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TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Here's how the 2 popular tax-filing services compare on price, experience, and expert help

turbotax vs hr block
TurboTax and H&R Block both offer very good user interfaces.

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  • TurboTax and H&R Block are the two biggest tax preparation services in the United States.
  • Both TurboTax and H&R Block should give you the same refund results if you enter your information accurately, so the best choice comes down to cost and user interface.
  • If you are shopping based on price alone, H&R Block is the winner. But TurboTax offers a better online experience.
  • Both companies offer free federal and state filing for simple tax situations, regardless of income level.
  • Try TurboTax or H&R Block before Tax Day 2020 »

Taxes are due on July 15 this year.

Most people received all of their W-2s, 1099s, and other tax forms required to do their taxes back in February.

If you are about to start and are not sure if two of the most popular online filing services, TurboTax or H&R Block, is a better fit for your needs, here's a look at the key features each tax software offers.

Which is better: TurboTax or H&R Block?

In the years I did my taxes the whole way through with both TurboTax and H&R Block, my results were nearly identical, which is what you would expect with accurate tax returns. That means the difference really comes down to cost, tax prep experience, and access to an expert.

If you want the most polished experience and are willing to pay a few bucks more, TurboTax is the better choice. If you're happy with something that works well and is a bit cheaper, H&R Block is a solid option. If you want the added option of in-person help from an expert, H&R Block is definitely the better choice.

Either way, you're getting a high-quality tax preparation experience. If you follow the prompts and enter all of your details accurately, you should come out on the other side with the same results and your biggest possible refund. What more could you ask for?

TurboTax vs. H&R Block overview

TurboTax and H&R Block are two of the biggest tax preparation software options in the US. TurboTax comes from Intuit, the company behind popular accounting software QuickBooks and personal finance app Mint. H&R Block is one of the biggest tax preparation services in the US with both physical locations and digital tax-prep software.

TurboTax is the most-used tax preparation software in the US. It comes in both an online, cloud-based version and a desktop version for download. There are different versions based on your unique filing needs. As your taxes become more complex, you'll pay more for additional features. For an added fee, you can get a service with quick access to a tax expert around the clock to answer questions about your own personal tax situation.

H&R Block is a huge tax preparation service that prepared more than 20 million returns for 2018. In addition to online and desktop software, H&R Block has 12,000 locations around the country. This makes it a popular option for either do-it-yourself or professional tax preparation.

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Cost

TurboTax offers four versions: Free, Deluxe, Premier, and Self-Employed. Costs range from free to $120 for a federal return depending on the version you choose. State returns cost extra, typically $45 per state, unless there's a sale.

  • The Free Edition is free for both federal and state returns but only works for the simplest taxes.
  • Deluxe is the most popular version and costs $60 and includes 350 deductions and credits, including mortgage and donation-related deductions.
  • Premier has a $90 price tag and supports taxes for investments and rental properties.
  • The most expensive version, Self-Employed, includes added features for freelancers, contractors, and other small business owners. It costs $120.

H&R Block Online comes in four flavors as well. It is a bit cheaper than TurboTax for a very similar offering, but state returns are $44.99 extra. 

  • Free Online works for basics like a W-2 and child-related deductions and includes a federal return and one state return.
  • Deluxe Online costs $49.99 and includes popular deductions for homeowners and those with Health Savings Accounts.
  • Premium Online costs $69.99 and adds in support for investments and independent contractors.
  • Self-Employed Online handles most business needs at a $169.99 price tag. 

If you are shopping based on price alone, H&R Block is the winner. But as we will see in the next sections, price isn't the only factor to consider.

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: The online experience

The online experience from both TurboTax and H&R Block is good. I have used both to file my own taxes and didn't have any serious complaints about either. I did find the TurboTax experience to be a bit easier to navigate, but H&R Block does a very nice job as well.

TurboTax makes it easy to find any form through the search feature, or you can follow its guided tax preparation to enter your forms in the order suggested by TurboTax. You can upload PDF versions of some forms if you have them, or type in the numbers yourself.

turbotax 1
The form for adding your W-2 information in TurboTax.

H&R Block also makes it easy to navigate through your taxes, add forms, and enter your details. I found it a bit more regimented about finishing things in order than TurboTax. But the forms and questions were very similar. It also offers the option to upload your forms rather than type them in manually for popular forms like the W-2.

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The form to add your W-2 info in H&R Block Online.
H&R Block

While I like the TurboTax experience a little more, it really comes down to personal preference. Both online tax apps offer forms that ask the exact same questions. Looking at the forms above, you can see how similar they look. I'm going to call TurboTax the winner, but just by a hair.

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Getting help from an expert

H&R Block is the longtime winner in this category, and that's not going to change this year. Thanks to its huge network of locations, H&R Block makes it easier than any other company to get help from a person with your taxes. There are nearly as many H&R Block locations as McDonald's. 

H&R Block has a few ways to get help from a person. These range from upgrading for help from a tax pro online to getting a full second set of eyes to review your taxes in person. The Online Assist program, which gives you access to an expert through chat and screen sharing, drives up the cost by about $40 to $80, depending on which version of H&R Block you use.

TurboTax isn't letting H&R Block get too far ahead, however. It has its own online help service offering access to a professional. TurboTax Live is about $50 to $90 more than the fully DIY option.

The live expert offerings from H&R Block and TurboTax are overall very similar. But, thanks to the thousands of locations around the country, H&R Block remains the winner on this front.

TurboTax and H&R Block are both great options for Tax Day 2020 »

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