Tax season: It’s upon us. And just as the old idiom says, it’s about as pleasant a part of life in the U.S. as death.
Which is why there’s a whole industry built around helping you file your tax return. And H&R Block is the veteran leader of the industry, around whose hearth we gather to hear tales of tax seasons of yore, when our ancestors would schlep across town with stacks of paper in tow to speak to another person who would send their returns through the mail.
Whatever you think of tax season these days, at least you don’t have to visit a tax office if you don’t want to. Even elders like the Block have kept up with the times and offer online options to meet all kinds of tax filing needs
Here, we’ll walk you through what you need to know about H&R Block online tax prep and the company’s free filing options.
H&R Block Review: How Does H&R Block Online Tax Filing Work?
H&R Block is a full-service tax prep company, one of the best and most well-known nationwide services that was around long before taxes went digital. Along with its software and online filing options, it’s also got brick-and-mortar branches where you can walk in and consult with a live person — or drop your tax docs off and leave.
If your tax situation is fairly straightforward, you can probably file without leaving the comfort of your home.
New in 2022
This year, H&R Block launched the Spruce banking platform, a mobile app-based spending and savings account. Anyone can open an account with Spruce whether or not you’re an H&R Block tax customer.
Spruce focuses on helping you make the most of your money to reach savings goals, including easy prompts to allocate your tax refund toward goals and cash back automatically deposited into a special savings account.
The free account lets you set up autosave rules to build your nest egg on autopilot, earn cash back through Dosh rewards and get paid up to two days before payday with direct deposit.
The new mobile banking platform is an addition to the existing financial services H&R Block has been adding to its suite for the past several years, including credit score access in the MyBlock app in partnership with Experian; and bookkeeping, accounting and payroll through Wave.
H&R Block Pricing
H&R Block offers four tiers of products to file your tax returns: a low-cost option that’s totally DIY, pricier online filing tiers with optional on-demand help from a tax professional, plus a self-employment option.
Here are the tiers for H&R Block’s online tax filing products. Prices are current as of February 2022 and subject to change.
H&R Block’s most basic online version covers earners whose wages come entirely from W-2 income, and also includes deductions and credits for kids and student loan costs.
Cost: It’s free to file both your state and federal tax returns online if you’re eligible. Or you can purchase the basic software for $19.95 to store your taxes on your own computer.
The Deluxe Online service includes everything you get in the free version, as well as capability to account for additional deductions for things like home ownership expenses, charitable donations and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
Cost: H&R Block Deluxe Online is $29.99, and you’ll pay an additional $36.99 for state returns. You can purchase the Deluxe+State software for $44.95.
Premium Online includes everything from the first two tiers, as well as tools to help you if you’re a freelancer, independent contractor and have income from investments or real estate (anyone who files a Schedule C form). If your sole or primary source of income is self-employment, the next tier might be better suited to your needs.
Cost: H&R Block Premium Online costs $49.99, plus $36.99 per state return. You can download the Premium software for $64.95.
If you’re a small business owner or a full-time freelancer with self-employment income, H&R Block’s Self-Employed Online edition has the widest range of features to meet your needs. For instance, an interview-style process walks you through industry-specific expenses and deductions you might miss on your own, and you’ll have access to tools covering asset depreciation.
Cost: H&R Block’s Online Self-Employed program costs $84.99, plus $36.99 per state filed. You can download the Premium & Business software for $79.95.
H&R Block offers upgraded versions of its online programs where you gain access to on-demand help from a CPA or other tax expert. These options start at $39.99 to upgrade the free version, up to $144.99 for the self-employed version.
File With a Tax Pro
H&R Block also gives you the option to have the company do your taxes for you, with prices starting at $80 and scaling with the complexity of your tax situation. Your options are:
- Upload your documents online.
- Drop off your documents at a tax office.
- Meet one-on-one with a tax pro in the office.
No matter which online product you choose, you gain access to several standard services H&R Block offers filers. Higher tiers include premium features.
