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TurboTax vs. H&R Block 2020

TurboTax is king, but it may not be the clear choice for everyone. Our advice: Take a hard look at H&R Block before you decide.
July 27, 2020
Income Taxes, Personal Taxes, Taxes
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Competition is fierce among the biggest tax-prep software providers. TurboTax is king, but it may not be the clear choice for everyone. Our advice: Don’t assume the biggest name is automatically the best.

Here’s our point-by-point comparison to help sort out which is better for you: H&R Block or TurboTax.


 

FREE

 

DELUXE

 

PREMIUM

 

SELF-EMPLOYED

 

Quick facts

  • Straightforward interface that’s easy to use.
  • Free version is usable to more people than competing free versions are.
  • Access to tax pros on demand but at added cost.
Start your return on H&R Block's website
 
 

FREE

 

DELUXE

 

PREMIUM

 

SELF-EMPLOYED

 

Quick facts

  • Straightforward interface that’s easy to use.
  • Free version is usable to more people than competing free versions are.
  • Access to tax pros on demand but at added cost.
Start your return on H&R Block's website
 
 

 

FREE

 

DELUXE

 

PREMIER

 

SELF-EMPLOYED

 

Quick facts

  • User-friendly, interview-style Q&A.
  • Live, on-screen support option raises the bar in human help.
  • Some of the most expensive software on the market.
Start your return on TurboTax's website
 
 

FREE

 

DELUXE

 

PREMIER

 

SELF-EMPLOYED

 

Quick facts

  • User-friendly, interview-style Q&A
  • Live, on-screen support option raises the bar in human help.
  • Some of the most expensive software on the market.
Start your return on TurboTax's website
 
 

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Price

H&R Block is generally the less expensive of the two. TurboTax’s top-tier, throw-it-all-at-us version costs well over $100 at list price when you add in a state return (and over $200 if you go with its software-slash-human hybrid package called TurboTax Live). H&R Block’s corresponding top-tier product is cheaper when you add the human review to make it an apples-to-apples comparison at the high end.

H&R Block’s packages and list prices

FREE

• Federal: $0
• State: $0

This option allows you to file a 1040 plus schedules 1, 2 and 3, which makes it usable by a lot more people than most other free software packages.
BASIC ONLINE ASSIST• Federal: $49.99
• 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.
DELUXE

• Federal: $49.99 (add $99.99 for Online Assist)
• State: $44.99 ($49.99 for Online Assist)

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 (for freelancers or small business owners), you’ll need to upgrade.
PREMIUM

• Federal: $69.99 (add $139.99 for Online Assist)
• State: $44.99 ($49.99 for Online Assist)

If you’re an investor or have rental property (that is, you need to file a Schedule D, E or K-1), this is for you.
SELF-EMPLOYED

• Federal: $104.99 (add $169.99 for Online Assist)
• State: $44.99 ($49.99 for Online Assist)

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

FREE

• Federal: $0
• State: $0

This allows you to file a 1040 and a state return for free, but you can’t itemize or file schedules 1-3. 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.
LIVE BASIC• Federal: $80
• State: $50

This is essentially the free version but with on-demand video access to a tax pro for help, advice and a final review.
DELUXE

• Federal: $60 (with Live: $120)
• State: $50 (with Live: $55)

This version lets you itemize and claim several other tax deductions and tax credits. You can file a Schedule C for business income (but not expenses). You can’t report capital gains or rental income (Schedules D and E).
PREMIER

• Federal: $90 (with Live: $170)
• State: $50 (with Live: $55)

This is the Deluxe version plus capability for reporting investments and rental income (it supports Schedules D and E and K-1s).
SELF-EMPLOYED

• Federal: $120 (with Live: $200)
• State: $50 (with Live: $55)

Gets you everything in the Premier version plus support for the home office deduction, extra deduction help and special expense-tracking features for freelancers, independent contractors and side-hustlers. Comes with a one-year subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed.

Both providers offer several versions of paid products that accommodate increasingly complex tax situations. Itemizers probably will find the Deluxe versions a good pick; the Premium/Premier versions generally are tailored more toward investors and people with rental property. (And remember, you’ll pay extra to get your state return done.) If you’re self-employed, the Self-Employed versions can handle the heavy lifting.

Winner: H&R Block

If you’re an early starter, the more robust free version could mean big savings for many filers. To boot, its products are less expensive than its TurboTax counterparts.

» MORE: Try our federal tax calculator

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: 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

H&R Block’s interface is good-looking, straightforward and easy to use, and it steps up to explain concepts as you go. You can skip around if you want to, and a banner across the top keeps track of where you stand in the process. A Price Preview button up top also tells you which tax-prep package you’re buying and how much it costs.

TurboTax

TurboTax’s products are some of the most user-focused on the market, and for good reason. TurboTax’s interface is like a chat with a tax preparer, and it makes an effort to explain certain concepts right on the page as you work. You can skip around if you need to, and a banner running along the side keeps track of where you stand in the process and flags areas you still need to complete.

