It's a clash of the tax software titans! H&R Block vs. Turbotax! Who will come out ahead? Which tax program is right for you? Part of it depends on you and your needs, so we are going to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision.
Taxes aren't fun to do, but since they pay for all the stuff we rely on like roads, the fire department, and schools, we have to pay them. And if we have to do it, we might as well make it as painless as possible, right?
H&R Block vs. Turbotax
There's a slew of tax programs out there, but the main two give us today's prize fight: H&R Block vs. Turbotax!
You can almost certainly find cheaper programs to use, but this is one instance where cutting corners is not the best way to proceed. You need a reliable, established, and trustworthy brand for something as important and sensitive as your taxes. That's why H&R Block and Turbotax pretty much rule the roost. They've been at this for a long time, and they've gotten very good at it.
H&R Block has been around as a company since 1955. They actually helped the IRS develop their e-filing system so we can do our taxes online in the mid-1980s. They introduced their own tax software for home use in the 1990s, and they've been fine-tuning it since.
Despite H&R Block being the older company by almost three decades, TurboTax has been around nearly ten years longer than H&R's tax software. Developed by Chipsoft, later renamed Intuit, TurboTax has had its share of controversies from the DRM craze of the 2000s which saw the software install disruptive code on people's computers to mass fraudulent tax returns. However, those issues are in the past and TurboTax remains one of the most popular and powerful tax return programs on the market.
How H&R Block vs. Turbotax Are Comparable
There are several things to consider when picking the right tax software. How easy is it to use? After all, taxes can be confusing as hell for most people. There's nothing worse than misfiling your taxes and getting that audit letter a year or two later. There's also the matter of what features are offered, how much real-world support you can get, and, of course, price. The best tax software in the world won't do you any good if you can't afford it.
Both programs are meant to be used by people who know little to nothing about filing taxes. Both also let you skip the hand holding if you already know what you're doing. H&R Block's program has a helpful tool that hyperlinks many of the terms and phrases you might not be familiar with. It also highlights spots you may have questions about even if you know what it means. Click on one, and a little text box opens up with an in-depth explanation. If at the end of the clarification, you still need help, you can open the help center and look there. All of this can be done without losing your place in the tax preparation process.
However, TurboTax has more or less perfected the art of approaching tax software like a conversation. There is a lengthy series of questions in plain English the program uses to get your information. It takes some time, but it's thorough and friendly. The programmers throw in little quips like "Now for the fun part" and "You can do it!" to make the experience less impersonal. TurboTax also tends to give a brief explanation of why it's asking the questions it does so you understand what you're doing and why. That gives you a sense of ownership over the entire process. For rookie tax preparers, this can be invaluable.
Winner: Turbotax. Both programs are incredibly user-friendly and easy to use, but for first-timers and those painfully uncomfortable doing their own taxes, Turbotax's chatty interface makes it easier to get through.
Both programs have a phone app that allows you to take a picture of W-2. The information is then pulled from the image and automatically filled out in the program. Turbotax has an additional feature which allows you to enter your employer ID, your Social Security number, and your income for the year. All of your W-2 information is retrieved and again filled in for you. TurboTax also has an additional feature called "ItsDeductible" that tells you how much of a deduction donated items like furniture or a car would be from your taxes. It is only for the paid version of TurboTax, but it's still pretty good.
Winner: TurboTax. TurboTax simply has more useful little side features to it. You may not end up using most, or any, of them but they are there if you want to.
Getting your money
This round of H&R Block vs. Turbotax is dull. You'd think getting a refund would be the best part of this article, but both products are pretty much identical to the other. You can get direct deposit or a check. You can get a debit card with your refund on it mailed to you. Frankly, I would avoid this option if at all possible. Like many prepaid debit cards, they come with irritating fees that chew up your money more quickly than you would imagine.
If like me, you have a habit of paying for your tax returns out of your refund, you'll be less than thrilled to find out that both companies slap an additional fee on top of everything else.
Winner: Meh. Not you.
H&R Block Pricing
As you can see, TurboTax is more expensive. Not break the bank expensive, but more so than H&R Block. Although if you're running a small business and the $30 difference between the two is enough to be a problem, you probably have more to worry about than the price tag.
The basic version for both programs do not include the program for state taxes. All of the other versions include a single state. If you're filing in more than one, you're going to have to pay for the extras.
Both companies have a free version of their software that allows you to do the most basic tax forms (1040EZ, ADD OTHERS). If your taxes are that straightforward and simple, count your lucky stars and go for it. For the rest of us, there are the paid versions.
Winner: H&R Block. Hey, $20-$25 ain't nothing to sneeze at when you're a college student or working part-time jobs to make ends meet.
H&R Block vs. Turbotax: support
TurboTax comes out of the corner swinging with a lot of online support and massive database built up over years of experience. If you have the paid version, you can access SmartLook which allows a flesh and blood tax specialist to look over your work in real time. For added peace of mind, it's a video chat, so you know it's a real person and not a sophisticated bit. It's a one-way chat, by the way. You can see them, but they can't see anything but your TurboTax screen.
There is also TurboTax Live which allows a C.P.A. (certified public accountant) employed by TurboTax to look over your entire tax return before you file. You can also access as much advice from a C.P.A. as you want. It costs more for SmartLook, but if you're paranoid that you did something wrong, this is the good stuff.
H&R Block's brick and mortar advantage
H&R Block has online support as well and a database to access if you hit a wall. But unless you're extremely comfortable working via video chat, nothing beats walking into one of H&R Block's 12,000+ locations and talking to a flesh and blood person face to face.
Even if everything goes smoothly and you fill out your taxes, you can still purchase the Tax Pro Review. That allows a real person to go over your refund for errors. H&R Block guarantees that the reviewer is “certified at H&R Block’s highest levels [and] are our most tenured and experienced tax professionals.”
Winner: H&R Block by a mile. Look, I work online, and I've had meetings by phone, by chat, and by video conference. None of them are as productive as meeting in person. TurboTax's online solution is fine if you can't travel or you're not within comfortable distance of an H&R Block location. But if you can get to one (they're as ubiquitous as McDonald's so you probably can), it's just better in person.
Don't Throw In the Towel!
So who wins the prize fight of H&R Block vs. TurboTax? That's a tough one, but it depends on you and your needs. If you're an old hand at filling out your own taxes, then the training wheels on TurboTax don't hold much stock for you. If you're new to the process, however, it can make an otherwise intimidating process seem far less terrifying. On the other hand, if your taxes are very complex, you may want to consider having it checked over by a flesh and blood person in one of H&R Block's gazillion real-world locations. Having several gig jobs and school loans can make a hash of your taxes. No one wants to get that letter saying you owe $3000 plus penalties because you screwed up.
Personally, I would say TurboTax is good for absolute beginners with simple returns to file and for advanced users who know how to take advantage of the various extras included. H&R Block is better for people with complicated finances that want to make sure they crossed all their Ts and dotted all their Is.
H&R Block vs. TurboTax. Either way, you're guaranteed a professional experience by two companies that know what they're doing.