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TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Which Is Better for a 2020 Tax Return?

·13 min read

Tax season is upon us and, as of right now, the April 15 deadline won’t be extended in 2021. But while pretty much all appointments—even those at your accountant’s brick & mortar office—will be conducted virtually this year, platforms like TurboTax and H&R Block are still the gold standard when it comes to convenient and user-friendly online tax returns. But which service is right for you? We’re breaking down the similarities and differences between both sites.

TurboTax vs. H&R Block

Now that H&R Block added Online Assist, the option to virtually chat with a tax expert on demand (and for an added fee), they are more likely to compete with TurboTax when it comes to their tax services. Still, there are a couple of critical distinctions. TurboTax is known for its question-and-answer format, which makes filling out a tax return feel significantly less complicated than it tends to be. On the flip side, H&R Block has over 11,000 brick & mortar locations, which means chatting IRL with an expert is an option at any point along the way.

TurboTax

TurboTax has been around since the 1980s and is beloved for its clean and question-based interface as well as the fact that it syncs seamlessly with Quickbooks, which is owned by Intuit (a financial software company that also happens to own TurboTax). There’s also a multitude of options for virtual filing with a sliding scale of prices, depending on your tax needs.

Stand-out TurboTax features include:

  • The ability to file simple federal and state tax returns electronically or by mail

  • The option for instant tax prep hand-holding via TurboTax Live, but also the newly launched TurboTax Live Full Service, which pairs you with a dedicated tax expert who can handle your entire tax return, however complicated it may be (FYI, each of these services costs an additional fee)

  • The option to download software that allows you to e-file

  • A question-and-answer interface that makes filing a return more user-friendly

H&R Block

H&R Block first launched in the 1950s and has been doing America’s taxes ever since, with over 11,000 physical locations nation-wide. But virtual options abound, too, and much like TurboTax, varying levels of support are offered (again, with a sliding range of costs) based on how complicated your tax situation may be.

Stand-out H&R Block features include:

  • The ability to file simple federal and state tax returns electronically or by mail

  • The option to lean on the expertise of a qualified tax pro virtually via their new Online Assist program or IRL at one of H&R Block’s brick and mortar locations, both for an additional fee (just be sure you peep their COVID-19 safety guidelines before making an in-person appointment)

  • The option to drop off your tax return and pick it up when completed

  • An interface that’s populated with “learn more” buttons so you don’t have to navigate away from your tax return to solve more complicated questions

TurboTax Overview

In a lot of ways, TurboTax is just like the commercials—the Q&A style interface feels conversational as you complete each section of your return. Did you buy a home this year? Have kids? How you answer helps TurboTax generate the forms most applicable to your life and your tax situation.

If you’re filing a simple return (typically one that includes W-2 income, child tax credits, etc.), the free version of TurboTax should suffice. But if you have a kid in college (i.e. education-related tax deductions) or capital gains and losses to report or investment income, you’ll need to upgrade to one of their editions designed to handle taxes that are more complex. (More details about TurboTax’s pricing structure is below.)

What’s great about TurboTax is it includes the option to import the previous year’s tax information whether you used TurboTax or not. (This helps to simplify and save time overall.) There’s also the TurboTax CompleteCheck feature (complimentary) which scans for last-minute errors before you file.

Bonus: If you do decide to utilize TurboTax’s Live version, you’ll get on-demand video help from a CPA who will do a line-by-line review of your return in addition to addressing any one-off questions along the way. There’s also the brand-new option to hand over your entire return (virtually) to an accountant who will not only prepare your return, but ping you when it’s time to e-sign.