Easy Tax Document Import
H&R Block technology lets you populate your tax information simply by snapping a picture of your documents. It also works to make importing your information as easy as possible — for example, rideshare drivers can import mileage and expenses directly from some mileage tracking apps.
If you’re audited after filing your taxes with H&R Block, you have the option to be covered by its Peace of Mind Extended Service Plan for an extra fee.
That means you’ll be able to bring in any IRS notification to get clarity on what it means. If it’s bad news, you’ll have representation by an H&R Block enrolled agent, a value of up to approximately $1,000. (This is not, however, a replacement for hiring legal advice.)
Plus, if there’s an error in your tax return, H&R Block will reimburse you for up to $10,000 in additional taxes owed due to its mistake.
Once you fill out your return, you’ll know exactly how much you owe in taxes before you start filing, and you’ll get real-time insight into your expected refund or tax liability as you go through each tax form.
Free Mid-Year Tax Check-In
H&R Block customers get a free mid-year tax check-in, which will remind you to review (and potentially adjust) your W-4 withholdings, as well as an optional consultation with an expert just to make sure everything’s in ship shape.
Mobile Apps for Apple and Android
H&R Block offers an Emerald Advance line of credit to put up to $1,000 of your tax refund in your pocket well before you file.
If you’re eligible, the funds will be loaded onto a prepaid Emerald Card, which works like a Mastercard credit card with a $45 annual fee and 36% interest rate. You have to pay the balance down by Feb. 15 each year to keep your account in good standing.
You can use your tax refund to pay for H&R Block tax filing services, so you don’t feel the cost of tax prep quite as acutely. You’ll pay a $39 additional fee for this option.
If you’re self-employed or own a small business, you can work with an H&R Block adviser in person or online for small business tax prep and filing services. You’ll be paired with an expert who knows the details of your state and local taxes, and receive year-round support to create a tax plan based on your business finances.
To prepare and file your tax returns through H&R Block, you’ll pay a fee for the filing program, plus additional fees for add-on services. In total, H&R Block fees include:
- Product fee: Free to $84.99, depending on tier.
- State filing fees: $0 extra for free filing, $36.99 per state for paid services.
- Online Assist: $39.99 to $144.99, depending on tier, plus $36.99 per state.
- Have a pro file for you: Starting at $80.
If you owe taxes, you can pay through H&R Block’s payment provider via credit card or debit card for a 2.49% transaction fee. (You always have the option to pay directly to the IRS via bank transfer or by check or money order for no additional fee.)
H&R Block: Pros and Cons
Every tax filing service has its drawbacks and benefits. Here’s what stands out about H&R Block.
- Easy to use: Through step-by-step guidance and a series of questions, the tax prep program helps you find the right service, filing status and forms for your tax situation.
- Transparency: H&R Block’s commitment to transparency means you get straightforward pricing information ahead of time. With other products, you often don’t get the full picture of what you’ll be
- Good value: H&R Block strikes a good balance of affordability and versatility, offering a wider variety of filing options than TaxAct while still feeling less overwhelming than TurboTax.
- Expert assistance: If you really need to talk to someone in person, H&R Block is one of few online tax services that also has offices around the country.
- No free advance: H&R Block offers a tax refund advance that can help you access your money early, but it comes with an annual fee and a steep interest rate.
Who Is H&R Block Best For?
H&R Block is an easy online option for tax filing that offers tons of support and versatility for a variety of tax situations without forcing you to sift through overwhelming options on your own. It’s an attractive option for filers who want to maximize their tax refunds (or minimize tax liabilities) but don’t have a tax situation complicated enough to justify pricy personalized CPA service.
It might be especially attractive to rideshare drivers and gig workers, because you can auto-import your information from expense tracking apps at the Self-Employed tier.
Remember, you can always file your taxes for free: If you earned $73,000 or less for 2021, you’re eligible to file federal tax returns for free through the IRS Free File portal. The IRS also offers forms for free for all filers, regardless of filing status or income level.