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In a crowded tax filing marketplace, how does H&R Block set itself apart from the pack? It offers a free online filing service (among other competitively priced products). Yes, you heard that right. It’s entirely free. But is saving a few bucks a wise choice when it comes to your taxes? What other affordable options does H&R Block offer?
FYI, our article is updated for 2020 with reviews of the tax products for the 2019 tax season.
- Pros & Cons
- Offerings Through H&R Block
- 2019 Tax Solutions
- Coupon Code
- About H&R Block
- Stephen Colbert Goes Undercover As H&R Block Tax Pro (Video)
- What Else Should I Consider?
- Affordable federal return filing fee for such a big name software
- Free federal e-filing of the 1040EZ
- Allows for five e-files when the software is purchased directly
- Offers professional audit defense and a professional tax consultant service
- Offers Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) assistance for calculating tax credits/penalties
- Provides support via telephone, email, live chat and offers tutorials and FAQs for users
- Import W-2 forms & 1099-B forms from participating institutions
- Mobile version available
- Less expensive filing for state returns
- Face-to-face support options by going to an office
- Online support isn’t as detailed as others
H&R Block specializes in a number of different areas of business including retail tax services and digital tax services.
H&R Block Retail Tax Services
Despite the increasing trend towards filing taxes online rather than at retail locations, H&R Block still has a number of retail locations. Retail locations are located throughout the country and allow for individuals to have an accredited tax professional look over and file personal and business tax returns.
H&R Block retail locations are most popular among those who have difficulty filing their own taxes or those who don’t have the time to do it themselves. The retail locations are also a great feature for people with complicated returns, like small business owners or people with rental properties.
Digital Tax Services
The digital tax service market is perhaps one of the most utilized tax filing solutions. H&R Block offers a number of online and software based digital tax services. One of the most appealing factors in the H&R Block digital tax service is that in at least one of its online filing options, clients can complete their filing online and still have a tax professional review their return before filing. Additionally, the H&R Block online tax solution allows for many to file their federal taxes for free.
The 2020 version of H&R Block Tax (for the 2019 tax year) allows users to choose between downloading software to their computers or directly accessing online software databases (online editions). It really depends on your specific needs in choosing the online vs software version, and we’ll try to spell those out for you below.
One notable difference across the board: all of the downloadable software versions charge an additional $19.95 fee to electronically file your state return. And that can get expensive, depending on the edition you’re using.
All online and software filing editions of H&R Block offer:
- Free e-filing for your federal return
- Affordable Care Act related tax forms
- Automatic import of your W-2 form
- Free in-person audit guidance (in-person audit support additional fee)
- 100% accuracy guarantee
- Maximum refund guarantee
- Eligibility for Refund Bonus offer
H&R Block Free is the most utilized tax filing service by H&R Block filers when they are filing for the first time or have simple tax returns. The H&R Block Free Edition offers an accurate calculations guarantee meaning that if any calculations are not accurate that H&R Block will reimburse IRS penalties and interest charges within specified limits.
Unlike its competitors, H&R Block Free offers worry free audit guidance so that in the event a filer is audited they will receive free support and audit representation.
One of the best features about the H&R Block Free service is that despite being a free service it also includes step by step guidance to make tax filing less complicated. This free tax filing option is not suited to those with a Schedule A, C, D, E, F and K-1.
- Online only: Free
The H&R Block Basic Edition is best for simple tax situations. This edition allows users to import their 1099 form and tax return from the previous year (from H&R Block, Turbo Tax or TaxAct) using a drag and drop feature and also lets users of the online version store and save their tax return for up to six years. And the Basic editions provide free real-time chat and phone technical support.
- Online: No online version available
- Software: $29.95 (additional $39.95 for state prep + $19.95 for state e-filing)
- Basic Online Assist (on-demand help from a tax expert): $39.99 (additional $36.99 for state prep & state e-filing)
The H&R Block Deluxe tax filing option is recommended for those filers with mortgage interest, real estate taxes, retirement income, life insurance proceeds, investment income and capital gain distributions. In addition to the Free Edition features, the Deluxe Edition also includes valuation of charitable contributions and specific help with key tax benefits following big life changes such as marriage, the birth of a child, getting a new job, going to college, etc.