Other useful tools include:

  • You can automatically import W-2 info from your employer if they partner with TurboTax or you can snap a pic which can save time when it comes to filling out repeat details like your social security number or date of birth (the photo feature also works on other docs like certain 1099s)

  • If you shell out for the Deluxe version of TurboTax (or higher such as the Premier and Self-Employed packages), it syncs with ItsDeductible, which makes it easy to quickly call up deduction values of donated clothes, household items and more

  • All you need is a login with TurboTax—you can access your return from your laptop, your phone thanks to it’s app

Long story short: TurboTax is best for its user-friendly experience and range of support options. Its services are on the pricier side in comparison to competitors, but the question and answer format really stands out in terms of simplifying the tax experience.

H&R Block Overview

Just like TurboTax, H&R Block offers a range of user-friendly features for filing your tax return online, including the option to get live (and on-demand) assistance from a tax expert whenever you need it throughout the process for an extra cost.

The interface is easy to navigate, too. H&R Block walks you clearly through your income, deductions and credits, as well as special situations, before you file with “learn more” buttons available to explain any complicated questions throughout.

With H&R Block, their free option—great for anyone with W-2 income to report along with eligibility for the child tax credit or earned income tax credit or unemployment income—really shines. It also allows you to file schedules 1 and 3 of form 1040, a bonus since, in most cases, you’ll need these forms to deduct mortgage interest, alimony and specific retirement contributions. That said, for anyone who needs to itemize deductions (say, you have self-employment income to report), you’ll likely need to invest in one of their upgraded versions. (More details about H&R Block’s pricing structure is below.)

Available tax expertise offered by H&R Block ranges from searchable tax content (think tutorial videos) to one-on-one tax help from an actual CPA. Their brand-new Online Assist program makes their services quite competitive with TurboTax given that you can now pay for unlimited, on-demand tax advice (screensharing included) with a CPA at any point during your filing process. (Just keep in mind that H&R Block pros won’t review, sign or e-file your return for you.)

Finally, just like TurboTax, H&R Block gives you the option to import last year’s tax return from any provider (you may need to upload a PDF, but the process is seamless) and also allows you to keep tabs on your total software spend via a ticker at the top (useful if you suddenly hit a road block in your return and decide to enlist the help of one of their virtual tax pros after all).

Other useful tools include:

  • You can import your W-2 from your employer or upload a photo of it (same with most of your 1099s, depending on the version you pay for), which—again—is a useful time-saver

  • H&R Block tax packages (level Deluxe or higher) sync with DeductionPro, which makes it a cinch to calculate the value of common write-offs like donated clothing, household items and more

  • There’s a companion app and since the program is online, all you need is a login to access your return anytime, anywhere

Long story short: H&R Block is best for its range of options—including the ability to actually meet with a CPA in real life. It also has a slightly more competitive pricing structure than TurboTax.

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Cost

At the end of the day, H&R Block costs less than TurboTax, but each package offers varying features, so the choice comes down to you and your tax needs.

The TurboTax pricing structure breaks down like this:

The Free Option
Federal: $0
State: $0

Best for simple tax returns (meaning you plan to claim any deductions beyond the standard, earned income tax credit and child tax credit), this version allows you to file a 1040 and a state return for free.

Live Basic
Federal: $50
State: $0

The only thing that separates this from the free version is that it includes on-demand video access to a tax pro.

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

Ideal for anyone who prefers to itemize their tax return, plus claim several other tax deductions and tax credits, too. Also, helpful if you have business income without any expenses.

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

This version is the same as the Deluxe but adds the option to report investments as well as any rental income.

Self-Employed
Federal: $120 ($200 with Live)
State: $50 ($55 with Live)

The same as the Premier version, but it covers business income and expenses, as well as the home office deduction. You can also sync it with Square, Lyft and Uber to import expenses.

The H&R Block pricing structure breaks down like this:

The Free Option
Federal: $0
State: $0

This version allows you to file a simple tax return (meaning you plan to claim any deductions beyond the standard, earned income tax credit and child tax credit), in addition to schedules 1 and 3 for free.

Basic Online Assist
Federal: $69.99
State: $0

This is the same as the free version, except that you have access to H&R Block’s tax experts for on-demand tax help.

