Taxes are hard enough to do even with top-notch tax preparation software, so the more choices you have for getting them done, the better. H&R Block provides more options for personal tax preparation than any of its competitors, including in-office services, DIY software, online apps, and numerous options for virtual expert help. We looked at H&R Block’s Self-Employed version, which offers an extremely capable blend of tax topic coverage, usability, and taxpayer guidance. It’s one of the top two best tax prep services, the other being TurboTax.
We tested H&R Block Self-Employed rather than Deluxe this year because of the millions of people who have taken on side gigs or started small businesses. This top-of-the-line version supports them, and multiple enhancements make the software better than ever. Help options, one of H&R Block’s strong suits, have improved. New guidance for the 1099-K and additional data entry options for cryptocurrency transactions add to the site’s usefulness and appeal. H&R Block also continues to support integration with Wave, a free small business accounting service the company acquired and one we at PCMag recommend. These improvements and others have earned H&R Block Self-Employed an Editors’ Choice award this year.
How Much Does H&R Block Cost?
There are four services in H&R Block’s main lineup. Free Online (free), Deluxe Online ($55 for federal filing, $37 per state), Premium Online ($75 federal, $37 per state), and Self-Employed Online ($110 federal, $37 per state). Typically, you can expect discounts on these prices early in the tax season.
The free tier is free for both federal and state filing. It supports Form 1040 and situations like W-2 income, student expenses, and retirement income, as well as the Earned Income Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC).
Deluxe Online adds numerous features, including the option to itemize your return, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), self-employed income with no expenses, and the ability to organize and store your tax returns for up to six years. You also get technical support by phone or chat at this tier of service. Premium Online adds Schedule D, E, and F. Self-Employed Online adds Schedule C, which provides the ability to claim self-employed and small business income and expenses, and asset depreciation.
Numerous add-on services give you access to expert help from tax professionals (CPAs, EAs, and H&R Block agents). TaxPro Review ($175 bundled with Self-Employed), for example, is just what it sounds like. You complete your return, and an H&R Block tax professional reviews, signs, and e-files it for you. Online Assist ($145 if bundled with Self-Employed) offers unlimited, on-demand help via chat, call, and screen-sharing on any device. TurboTax offers similar services, albeit at higher prices.
How do H&R Block’s prices compare? They’re just slightly lower than those of TurboTax across the board. But there are even less expensive options.
Cash App Taxes (formerly Credit Karma Tax) offers completely free federal and state filing, and FreeTaxUSA is free for federal filing and $14.99 per state. Note, however, that with the free services, you sacrifice quite a bit when it comes to handholding, which most of us end up needing at some point during the process.
TaxSlayer’s $19.95 Classic plan ($39.95 for state returns) supports Schedule C, so it’s one of the lowest-cost options for self-employed individuals, though it has a Self-Employed version for $49.95.
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 personal data is protected and monitored 24/7. The company employs external security experts to perform audits and assess risks, and its data centers, network, and servers are housed in secure facilities.
How Do Online Tax Preparation Services Like H&R Block Work?
If you’ve ever sat in a tax preparer’s office, you’ve probably noticed they know what questions to ask and in what order. Online personal tax preparation services work similarly, minus the human interaction. You don’t see graphical representations of tax forms as you work. Rather, a wizard walks you through a lengthy Q&A. As you answer, the website works in the background to do the required calculations and fill in the official IRS forms and schedules.
As you advance through the wizard, you can track your progress through both occasional summaries of your work so far, and real-time dollar figures representing what you owe or are owed at that point in the process. Help is available in a variety of ways. If you don’t understand a particular question, you can click links for more detailed explanations. The best services never expose you to the sometimes-complex language the IRS uses in its instructions. Instead, their tax experts rewrite the official texts so the average taxpayer can understand them.