- Online: $29.99 (additional $36.99 for state prep & state e-filing)
- Software: $54.95 (additional $39.95 for state prep + $19.95 for state e-filing)
- Deluxe Online Assist (on-demand help from a tax expert): $69.99 (additional $36.99 for state prep & state e-filing)
The H&R Block Premium is recommended for those reporting investment income (Schedule D) and rental property income (Schedule E). In addition to the Deluxe Edition features, the Premium Edition provides advanced tax calculators to help you determine the cost basis of your home sale, dividend, gift and inheritance assets.
- Online: $49.99 (additional $36.99 for state prep & state e-filing)
- Software: $74.95 (one personal state prep included +$19.95 state e-filing fee)
- Premium Online Assist (on-demand help from a tax expert): $109.99 (additional $36.99 for state prep & state e-filing)
The Self-Employed Edition is recommended for small business owners and those who are self-employed. Overall, it’s a great solution for those of you who need to file an individual and a business return.
- Online: $79.99 (additional $36.99 for state prep & state e-filing)
- Software: No software version available
- Self-Employed Online Assist (on-demand help from a tax expert): $139.99 (additional $36.99 for state prep & state e-filing)
Premium & Business
This edition is only available as downloadable software and is best for small business owners, corporations and S corporations, partnerships and LLCs, estates and trusts, and non-profits. In addition to everything offered with the Premium Edition, the Premium & Business Edition gives you specific guidance to produce yearly payroll forms needed for the IRS (940 and 941) and forms to distribute to your employees (W-2 and 1099).
Like their other software products, this edition also allows users to e-file up to 5 personal returns, unlimited business returns and allows unlimited Business State Program downloads. This software is only available for Windows users, not Mac users.
- Online: No online version available
- Software: $89.95 (one personal state prep included +$19.95 state e-filing fee)
H&R Block, Inc. was founded in 1955 in Kansas City, Missouri and offers a range of financial products and services including banking services, business services, tax preparation and investments. Currently H&R Block is estimated to have more than 2,500 regular, full-time employees and as many as 90,000 seasonal employees. It has more than 10,000 offices across the country and 12,000 worldwide.
History Of H&R Block
H&R Block began as a concept when Henry W. Bloch, an Army Air Forces navigator, returned from World War II with a desire to begin a family business in Kansas City, Missouri with his brothers. It was 1946 when Henry first got the idea to begin a company that focused on serving small businesses by offering bookkeeping services.
Henry got together with his older brother, Leon, and the two borrowed $5,000 to open their business. Unfortunately, the business did not do well, and four months later Leon decided to pursue a law degree rather than struggle with the young business.
Henry was adamant that he must keep the business going and placed an ad in the local newspaper for assistance. As it turned out the response that caught Henry’s attention the most was from his mother, suggesting that he hire his younger brother, Richard.
The company stayed afloat with the two brothers working on both bookkeeping and income taxes although they soon realized that tax work was too time-consuming and decided that they wanted to limit themselves to bookkeeping only.
One of their clients at the time, an ad salesman for The Kansas City Star, John White, convinced them otherwise. White suggested that they run an ad in his paper offering $5 tax services and they did just that in January 1955. Out of this simple ad the brothers generated such a great response that H&R Block was born.
Just one year later the brothers would sell a franchise of their business to a couple of accountants in New York City and the company grew from there. In 1962 H&R Block went public and three years later in 1965 they opened their first tax training school.
Now for the most important part of this article – Stephen Colbert goes undercover as an H&R Block Tax Pro.
Depending upon which H&R Block online tax filing option you select there are a few considerations to make before selecting H&R Block. If you are looking for a tax filing service from a big name software that offers professional consultation services as well as retail filing locations then H&R Block may be the right choice for you. Learn more about H&R Block in our Interview with Shane Wilson.
H&R Block provides easy to use tax solutions that offer simple guidance through the tax filing process and good customer support. But how do they compare against other providers and how did we rank them overall? Find out in our comprehensive 2020 Tax Comparison.
Are you considering H&R Block for your taxes?
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