But which is the best between the two? There’s no easy answer to that question.
Let’s start by looking at both programs, including the specific plans and services each offers. From there, we’ll do a side-by-side comparison to help you make the decision as to which will work best for you.
H&R Block is probably the most recognized name in tax-preparation. The company began providing tax-preparation services all the way back in 1955. From humble beginnings, it’s now expanded to having a network of more than 60,000 tax preparers working in more than 12,000 offices across the US.
That gives H&R Block Online tax-preparation software an added dimension. You can sign up for one of their online packages and prepare your own return. But if you hit an obstacle, you can easily transition over to live support.
That support can come in one of several ways. You can engage the services of the tax professional virtually, connecting by phone, video, or live chat. The preparer can either assist you with the preparation of the return, or even take over the entire job.
But if you choose, you can also shift the preparation job to a local H&R Block office. You can either have your return done while you’re at the office, or drop off your tax documents and come back and pick up the completed returns later.
H&R Block tax preparers are enrolled agents, with an average of 12 years of tax return preparation experience.
The service is referred to as Online Assist. Depending on the plan you select, H&R Block will charge an additional $39.99 to $70 for the services of the professional. However, if you choose to have your return prepared at a local office, fees start at $69 for the federal return, plus an additional fee for your state return.
H&R Block Second Look Tax Review. H&R Block will provide a review of your tax returns for the past three years (that were prepared by another service) to make sure you received your maximum refund. The service is offered free of charge.
Peace of Mind Extended Service Plan. H&R Block offers this service as an add-on for $40. It’s an extended service plan that will provide tax notice support and audit representation for the life of your tax return.
H&R Block has four different plans:
H&R Block Free Online
H&R Block’s free version is designed specifically for W-2 employees, students, and taxpayers with unemployment income. Not only can you file your federal tax return for free, but there’s also no fee for your state return (however, there is a charge of $36.99 for any additional state returns).
It can also help taxpayers with the earned income credit, deductions for student tuition, payments, and loan interest, Social Security and the child tax credit, as well as retirement income.
This version comes with very limited customer support, but you can add basic Online Assist if you get stuck. The cost will be $39.99, plus $0 per state return. However, they do warn the cost of this service will increase as April 15 approaches.
H&R Block Deluxe Online
H&R Block Deluxe Online is designed for more complicated returns. It can accommodate all the tax situations available with the free version, but also adds health savings accounts, itemized deductions, and reporting, freelance, gig work and other self-employment income.
Deluxe Online will organize all your tax documents for up to six years and comes with access to live phone or chat tech support.
The Deluxe Online plan is available for $29.99, or $69.99 with Online Assist, plus $36.99 for each state return filed.
H&R Block Premium Online
H&R Block Premium Online has all the features of Deluxe Online but is designed specifically to accommodate investment income of various types. This includes capital gains and losses, rental property income, and freelance and contractor income with expenses less than $5,000. It also offers unlimited tax advice by chat.
Premium Online is available for $39.99, or $109.99 with Online Assist, plus $36.99 for each state return filed.
H&R Block Self-Employed
H&R Block Self-Employed is intended specifically for small businesses. It includes all the tax situations from the Premier Online version but offers greater accommodation of self-employment.
For example, you can claim all business expenses, including a home office deduction, business asset depreciation, and expenses for travel and entertainment.
This version also gives you the ability to directly import Uber driver tax information. It can do the same with expenses from popular expense tracking apps.
The Self-Employed plan is available for $67.99, or $144.99 with Online Assist, plus $36.99 for each state return filed.
H&R Block offers their Block Advisors plan, enabling you to file online with unlimited expert help for small businesses. You’ll also have the option to use a live tax pro to prepare your return.
But H&R Block doesn’t stop at the preparation of your business income tax return. They also offer year-round bookkeeping and payroll services.
They advertise the online plan starts at $145, which means you will likely pay more based on the complexity of your business tax situation. There is an additional fee of $36.99 for each state business tax return prepared and filed.
If H&R Block is the best-known company in the tax preparation field, TurboTax has certainly established itself as the best-known tax software in the industry. It offers comprehensive tax-preparation for just about any level of complexity, and it does it without the benefit of a network of local offices.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll be completely on your own when you’re preparing your return. TurboTax also offers TurboTax Live to provide direct assistance in the preparation of your return (see below for more details). This is available for most TurboTax plans.
100% Accuracy Guarantee. If you have to pay a penalty because of an error made by TurboTax, they’ll pay both the penalty and interest.
Audit Support. Each plan comes with an audit support provision, which will provide you with the necessary steps for dealing with IRS and state letters, as well as preparing for an audit.
But if you need direct audit representation, it’s available at $49.99 for personal returns and $59.99 for small businesses. However, you’ll need to purchase the package when you file your return, not after the fact when you receive notice of the IRS audit.
TurboTax Live is available in two versions, tax preparer review and full tax preparer preparation.
For an additional fee of $40 to $80 added to whatever plan you choose, you can have your tax return reviewed through TurboTax Live. That support will be provided by either a CPA or an enrolled agent. The tax preparer can access your computer screen so that both you and the preparer can work on your return together.
However, you can also choose to have a tax preparer complete your return (“Full Service”). The fee for this service will range between $90 and $110, depending on the primary plan you select.
You can access TurboTax Live at any time by getting the “Live Help” button.
(Additional fees for TurboTax Live and the Full Service addition are listed below under each TurboTax version below.)
TurboTax offers five different plans:
TurboTax Free Edition
TurboTax Free Edition is available for simple returns only. There is no fee to file both the federal and state tax returns. It can accommodate taxpayers with W-2 income, unemployment benefits, the earned income tax credit and child tax credits.