After you exhaust all the topics that apply to your financial situation, an online tax prep service does three things. It reviews your return and shows you any problems it has found, which you can correct. It transfers applicable data to any state returns you must file. Lastly, it walks you through the process of e-filing or printing your return. Typically you pay at the very end, so you can do everything up to this final step without entering payment details.
How Do You Get Started With H&R Block?
After you create an account on the H&R Block site, you’re asked to pick which tier of service you’ll use. You can get help making this decision by indicating which financial situations apply to you, like whether you have dependents, rental properties, and self-employment income. Then you’ll move through a lengthy series of pages, supplying personal information about you and your family. This information includes names, addresses, birthdates, and Social Security numbers for everyone in your household who will be included on your return.
If you filed using H&R Block last year, that information should transfer automatically to this year’s online return. You can also import data from major competing websites like TurboTax and TaxAct.
Additional pages ask for answers to questions about, for example, your filing status, citizenship status, and residency. When you’ve completed this section, you get a summary to check and edit if necessary.
How Do You Enter Your Tax Data in H&R Block?
H&R Block uses a combination of wizards and topic lists to help you complete your return. Text instructions and graphical buttons and icons make it clear how you progress through the many pages. The site walks you through Form 1040, much as you might do if you were preparing your return manually. Income is first, followed by deductions and credits, and then taxes and miscellaneous topics. This being the Self-Employed version, you’re asked about business income and expenses first before you move into the other income topics like W-2 and interest income.
Each topic section, such as Income and Deductions, has its own home page, which has a list of all the subtopics contained therein. For example, the Income home page lists interest and dividends, Social Security, and 1099-R retirement distributions. Every time you finish answering all the questions for one of these subtopics, you return to the topic home page. This layout makes sense once you get the hang of it, but I found myself moving back and forth excessively among some pages, which required some extra clicking.
In the Income section, you have to provide information from your W-2s. There are four ways to do it. You can fill in the fields manually, upload a PDF, and take a picture with your smartphone after H&R Block texts you a link to a secure site, or the site can import W-2 data directly if available, based on your employer. H&R Block tries to minimize the amount of manual data entry you have to do, which is good because it reduces the possibility of introducing errors.
After you’ve entered your W-2 information and answered several more questions, you’re ready to add more income. Once again, H&R Block lets you connect directly to many financial institutions to import some of your data, saving you time and ensuring accuracy.
You respond to questions or statements by providing the information requested, selecting the correct answer from a list of options, or entering information in fields. It’s always clear. When you finish, H&R Block opens a page that recaps your activity up to that point. It shows a list of every topic you’ve visited and lets you revisit or delete any of them. Next, there’s a summary of your responses next to the previous year’s numbers and answers for comparison. If everything looks OK, you move on to deductions.
The rest of the tax preparation functions the same way. H&R Block presents a list of topics you might want to visit based on what it’s learned about you and gives you the option to visit others. After you’ve completed the Deductions section, you move on to Credits and Taxes, and finally, the Wrap-Up, where you see a summary of your return and can go back to make changes. The site then transfers relevant data to your state return and runs a review of it before you pay and file.
How Does H&R Block Handle Cryptocurrency Transactions?
H&R Block has made it easier to enter cryptocurrency transactions by offering three options. First, you can enter transactions manually (recommended for fewer than ten), and you can now enter multiple transactions on the same page, which wasn’t the case in the past. Second, if you’re a professional crypto investor who has received Form 8949, you can report your totals on the site and attach a copy of the form. Lastly, H&R Block has added the ability to import tax information from CoinTracker (this tool was not live yet during our testing).
If you received a Form 1099-B from your crypto exchange, you would report your transactions in the Investment section of H&R Block.
How Do You Find Your Way Around H&R Block?
I rarely got lost using H&R Block Self-Employed. When I did, I often wasn’t reading the entire page. Navigation is simple and straightforward. The best way to move through your taxes is to follow the site’s lead and just advance from page to page, backing up if you must. Navigation links in the toolbar also let you return to pages you’ve already completed. You can’t jump ahead, however, until you’ve completed a section.