Both providers offer photo and other import options for W-2s to speed things up. TurboTax’s Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed packages also integrate ItsDeductible, which is helpful for quickly finding the deduction value of donated clothes, household items or other objects. The Self-Employed version offers a neat expense-tracking feature through QuickBooks.

H&R Block’s Self-Employed version, on the other hand, can do things such as import Uber driver tax information. All versions import last year’s return from other tax prep companies, and you can import your 1099s, too.

Winner: TurboTax

If you want every single cutting-edge bell and whistle on the market, TurboTax is probably the better choice. But H&R Block is nothing to sneeze at — especially this year. Both have solid options with intuitive interfaces that will help things make sense, offer guidance where needed and keep the process moving in a logical manner so you get done quickly.

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Support

H&R Block

H&R Block’s Online Assist 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 in the process. Separately, H&R Block’s Tax Pro Review offers a one-on-one review of your entire return with a human tax pro who will go over your documents and check for accuracy and possible missed deductions or credits within three days; the tax pro will even sign and e-file your return for you. Both of these services come with an added cost.

Not all of H&R Block’s tax pros are CPAs or enrolled agents, but the company says they undergo more than 60 hours of training and complete an additional 30-plus hours of annual training to get ready each year for tax season.

H&R Block’s online tax packages also have a unique second line of defense: 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).

TurboTax

If you need (or want) a lot of handholding, TurboTax could be a great choice. Its searchable knowledge base, video tutorials and online community are great for research on the fly.

One of TurboTax’s most outstanding support features is TurboTax Live. It offers a one-on-one review with a CPA or enrolled agent before you file, as well as unlimited live tax advice. They’ll even sign and e-file your tax return if you want. You can make an appointment or talk on the fly to a tax pro via one-way video (you see them, but they don’t see you — they just see your screen). To boot, you can get tax advice year-round with TurboTax Live. Of course, it’s not free.

Winner: It depends on what you prefer

TurboTax and H&R Block offer the best support options on the market. Because of its brick-and-mortar locations, H&R Block may be better if you want more ways to get in-person support. But TurboTax has an impressive offering for filers who are comfortable getting advice online, and both providers give users access to actual tax pros, which is a good thing.

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Refunds, audits and other considerations

No matter how you file, you can choose to receive your federal refund via direct deposit to a bank account — that’s the fastest option. Other options 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 the 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’s a fee for that of about $40 at each provider.)

» MORE: See how to track the status of your tax refund

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 users also can buy a product called Worry-Free Audit Support. This gets you in 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. On top of that, you can buy a product called Tax Identity Shield, which helps you apply for an Identity Protection PIN or Identity Theft Indicator if it turns out criminals have used your personal information to file a fake tax return. That runs $14.99. (If you buy both services together, you’ll pay $24.99.)

TurboTax gives everyone free audit support from a tax pro to help you understand what’s going on if you get that dreaded letter, but if you want someone to represent you in front of the IRS, you’ll need TurboTax’s audit defense product, called Max Defend and Restore. It runs $45 to $60 and includes features such as identity theft monitoring, loss insurance and restoration help.

Winner: H&R Block — but only if you’re worried about an audit

If you just want the cash from your refund, both companies can get it done. If things ever get messy with the IRS, though, H&R Block has an edge because its audit defense add-on is less expensive than TurboTax’s service.

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Which one is right for you?

Despite its dominant market share in DIY tax prep, TurboTax may not be the clear choice for everyone. Our advice is to take a hard look at H&R Block before you decide. You might get the job done for less, thanks to the expanded capabilities of its free version.

But if you like a lot of support at your fingertips and can pay a bit more, TurboTax has all the bells and whistles and is a very attractive option.


 

FREE

 

DELUXE

 

PREMIUM

 

SELF-EMPLOYED

 

Quick facts

  • Straightforward interface that’s easy to use.
  • Free version is usable to more people than competing free versions are.
  • Access to tax pros on demand but at added cost.
Start your return on H&R Block's website
 
 

FREE

 

DELUXE

 

PREMIUM

 

SELF-EMPLOYED

 

Quick facts

  • Straightforward interface that’s easy to use.
  • Free version is usable to more people than competing free versions are.
  • Access to tax pros on demand but at added cost.
Start your return on H&R Block's website
 
 

 


 

FREE

 

DELUXE

 

PREMIER

 

SELF-EMPLOYED

 

Quick facts

  • User-friendly, interview-style Q&A.
  • Live, on-screen support option raises the bar in human help.
  • Some of the most expensive software on the market.
Start your return on TurboTax's website
 
 

FREE

 

DELUXE

 

PREMIER

 

SELF-EMPLOYED

 

Quick facts

  • User-friendly, interview-style Q&A
  • Live, on-screen support option raises the bar in human help.
  • Some of the most expensive software on the market.
Start your return on TurboTax's website
 
 

» MORE: Check out our roundup of the best tax software

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