H&R Block 2024 (Tax Year 2023) Review

Excellent tax preparation from a familiar name

H&R Block, well known for its in-office services, has offered online personal tax preparation for decades. We looked at H&R Block’s Self-Employed version, which offers a capable blend of usability, coverage of different tax situations, and guidance for self-employed people, including gig workers and independent contractors. Since last year, H&R Block has added an AI-driven help assistant and stopped charging for chat help from tax professionals. H&R Block was an Editors’ Choice winner last year, and it wins again this year thanks to its excellent context-sensitive help. Two other Editors’ Choice winners are Intuit TurboTax, which gives you the best overall experience in filing your taxes, and FreeTaxUSA, which is the best free online tax service you can find (federal prep and filing is free, and state is $14.99).

How Much Does H&R Block Cost?

H&R Block has four services in its main lineup. Its robust free tier, Free Online, supports Form 1040 and situations like W-2 income, unemployment, student expenses, and retirement income, as well as the Earned Income Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). Deluxe Online ($35 for federal filing) adds itemized deductions, free professional tax support via chat, AI-driven online help, and a few other features. Premium Online ($65 federal) adds Schedules D and E. Self-Employed Online ($85 federal) adds Schedule C, which you need if you’re self-employed or have gig work, as well as Schedule F (farm income and expenses). Filing a state return is $37 (unless you qualify for the Free Online version, in which case it’s free). Typically, these prices increase later in the tax season.

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H&R Block’s prices are slightly lower than TurboTax’s, but there are far less expensive options. For example, Cash App Taxes (formerly Credit Karma Tax) offers completely free federal and state filing. But this free service doesn’t offer nearly as much help as H&R Block does.

Add-on services that provide virtual help from CPAs, EAs, and H&R Block agents include Tax Pro Review ($180 bundled with Self-Employed). With this service, you complete your return and an H&R Block tax professional reviews, signs, and e-files it for you. You can upload your tax documents or take them to an office and have your return prepared by a pro—the price starts at $89 for W-2 income only and goes up to almost $500, which isn’t outrageous for a complicated review.

Is H&R Block Safe to Use?

All of H&R Block’s websites offer multiple layers of protection, including industry-standard web-browsing encryption technology and multi-factor authentication. Your data is protected and monitored 24/7. The company employs external security experts to perform audits and assess risks, and its data centers, networks, and servers are housed in secure facilities.

Filing Your Taxes Online: What You Need to Know

Any time you enter personal and financial information online, as you do when preparing and filing your taxes, Lifelayered recommends taking other basic safety precautions, such as only using a trusted network, like your home Wi-Fi.

How Does H&R Block Work?

H&R Block’s online DIY service follows the same tax preparation path as human tax professionals. It uses a lengthy wizard-like tool to “interview” you, first asking questions about your family’s personal information, like birth dates and Social Security numbers. It continues to ask questions about your income and tax-deductible expenses until you’ve covered everything relevant to you. 

You never see an IRS form or schedule, which is a plus, as one of the main reasons for using tax software is to avoid the need to work with IRS documents. H&R Block works in the background, doing all the calculations needed and entering your answers on forms. As it walks you through the Q&A, it provides built-in context-sensitive help far superior to what you get from Jackson Hewitt or Liberty Tax.

Getting Started With H&R Block

H&R Block wants to ensure two things when you first create an account: It wants your tax data to be safe, and it wants you to select the right version (though you can change versions as you go along). After you meet the site’s security requirements, it asks which financial situations apply to you, like whether you have dependents, rental properties, and self-employment income. Based on your answers, it suggests the right version of H&R Block for you.

Once you begin entering your tax data, H&R Block highlights the topics that apply to you, but you can always add more. If you used H&R Block or another online tax service for your taxes last year, you can import key information from it, as you can with TurboTax. You can save time entering data and minimize errors by importing data from W-2s and 1099s or using other methods to avoid typing everything in.

Exceptional Help

H&R Block has given taxpayers exceptional help for many years. It’s proactive, for one thing. Unlike TaxAct, which has good but disjointed help tools, it centralizes guidance in a right-side vertical pane. For the most part, H&R Block’s language is simple and understandable, with minimal suggestions to visit IRS instructions, which is important.

Specifically, it introduces topics on many pages with an explanation of what’s coming. Links open related explanations. Best of all, the Help pane always shows context-sensitive help for the current page, if any is available. No other online tax service does this. You usually have to click a link to get contextual help from competitors.

H&R Block has added a second layer of help this year. AI Tax Assist “converses” with you rather than just providing a list of search hits and is driven by an AI engine. It worked fine in testing but is really no better than the site’s standard help search tool, which gives you links to related pages on the site and Q&As that are usually relevant.

How Does H&R Block Deal With Self-Employment?

H&R Block provides a thorough walk-through of the questions you must answer and the income and expenses you must enter to complete Schedule C. You get individual Q&As for forms like the 1099-K and 1099-NEC and for income not reported on them (like cash and checks). It’s one of the areas on the site that requires excessive scrolling and clicking—the same as the business expense entry page, which requires two or three clicks for each category because you have to keep returning to the main list. Not only does this take time and increase frustration, but it makes the process seem disjointed enough that taxpayers might miss important entries. 

That aside, I saw nothing missing and could complete all the topics I needed for Schedule C.

The Final Review for Accuracy

When you finish entering all the tax information that applies to you, H&R Block runs its Federal Accuracy Review, which looks for errors and omissions in your return and lets you fix them. This didn’t work as well as it might have in my testing. I neglected to enter my business address and answer some questions for Schedule C, and the review took me back to the beginning of business data entry instead of directly to the offending page, as TaxAct and others do. But it took me to the right page for some 1099-B omissions. So this glitch was inconsistent.

If you’re not getting a refund from the IRS and will instead have to pay, there are a few options. You can have the money withdrawn from your checking account or pay by check, money order, or debit/credit card. You can also submit your payment on the IRS’s Direct Pay site. For state taxes due, you must contact your state department of revenue.

Excellent Mobile Apps

I would be willing to prepare my taxes using one of H&R Block’s Android and iOS mobile apps—they’re that good. Depending on your phone’s responsiveness, you might lose some time getting links to work, but that’s not H&R Block’s fault. The apps mirror the UI and navigation tools in the desktop version, which look great. Nothing is missing that I can see, even in the complicated self-employment section. Both standard help and AI Tax Assist work fine in the mobile version.

The Best Tax Service for Putting Your Taxes Into Context

H&R Block and TurboTax are the two best online tax preparation services we tested this year, and equally worthy of our Editors’ Choice award. H&R Block is particularly noteworthy for its excellent context-sensitive help and thorough, understandable explanation of tax topics. TurboTax gives you the best experience overall. However, H&R Block and TurboTax’s comparatively high prices may send self-employed people looking for an inexpensive but reliable alternative. This year, that’s FreeTaxUSA, our third Editors’ Choice winner. Any of these three will serve you well depending on how you balance your needs for watching your budget with getting the best guidance and user experience.

While you’re thinking about taxes, you can read up on seven ways to minimize your taxes and what to do if you can’t pay your taxes.