The site lacks a comprehensive navigation tool such as the one FreeTaxUSA has, but it offers the next best thing. Its navigation aids are actually quite good. The combination of the main topic and subtopic links in the toolbar is a very effective way to easily return to pages you’ve visited. I like it better than TurboTax’s primary navigation aids.
H&R Block is a little more formal in its language and looks than the friendly—even folksy—TurboTax. You can think of online tax prep services as having different personalities. TurboTax is like the human preparer who greets you with a big smile and makes small talk. H&R Block is a bit more businesslike, though it has its own welcoming brand of personal interaction. Both approaches are effective.
Does H&R Block Help You Enter Self-Employment Income and Expenses?
H&R Block devotes an entire and quite lengthy section to self-employment. It asks you many questions about your business (occupation, inventory and employee status, accounting method) and then asks you to identify the types of income you had and where it was reported. You can choose from 1099-NEC, 1099-MISC, 1099-K, business sales not on 1099, returns and allowances, and other income.
Each income type has its own Q&A interview. I went through the 1099-K section first and found it provided a lot of help for a form that may confuse some taxpayers. This topic is built out as much as TurboTax’s is in terms of proactive help, but it’s a simple form to complete. Entering your tax information on 1099-NEC or 1099-MISC is simple, too. You just fill in the fields with the data from the form you received.
“Business sales not on a 1099” would apply to anyone who sells products or services not reported on a 1099-MISC, 1099-NEC, or 1099-K, or who received a W-2 for the income. This would include any income received for gig work by, for example, freelancers or independent contractors, marketplace sellers, and rideshare drivers. It can be confusing since some people in those professions could have had part of their income reported on a 1099.
H&R Block handles the reporting of business expenses very well. You choose the business expenses that apply, and the site provides a page for each one that explains the category and gives examples. This element of self-employment can be challenging. No tax website can list every possible purchase you might claim as a business expense. Even if you consult the professional help they offer, you might not get a definite answer. Though there are clearly many purchases that you can’t claim, it’s usually more of a gray area. Only the IRS auditors know for sure. H&R Block goes about as far as you can go in providing reporting tools in this area.
Because of the quality and quantity of H&R Block’s help, I was able to get my self-employment questions answered. This section is quite comprehensive. There wasn’t anything significant I felt was missing. More proactive and expanded help in this section like TurboTax offers, though, would be welcome.
How Do You Get Help From H&R Block?
The Q&A format that most online tax services use works well if there’s always an option to have complex or unfamiliar concepts explained in more detail—without requiring you to open a giant help database (though there’s a place for that, too). It’s critical for tax software to make context-sensitive help easily accessible.
H&R Block does an excellent job here. It uses the right vertical pane for help content. You can hide or reveal the pane at any time, and it doesn’t obscure the working window like it used to. When it’s visible, it shows you content-sensitive FAQs and other guidance for the current page, including links to related pages. TurboTax does something similar, but it doesn’t automatically change the help window to match each page’s content like H&R Block does. This is a real time saver.
And it makes a huge difference. In H&R Block, help related to the current page is always there automatically. In TurboTax, you have to ask for it. At any point, you can also enter a word or phrase in the Search field of H&R Block’s right pane (you may have to open it by clicking the help link on the main page or the question mark icon in the upper right).
Enter a word, like “energy,” and several suggested topics appear, like Residential Energy Credit or Energy Efficiency Windows. Select one, and you see links to numerous Q&As, with a link to the related forms and occasional expert tips, meaning educational articles on the subject. The more specific you can be when entering your search term, the better, because H&R Block’s help files are massive. TurboTax’s Search tool works similarly.