Deluxe
Federal: $49.99 ($109.99 with Online Assist)
State: $36.99

This version allows you to itemize and claim several additional tax deductions and credits.

Premium
Federal: $69.99 ($159.99 with Online Assist)
State: $36.99

This version is almost the same as Deluxe, but it also allows you to claim rental property and any investment earnings.

Self-Employed
Federal: $109.99 ($194.99 with Online Assist)
State: $36.99

Ideal for freelancers, independent contractors and small business owners, this version also allows you to import any Uber expenses.

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Free Options

If all you have to account for is your W-2 income, the earned income tax credit or the child tax credit, both TurboTax and H&R Block have you covered with the free versions of their tax software.

But H&R Block’s free tax filing system comes with an additional perk: The option to file schedules 1 and 3 of form 1040, which is helpful—and often required—for taxpayers that need to account for common deductions like mortgage payments, student loan interest, business income, alimony, dependent care expenses and more.

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: User Friendliness

The question and answer format of TurboTax’s software truly is top-notch. It makes filing your tax return feel a bit more conversational than going line by line through earned income and expenses and deductions.

That said, both TurboTax and H&R Block offer simple and straightforward user experiences that put even novice taxpayers in the driver’s seat. (Access to info like video tutorials or articles featuring quick tips and expert insights is readily available on both sites.)

In addition, both services allow you to see the toll various deductions take on your refund in real time via a ticker right at the top of the screen.

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Customer Service

With TurboTax, all users have access to a chatbot or contact form for tech questions that crop up while using the platform. But if you shell out for TurboTax Live, this is where the service sings. Dial a TurboTax expert at all hours of the night (although you can expect longer wait times as soon as April 15 looms) or make an appointment in advance to review your return. Help is offered via a screenshare where you also get to see the face of your CPA (they can’t see you, just your screen).

This year, you can also tap into TurboTax Full Service, which means you upload your tax documents to a secure portal and a real live human—who’s assigned based on your specific tax needs—puts your return together for a fee. (Prices start at $130 for federal returns and $45 for state.) You’ll have a video call at the start, then again when your return is ready to be filed.

H&R Block is pretty competitive here. Their brand-new Online Assist package acts much like TurboTax Live, granting you on-demand access and screen-sharing sessions with a CPA for an added fee.

H&R Block also offers their Tax Pro Review service (prices start at $40), which provides a one-on-one review of your return to check for errors before you file as well as missed deductions or credits. You can even request the same tax pro you’ve used in previous years—a perk for anyone interested in relationship building here. But with H&R Block, you also have the option to meet in person with a tax professional at one of their many brick & mortar locations. (FYI, in-person appointments start at $69.)

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Coronavirus Resources

At both TurboTax and H&R Block, tax experts are well-versed in COVID-19-related factors that may or may not affect your taxes in 2020. (Regardless of what tax version you select, both services also factor this in to your filing, too.) Whether this means, unemployment you have to account for or how the stimulus check will affect your return, you can expect plenty of info from both places throughout. (TurboTax has some explainers here; H&R Block here.)

As for H&R Block’s brick and mortar locations, they are open for in-person appointments this tax season, but you’ll need to check to be sure services are unaffected by lockdowns or other business restrictions based on case numbers in your area. Strict social distancing guidelines are being enforced, as well as mask wearing and other safety protocols.

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Which Is Right for You?

Both services are quite competitive this year, given H&R Block’s addition of Online Assist (a very similar offering to TurboTax Live). As for why you would select one service over the other, H&R Block is ideal for anyone that wants the in-person option as well as a more competitive pricing structure. They also offer more extensive resources in their free version.

Still, TurboTax is a stand-out for its user-friendliness. Their Q&A format is both seamless to navigate and comprehensive. (It’s hard to compete with that when taxes are complicated at best, especially in a pandemic year.)

At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference…or total cost.

Get Started with TurboTax

Get Started with H&R Block

RELATED: 7 Things That May Have Changed for Your Taxes in 2020