-Employed edition.
Premium 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 $49.99 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 also includes the full Schedule C form.
After you provide H&R Block with your key income and expense numbers, they’ll help you correctly report your business profits or losses. And they’ll search high and low to help you take advantage of every single business credit or deduction you deserve, Plus, they’ll help you handle other complicated situations like asset depreciation.
Do you have an Uber side hustler? If so, you’ll love H&R Block Self-Employed. When you pay for this version, you can directly import your Uber income (1099-K, 1099-MISC) from your driver account. Currently, H&R Block Self-Employed costs $79.99 for the 2019 tax season and $36.99 for state returns.
Note: Prices are up-to-date as of January 26, 2020.
Signing up for an account with H&R Block is simple. I didn’t notice additional security protocols, other than having to set three verification questions and meet their parameters for a password.
Right after signing in and starting to file, the software asked how I filed taxes last year:
If you select “I used H&R Block,” you can automatically import your return from the prior year. And even if you select “I used another company,” H&R Block makes it easy to switch by allowing you to upload your 1040.
H&R Block’s software looks similar to TurboTax in many ways. It’s a clean design that breaks your navigation into six main sections: Your Info, Income, Deductions, Credits, Taxes, and Wrap-Up.
And, like TurboTax, H&R Block uses a question-and-answer style format to guide you throughout the entire tax filing process.
When I select a type of income that 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.
When I got to the end of my make-believe income filing, it asks a few questions about less-common income types. As an example, it asked 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 generally trust the recommendation of H&R Block.
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): MyBlock and H&R Block Tax Prep.
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 13 to April 19. 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 to access a live CPA to help with your taxes.
H&R Block Audit Support
Free in-person audit support is only available to those who buy the desktop versions of H&R Block’s software. However, H&R Block Online buyers can purchase Worry-Free Audit Support for a small additional fee.
With Worry-Free Audit Support, you’ll be assigned an H&R Block enrolled agent who will walk you through every step of the audit process. They’ll help you prepare your documents and will even attend the audit with you.
While H&R Block’s DIY tax products have been the focus of this review, it’s important to point out that they also have an extensive network of offices throughout the country. You do have to pay $69 for a consultation but it’s nice to know that safety net exists if you need it.
Customers can also take advantage of their Tax Pro Go product. With Tax Pro Go, you can have your taxes done by a tax professional without ever having to make the drive to an office. Simply upload your documents and H&R Block will take it from there.
Whether you want to go completely hands-on or hands-off with your taxes (or somewhere in between), H&R Block has a product that will fit your needs. And that’s something that really sets them apart from other online tax software providers.
Pros and Cons
H&R Block is consistently rated as one of the best products on the market. It can handle virtually every type of tax situation and offers both desktop and online software options. Here are some other pros:
- Various levels of customer support — Whether you want to do your taxes all on your own or you want to delegate everything to a tax pro, H&R Block can give you the exact amount of support you need.
- Valuable free edition — Their free online filing offers more forms and can handle more tax situations than many of their competitors.
- Helpful technology — The ability to import your W-2 by snapping a picture or import your expenses from the Uber driver's app are just two examples of the various ways that H&R Block leverages technology to simplify the tax filing experience.
- Cost — H&R Block is one of the more expensive services around.
- Complexity of services — H&R Block's tax filing options include: H&R Block Desktop, H&R Block Online, Online Assist, Tax Pro Go, and In-Office tax preparation. While more options are typically a positive, H&R Block's expansive product suite could be a bit overwhelming for a brand new customer.
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.
When comparing the two rivals, you’ll find that H&R Block is the slightly more affordable choice. Their free version comes with more forms and all of their paid plans are a bit less expensive as well. Their new Online Assist service is also priced below the TurboTax Live plans.
But if you’re self-employed, TurboTax may be the better choice. Their deep integration with QuickBooks is a huge advantage that could make it a lot easier to claim all the small business deductions that you’re eligible for.
It’s also important to point out that while both H&R Block and TurboTax are powerful products, they’re also more expensive than others. You may want to look into cheaper alternatives, especially if your tax situation is fairly simple. These alternatives include FreeTaxUSA, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer.
H&R Block is worth checking out if you have simple deductions that aren’t included in other providers’ free tax filing versions. And their Deluxe and Premium tiers could be worth paying for, too, if you’d benefit from some of their unique software tools.
Are you specifically looking for a tax software package that includes on-demand help from a human? In that case, going with H&R Block Online Assist instead of TurboTax Live will save you money.
However, if you’re a small business owner who uses QuickBooks, TurboTax is probably going to be the best tax software for you. And if you’re willing to deal with more basic software design (and a little more manual data entry), a discount filing service like FreeTaxUSA, TaxAct, or TaxSlayer could be a better option.