Customer support is available 24/7 from online tax specialists and customers. You can also import your prior year’s return from another software.
TurboTax Live is available with the Free version. If you file before March 27th, the tax preparer review is free for both federal and state. However, if you choose the Full-Service option there will be a fee of $100, plus an additional fee for your state return.
For simple tax returns only. See if you qualify.
TurboTax Deluxe is available for $30 for the federal return, plus $40 for your state return. It offers everything in the Free version, but can also accommodate itemized deductions and allows you to make changes to your return for up to three years after it’s been filed.
If you add the tax preparer review of TurboTax Live, you’ll pay $80 for the federal return, plus $50 for each state return, but you must file your return by March 27 to be eligible for this pricing plan. If you add Full Service you’ll pay $90 over the TurboTax Live price, plus an additional fee for your state return.
TurboTax Premier is available for $55 for your federal return, and $40 for your state return. It comes with all the capabilities of the Deluxe plan, but it can accommodate investments and rental properties. That includes income from stocks, bonds, employee stock plans, and any another investment income sources. You can even import investment income from your broker or other investment platform.
If you add the tax preparer review of TurboTax Live, you’ll pay $125 for the federal return, plus $50 for each state return, but you must file your return by March 27 to be eligible for this pricing plan. If you add Full Service you’ll pay $105 over the TurboTax Premier price, plus an additional fee for your state return.
TurboTax Self-Employed is priced at $70 for the federal return, and $40 for your state return. It offers all the features of TurboTax Premier, but is designed specifically for the self-employed. That includes contractors, freelancers and small business owners.
The plan can uncover industry-specific deductions and allows you to connect with specialists either online or by phone. Conveniently, TurboTax Self-Employed integrates with QuickBooks Self-Employed, which will make filing your return much easier if that’s the business accounting software you use.
This version can also be used to prepare W-2s and 1099s for both employees and contractors of your business.
If you add the tax preparer review of TurboTax Live, you’ll pay $150 for the federal return, plus $50 for each state return, but you must file your return by March 27 to be eligible for this pricing plan. If you add Full Service, you’ll pay $110 over the TurboTax Self-Employed price, plus an additional fee for your state return.
TurboTax also offers TurboTax Business for $160 on federal returns, and $50 per state return, you can prepare business income taxes for partnerships, S corporations, C corporations, multi-member LLCs, trusts, and estates.
You can also generate unlimited W2s for employees, K-1 forms for partnership distributions, 1099s for contractors and payment of interest and dividends. You can even use this plan to prepare returns for multiple businesses.
Unfortunately, TurboTax Live isn’t offered with TurboTax Business.
H&R Block vs. TurboTax – Side-by-Side Comparison
We just covered a lot of detail in the plan breakdowns of these two tax software heavyweights. But to make your decision easier, the table below provides a summary version of the primary features of each service for a more direct comparison.
|Free Filing||Free federal and state||Free federal and state|
|Premium Plans||Deluxe online: $29.99 Premium online: $39.99 Self-employed: $67.99||Deluxe: $30 Premier: $55 Self-Employed: $70 Business: $160|
|Fee for State Returns||$36.99||$40 ($50 for business returns)|
|Import Returns from Competitors||Yes||Yes|
|Business Returns||Business income taxes, bookkeeping and payroll, starting at $145, plus $36.99 for filing your state business return||Partnerships, C and S Corps, LLCs, Create W2s & 1099s; QuickBooks interface|
|Audit Assistance||Audit representation for $40||Free assistance; $49.99 for representation|
|Customer Support||Online and phone support||24/7 live support|
|Live Preparation Option||Additional $39.99 to $70 per return; in person preparation, starting at $69 (state return additional)||Additional $40 to $80 per return for direct preparation support; $90 to $110 additional for full live preparation (state return additional)|
H&R Block vs. TurboTax: And the Winner Is…?
Readers typically study side-by-by side comparison articles to decide which is the best between two popular competing products. But we can’t do that when it comes to H&R Block and TurboTax. They’re both excellent tax preparation software.
Complicating the decision is how the two services are roughly equal by price. Price is usually a determining factor and with similar prices, we can't pick based on that.
What it really comes down to is which software will work better for you?
Who is H&R Block Best For?
The primary advantage of H&R Block is the ability to convert your tax-preparation from online, self-prepared to direct, live preparation by an H&R Block tax preparer. If you think you may need that kind of service for your tax return, you’ll want to go with H&R Block.
H&R Block has another advantage if you’re self-employed. Unlike TurboTax, H&R Block has the capacity to provide year-round business services.
Who is TurboTax Best For?
TurboTax can work for a taxpayer in just about any level of complication. That’s everything from a simple, free tax filing to a business owner with extensive investment income.
What complicates TurboTax is the TurboTax Live feature. They offer two plan levels, which can be confusing. There’s one fee structure for tax preparer assist, and another one for full tax-preparation service.
But the advantage TurboTax offers, pricewise, is that they give you a flat fee for live preparation. H&R Block uses the words “starting at” to describe live preparer preparation. In that way, H&R Block may be the more expensive of the two for a particularly complicated return.
For business owners, TurboTax also works well with Quickbooks since they are from the same company. If you already use Quickbooks for your business accounting then TurboTax might be the obvious choice.
Unfortunately, there’s no clear winner between H&R Block and TurboTax. They’re two outstanding tax software services. And, not surprisingly, their service levels and pricing parallel each other.
To choose one or the other, carefully evaluate both your tax situation and your own ability to prepare your return. Then match that profile with the services offered by TurboTax and H&R Block.
The good news is you can't go wrong here. There is no bad choice. Choose the one that appeals to you most and know you made a solid choice.