Technology and the internet have made it easier than ever to file your tax return from home and on your own time. However, tax preparation software from companies like H&R Block can take the convenience of online tax filing to another level, which means less stress, more time, and a potentially higher return for you.
For the 2021 tax season, we can recommend H&R Block to anyone who wants assistance organizing their tax information and filing online. This software can help you accurately file your state and federal tax return whether you work for a single employer, own your own business or have a complicated tax situation that requires a multi-pronged approach. H&R Block even lets you file federal taxes for free, and they promise “more forms for free” than competitor TurboTax.
If you want to file your taxes yourself this year but also want the benefit of tax software that walks you through the process, H&R Block may be exactly what you need. Keep reading to learn how this software works, which packages they offer and how much they cost, and how you can sign up.
How H&R Block Works
One of the big advantages of H&R Block is their easy question and answer format. Once you select a tax preparation software option they offer, you’ll start the process by answering questions about your income and tax situation, mostly by pulling information from tax paperwork you have received from employers, clients, and financial institutions.
H&R Block also lets you download last year’s tax return as part of the process, which can be immensely helpful when it comes to jogging your memory on deductions you may have taken in the past or even accounts you paid interest on.
Questions you can expect to answer include your family size, your income, retirement contributions you’ve made to tax-advantaged accounts, and investment income. If you’re self-employed or a small business owner, you’ll also answer questions about your business revenue, your business deductions, and more.
What Happens Next
While you’re entering all your information into the H&R Block online interface, the tax preparation software is processing your data to see which deductions you might qualify for, which tax brackets your income will be taxed in, and any potential changes you could make now to reduce your tax liability for the year. The software is even set up to make suggestions that could help you a lower amount in taxes overall, such as contributing money to a traditional IRA.
H&R Block also makes it easy to “save” your information and come back to it later. You might need a few days to gather all the information to file your taxes for the year, for example, or you might get started and realize you need to reach out to a client or employer for more information. Either way, you can start and stop your tax return at any point during the process.
Once you’ve entered all the information H&R Block asks for, the software provides you with an overview of your tax return including your full income for the year, how much you owe to the IRS or your state tax authority, or how much you can expect to get back in your tax refund.
Note that H&R Block offers transparent upfront pricing that makes it easy to understand your full costs upfront, and that they also offer “audit assistance” that kicks in if you are selected for a tax audit after using their software. H&R Block even offers customers a midyear tax check-in intended to help you assess your withholdings so you’re not hit with a surprise tax bill the next time tax season rolls around.
Finally, H&R Block offers a Where’s My Refund tool that lets you track your refund if you’re due money back for the year. They also offer the opportunity to ask for a refund advance of up to $3,500, which comes on an H&R Block Emerald Prepaid Mastercard.
What’s New for H&R Block in 2021
Like other tax software programs, H&R Block is always tweaking its offerings and using technology to offer more value to the consumer. For 2021, improvements include the ability to download your last year’s tax returns with the software — even if you used a different company to file your taxes last year.
“While people may believe switching tax preparers is challenging, this is not the case when switching to H&R Block,” they write on their website. “Switching to Block can be as easy as two clicks. Just drag and drop to import last year’s tax information from any other provider.”
H&R Block also expanded its price guarantee in 2021, offering up a new “No Surprise Guarantee” that also comes with audit assistance and a midyear tax check-in for all their customers. H&R Block believes their pricing should come in at least $10 below pricing from TurboTax with all their paid tax filing products, and this new price guarantee will help ensure that’s the case.
H&R Block Features and Benefits
H&R Block has so many features and benefits that we cannot possibly cover them all. With that in mind, here are the main perks you can look forward to as an H&R Block customer:
Multiple Plans to Choose From: H&R Block offers a broad range of tax preparation plans to choose from, including online options and in-person tax preparation and support. Their online plans are available in packages that make sense for regular employees paid on a W2, freelancers and small business owners, and more. You can even use the software to file basic federal returns for free.
Tax Preparation Assistance Available: Online plans can be purchased with an “assist” add-on that includes “on-demand help from a tax expert, enrolled agent, or CPA.” These programs cost slightly more, but they provide personal assistance for those who need it.
Audit Support: If H&R Block software is used to file your taxes and you’re selected for an audit, H&R Block will support you with audit assistance. Free in-person audit assistance is available with Block Basic, Deluxe, Premium, and Premium & Business desktop software.
Midyear Tax Check-In: All H&R Block plans now come with a midyear tax check-in that can help you identify changes you could make to reduce your tax bill for the rest of the year.
Accuracy Guarantee: This software also comes with a 100% accuracy guarantee. “If the H&R Block tax preparation software makes an error on your return, we will reimburse you for any resulting penalties and interest up to a maximum of $10,000,” writes H&R Block on their website.
