Competition is fierce among the biggest tax-prep software providers. TurboTax is king, but it may not be the clear choice for everyone.
Here’s our point-by-point comparison to help sort out which is better for you: H&R Block or TurboTax.
H&R Block's packages and list prices
• Federal: $0 • State: $0
Allows you to file a 1040 plus schedules 1 and 3, which makes it usable by a lot more people than most other free software packages.
BASIC ONLINE ASSIST
• Federal: $69.99 • State: $39.99 This is essentially the free version but with on-demand video access to a tax pro for help, advice and a final review.
• Federal: $49.99 ($109.99 with Online Assist) • State: $44.99 This version lets you itemize and claim several tax deductions and tax credits, but if you’re an investor, landlord or filing a Schedule C with business expenses (for freelancers or small business owners), you’ll need to upgrade.
• Federal: $69.99 ($159.99 with Online Assist) • State: $44.99 If you’re an investor or have rental property (that is, you need to file a Schedule D or E or have K-1s), this is for you.
• Federal: $109.99 ($194.99 with Online Assist) • State: $44.99 This package does it all for small-business owners, freelancers and independent contractors. It also imports Uber driver tax information.
TurboTax's packages and list prices
• Federal: $0 • State: $0
For simple tax returns only; it allows you to file a 1040 and a state return for free, but you can’t itemize or file schedules 1-3 of the 1040. Generally, it works only for people who don’t plan to claim any deductions or credits other than the standard deduction, the earned income tax credit or the child tax credit.
• Federal: $80 • State: $45
This is essentially the free version but with on-demand video access to a tax pro for help, advice and a final review.
• Federal: $60 (with Live: $120) • State: $50 (with Live: $55)
This version lets you itemize and claim several other tax deductions and tax credits. And if you have business income but no expenses, this might work for you, too.
You can’t report capital gains or rental income (Schedules D and E).
• Federal: $90 (with Live: $170) • State: $50 (with Live: $55)
This is the Deluxe version with added capability for reporting investments and rental income (Schedules D and E, and K-1s).
• Federal: $120 (with Live: $200) • State: $50 (with Live: $55)
Gets you everything in the Premier version, plus it can handle both business income and expenses on a Schedule C. It also works for the home office deduction, and offers extra deduction help and special Square, Uber and Lyft features for freelancers, independent contractors and side-hustlers.
Promotion: NerdWallet users can save up to $20 if they file by May 15.
» MORE: Try our federal tax calculator
Features and ease of use
Only one entity determines how the math works on a tax return, and that’s the IRS. So unless there’s a programming error, you should get the same numerical “answer” no matter which tax software you use. But you still have to feed the software all of your information, and there are a million ways to do that. Which is why we look at features and ease of use — we want to know which offerings are least likely to make you want to pull your hair out.
H&R Block’s interface is visually simple, straightforward and easy to use, and it steps up to explain concepts as you go. Skipping around to specific spots can be a little tricky, but a banner across the top keeps track of where you stand in the filing process.
Embedded "learn more" links provide more information without having to wander around, the help menu updates according to where you are and you can click to access the chat support portal throughout.
TurboTax’s interface is like a chat with a tax preparer, and you can skip around if you need to. A banner running along the side keeps track of where you stand in the process and flags areas you still need to complete.
Embedded links throughout the process offer tips, explainers and other resources. And help buttons can connect you to the searchable knowledge base, on-screen help and more.
Both H&R Block and TurboTax allow you to switch from a different software provider and import tax documents. And both have tools to help you calculate the deduction value of donated items, as well as a mobile app.
H&R Block and TurboTax each offer inline help and searchable knowledge bases, and tech support is available as well.
The Online Assist version of H&R Block’s packages gets you unlimited, on-demand chat, phone or screen-sharing sessions with a certified public accountant, enrolled agent or other tax expert at any point while preparing your return. (You can see them; they see only your screen.) The tax pro will not review, sign or e-file your return for you, though.
H&R Block’s Tax Pro Review offers a one-on-one review of your completed return with a human tax pro who will go over your documents and check for accuracy and possible missed deductions or credits; if you want, the tax pro will also sign and e-file your return for you. The cost runs $39.99 to $89.99, and the review usually happens within three days.
H&R Block also has another option: an enormous band of human tax preparers at the company’s 11,000 or so offices around the world. Help at brick-and-mortar stores isn’t free, of course (in-office appointments start at $69), but it helps to know you can go there if you get hopelessly wrapped around the axle. (Call ahead to see if there are any COVID-19 protocols you need to know.)
One of TurboTax’s most outstanding support options is TurboTax Live. It offers a one-on-one review with a tax pro before you file, as well as unlimited live tax advice throughout the year. You can make an appointment or talk on the fly to a tax pro via one-way video (you see them, but they see your screen only).
New this year is TurboTax Full Service, which does away with tax software altogether. Instead, you upload your tax documents and a human puts together your tax return. You meet the tax preparer on a video call before they begin working, then you’ll meet again when your return is ready for review and filing. Prices range from $130 to $290 for federal returns, depending on complexity, plus $45 to $55 per state return.
Refunds, audits and other considerations
H&R Block and TurboTax each let you receive a federal refund via direct deposit to a bank account — that’s the fastest option. Other options both offer include getting an old-fashioned paper check, applying the refund to next year’s taxes or directing the IRS to buy U.S. Savings Bonds with your refund.
Both providers offer an option to have your refund loaded onto a prepaid card. (These cards come with fees, so be sure to factor that into your decision.) And both let you use your refund to pay for your tax-prep fees (but there is a separate fee for that).
If you're audited, it’s important to know what kind of support you’re getting from your tax software. First, be sure you know the difference between “support” and “defense.” With most providers, audit support (or “assistance”) typically means guidance about what to expect and how to prepare — that’s it. Audit defense, on the other hand, gets you full representation before the IRS from a tax professional.
H&R Block offers free audit support, but you also can buy a product called Worry-Free Audit Support. This gets you contact with an enrolled agent to guide you through an audit. It includes IRS correspondence management, audit preparation and in-person audit representation, and it costs $19.99. You could also add Tax Identity Shield, which provides personal assistance if it turns out criminals used your personal information to file a fake tax return. It comes free with Tax Pro Review, but you can also get it a la carte for $14.99.
TurboTax gives everyone free audit support from a tax pro to help you understand what’s going on if you get that dreaded letter about your 2020, 2019 or 2018 tax return; if TurboTax can’t connect you with a pro, you’ll get a refund. If you want someone to represent you in front of the IRS, you’ll need TurboTax’s audit defense product, called MAX. It runs an extra $60 and includes features such as identity theft monitoring, loss insurance and restoration help.
TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Which one is right for you?
Despite its dominant market share in DIY tax prep and abundant features, TurboTax may not be the clear choice for everyone. You might get the job done for less with H&R Block, thanks to the expanded capabilities of its free version.