The chat link in the lower right opens the Online Virtual Assistant, which starts an automated conversation about the word or phrase you entered, though content options here are limited. In testing, my experience was a bit odd. I asked where I should enter the Child Tax Credit, and it asked me questions to determine whether the child was qualified without answering where. I asked where I would enter hospital costs, and it asked for the name of the form, which is what I was trying to find out.
It also wouldn’t tell me how to find the 1099-NEC. It seemed to respond best when I just entered simple words or phrases, like “1099.” When I entered “cryptocurrency” and “investments,” it gave me a list of all the 1099 types without helping me narrow it down. So I recommend skipping the chatbot and sticking with the context-sensitive help and topic searches in the main help window. They’re excellent.
TurboTax’s Digital Assistant is much better, responding to more queries with actual answers. Both chatbots only support questions about the websites’ handling of form 1040, not queries about the tax code.
For questions about the site itself, like where to enter an item, you can call a specialist during the service’s very generous business hours. Text chat is also available. If you have actual tax-related questions (Can I write this off? Do I qualify for this?), you can connect with a tax professional (CPA, EA, or H&R Block tax expert) in multiple ways, including chat, phone, and video screen sharing, but for a fee. TaxAct offers professional help for free, while Cash App Taxes doesn’t offer it at all.
H&R Block has enhanced its help tools for the 2022 tax year. It’s partnered with a new search provider to power its online help search capabilities. It’s also added a WalkMe feature that provides more contextual help (examples, hints, reminders, and so on) in targeted areas. Initially, it will be available for two tax topics: adjusted gross income (AGI) and cryptocurrency. More will be added throughout the tax season. Users will also be able to read about tax law changes for this year and see how they might be affected by them.
Review and File Your Tax Return With H&R Block
After you complete all the federal tax steps, H&R Block provides a summary of your return’s entries and compares them to the previous year’s. Then it takes care of some additional tasks—such as creating estimated tax payment vouchers—and asks some additional questions.
Next up is the site’s Federal Accuracy Review, which combs your return for anything that may be inaccurate or missing. If it finds something, it explains the problem and provides a Fix Issue button, which takes you to the offending page for corrections. This worked well in my testing.
After you’ve satisfied or skipped any issues (you’ll be able to fix them later), you will see a summary of your return’s key totals. Then H&R Block transfers required numbers to your state returns, helps you prepare them, and walks you through e-filing.
H&R Block Mobile App
H&R Block has a mobile app for Android and iPhone. The H&R Block Tax Prep app lets you prepare and file a return. If you’re new to H&R Block, you can create an account from the app as well.
It’s easy enough to switch back and forth between your desktop and mobile device by simply logging in. The mobile app does a beautiful job of replicating the desktop experience, albeit with differences made necessary by the smaller screen. Just as in the desktop browser version, you get simple navigation, a capable help system, and comprehensive coverage of tax topics.
Everything looks more or less the same in the app, with few exceptions. If you’re accustomed to using your phone for productivity applications, you probably won’t find it difficult to complete your tax return on your mobile device.
Should You Use H&R Block to File Your Taxes?
H&R Block is a comprehensive and reliable tax preparation website that’s easy to use. Our own testing journey through Form 1040 using H&R Block Self-Employed went smoothly, and we appreciate the ongoing changes made to the site. Whether you’re a return H&R Block customer or are in the market for the first time, you’ll find it combines excellent preparation tools and guidance to help you get the biggest refund you can.
Because of the site’s new features and enhancements, H&R Block Self-Employed is an Editors’ Choice winner this year, along with TurboTax Self-Employed. Either site will serve you well, though H&R Block costs a few dollars less. Both offer the best combination of tax topic coverage and support available, and their Q&A interview walkthroughs rarely leave you guessing about your next move. And both provide excellent options for connecting with tax professionals (for a fee). We recommend them highly, especially for gig workers and small businesses struggling with self-employment issues.
While you’re thinking about your money, check out our roundup of the best personal finance software. If you run a small business, see our picks for the best accounting software.