5 useful tools when you file your taxes with H&R Block
It's time to return to Form 1040.
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A new year is underway, and millions of Americans are getting ready for tax season. The Internal Revenue Service will start accepting income tax returns on Feb. 12, and you have until April 15 to either drop your forms in the mail or file electronically.
But just about everyone e-files, according to the IRS. And when you prepare taxes online, the software deciphers tax laws for you, finds potential tax breaks for your situation, and pours your information right into the forms. It’s a convenient, secure way to get your tax obligation done in a minimal amount of time.
H&R Block is one of the most well-known tax-prep providers, and for good reason. It offers an easy-to-use interface, helpful tax advice, and usually a lower price tag than its biggest competitor, TurboTax. Here’s an overview of how to file with H&R Block and what sets it apart from the competition.
First, what's it like to file your taxes with H&R Block?
To get started, you’ll need to create an H&R Block account, answer a few basic questions, and choose the version that fits your tax situation best: Free, Deluxe, Premium, or Self-Employed. Prices range from $0–$109.99 to prepare a federal income tax return and $59 for each state tax return. H&R Block can import data from TurboTax or upload a PDF of your return from other providers.
If you’ve ever tried to fill out your taxes by hand, you probably remember it as a frustrating experience. H&R Block’s interface takes those complex tax forms and boils them down into simple language, which makes filing easier. The software moves you through a Q&A-style interview to see if you qualify for certain tax credits and deductions. Then, it does the math and fills in your tax forms with your information.
When you get stuck, you can read free help articles and watch video tutorials. Or you can pay an extra fee for Online Assist, which includes unlimited, on-demand help from a tax professional. As you go through the filing process, a banner across the top keeps track of your progress and an estimated tax refund.
H&R Block’s tax-filing program is similar to competitors like TurboTax, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer. The best tax software comes with free tech support, fraud protection, helpful tax explanations, live tax advice in some cases, and built-in calculators that crunch the numbers for you.
In addition to these standard tools, here are five features that are unique to H&R Block.
1. Second Look
Taxes can get complicated; even eagle-eyed filers can miss a tax break or two. For instance, about 20% of taxpayers who are eligible to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) don’t claim it on their returns, according to the IRS.
With Second Look, H&R Block will review your three previous income tax returns to see if you missed money-saving opportunities. The tax preparer says filers commonly miss out on tax deductions and tax credits (like the EITC) and use the wrong filing status, which can result in a smaller refund.
Second Look is free, though it’s only available for previous returns that weren’t prepared by H&R Block. To start Second Look, you’ll need to schedule a visit at a local H&R Block office. Keep in mind: Results aren’t guaranteed, and fees apply if you need to amend your previous returns.
2. Redemption options
The average tax refund last year was more than $2,500, but what if you could stretch that windfall further? If you’re owed a federal refund, H&R Block will add 3.5% to the amount if you load it onto an Amazon.com gift card (up to $5,000). So if you’re expecting a $2,000 refund, for example, you’d get an extra $70 in your pocket. To take advantage of this offer, you’ll need to e-file through an eligible H&R Block tax product.
3. H&R Block Income Tax Course
If you love preparing tax returns—hey, some people do—then H&R Block’s Income Tax Course could be a good fit for you. The 12-week course includes 60 hours of instruction and covers basic topics such as filing requirements, itemizations, popular tax credits and deductions, and reporting wages. Tuition is free, though you’ll need to purchase course materials (typically $149).
Once you complete the course, you may qualify for a seasonal job at H&R Block filing returns for other people. But even if you never work for the tax preparer, you’ll have a ton of knowledge if you help a friend prepare a return—or you want to volunteer with the federal Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
4. Extensive free version
Like some of its competitors, H&R Block’s Free Online option lets you file Form 1040 and claim popular tax breaks, like the EITC, for free. But its free version supports more attachments than other online platforms. It can handle special situations like reporting unemployment income and filing Schedules 1 and 3. That’s a big deal because Schedules 1 and 3 allow you to report things like:
- The student loan interest deduction
- Certain retirement distributions
- Credit for dependent care expenses
- The Lifetime Learning Credit
If you qualify for the program and need to claim one of these tax breaks, then using H&R Block’s Free Online is a no-brainer.
Pro tip: If you earned $72,000 or less in 2020, you may be eligible to use brand-name software for free through the IRS Free File program. H&R Block isn’t participating in the program, but as much as 70% of all tax filers qualified for this option in 2019, according to the IRS.
5. Lots of filing options
Whether you want to work with a tax pro in person or go the DIY route, H&R Block has several options for you:
File in person: Meet with a tax expert one on one at your local H&R Block office. There are more than 10,000 offices across the U.S.
- File online: Upload your documents to H&R Block’s browser-based platform. There are four main filing options.
- Get unlimited tax help: For a fee, H&R Block’s Online Assist gives you unlimited access to a professional who offers tax advice. You can chat by phone, video, or the myBlock app.
- File using tax software: You can also download tax-preparation software to your computer and prepare your forms this way.
While other providers offer downloadable software, professional tax advice, and online filing options, H&R Block is one of the only providers to offer in-person support.
H&R Block is a solid option when you’re checking out your tax-prep options. Its interface is as user-friendly as TurboTax, but it’s slightly cheaper and has a more comprehensive free version. Plus, H&R Block may also review your previous income tax returns, give your tax refund a boost, offer in-person help, and even teach you a new skill through its tax-prep course.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.