Maximum Refund Guarantee: You’re also guaranteed to receive the maximum refund available to you. H&R Block will even refund fees you paid to use their software and let you amend your return to secure the higher refund at no extra charge.
H&R Block Plans and Prices
H&R Block online tax filing software comes in four different editions:
- Free Online: $0 plus $0 per state filed
- Deluxe Online: $29.99 plus $36.99 per state filed
- Premium Online: $49.99 plus $36.99 per state filed
- Self-Employed Online: $79.99 plus $36.99 per state filed
Here’s a basic rundown of what each of these plans offers and why you might want to sign up.
Free Online — Free
The free version of H&R Block’s tax filing software could be the best option if you have a very simple tax return. This version lets you file your federal taxes for free, and you can even upload a W2 by taking a photo. This version of the software can help you file a federal tax return that includes the Earned Income Tax Credit, childcare expenses, student loan interest, Social Security income, the child tax credit, and more.
This program does come with basic technical support that can help if you’re having trouble figuring out the logistics of your tax filing. You’ll also get self-help via a help center that features questions and answers for the most common free tax filing questions.
This version of the software is best for someone who has a single W2 from an employer and a very simple tax situation.
Deluxe Online — $29.99 plus $36.99 per state filed
The Deluxe Online program from H&R Block was created for homeowners who have more deductions to take on their taxes, including deductions for contributions to Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs. This program includes six years of access into your tax returns, a special deduction feature meant to help you maximize tax deductions you’re eligible for, and technical support by chat or the phone.
This plan works best for anyone who deals with real estate or real estate income, mortgage interest, and contributions to an HSA during the tax year. You’ll get special guidance for homeowners, free storage and access, transparent pricing and more.
Premium Online — $49.99 plus $36.99 per state filed
Premium Online software from H&R Block provides assistance for taxpayers who have slightly more complicated tax situations than most. This version of the program is mostly geared to freelancers and independent contractors who pay quarterly tax payments. You can use this software to import your expenses from popular expense tracking apps, and you can even track rental income and stock sales income.
You’ll also get rental property guidance and tools and access to advanced filing calculators that can help you “determine the cost basis of your home sale, dividend, gift and inheritance assets, so you can be sure your numbers are 100% accurate.”
According to H&R Block, this software is best for freelancers and independent contractors who have less than $5,000 in expenses each year.
Self-Employed Online — $79.99 plus $36.99 per state filed
If you own your own business and have a lot to keep track of, you can also consider H&R Block’s Self-Employed Online package. This plan comes with expense importing tools that work in conjunction with popular software programs, along with tools that can help you track and monitor small business expenses, including home office, depreciation, and vehicle expenses.
This plan is best for anyone who needs to track business tax deductions and asset depreciation while filing Schedule C taxes online. If you’re an Uber driver, you should also know this plan lets you import Uber driver information directly from your driver account.
Should You Pay More for an “Assist” Plan?
While all the plans we’ve outlined above include tech support and help via online chat, it’s important to note that H&R Block lets consumers pay more money to add an “assist” feature to each of their tax software preparation plans. With Online Assist, you get access to on-demand help from a tax expert, enrolled agent, or CPA.
This extra assistance is offered virtually or over the phone, and it can be immensely helpful if you want to do your taxes yourself but know you’ll have questions right off the bat.
Just note that you’ll pay a surcharge for each of H&R Block’s tax preparation software packages if you request this special assistance. Otherwise, the basic inclusions for each plan are the same as above.
Pricing for Online Assist plans are as follows:
- Basic Online Assist: $39.99 plus $0 per state filed
- Deluxe Online Assist: $69.99 plus $36.99 per state filed
- Premium Online Assist: $109.99 plus $36.99 per state filed
- Self-Employed Online Assist: $139.99 plus $36.99 per state filed
Should You Sign Up with H&R Block?
If you want the help of tax preparation software and hope to access as many benefits as possible, H&R Block could be your best bet. Their guarantees go a long way to ensure you’re paying a fair price for the help you receive, and it’s nice to know you’ll receive audit support if there’s a problem with your return.
Also, note that H&R Block has become incredibly user-friendly over the years. With their standard question and answer format, all you really have to do is collect all your tax paperwork and answer the questions they ask. H&R Block will do all the grunt work for you, and they’ll even suggest ways you can get a larger refund at the end.
The Bottom Line
We believe H&R Block is one of the best tax preparation software programs for 2021, but there are plenty of other programs you should consider as well. Make sure to check out TurboTax, TaxSlayer, and other competitors and their offerings before you sign up.
With enough research, you should wind up with the right amount of tax help for a price you can afford.