This is a relatively long review of H&R Block’s online tax preparation and filing service. H&R Block has provided Consumerism Commentary with six coupon codes for H&R Block Premium Edition, the most complete service offered by the company.
If you haven’t filed your household’s tax return yet, chances are taxes are on your mind. If you believe you’ll owe money to the government, it makes sense to put off filing as long as possible, up to this year’s filing deadline. If you expect to receive a refund, however, file your taxes early to receive your money faster.
Previously, H&R Block offered a product that allowed customers to get their refund even faster than the few weeks the IRS takes to process, but this year, they are not offering refund anticipation loans. The least expensive and quickest way to receive a refund is to allow the IRS to deposit your refund directly into your bank account, but H&R Block does offer a refund anticipation check, which for a small fee, will provide you with your refund sooner than the IRS will.
Regardless of how you receive your refund, if you don’t visit an H&R Block location, you can file online using their software. Here is what you need to know.
Different editions of the software
H&R Block offers four editions of their online software.
The Free Edition should be sufficient for most taxpayers, but keep in mind that H&R Block will charge to file your taxes with your state, even with the Free Edition. For my review, I started with the Free Edition to see how far I could proceed before being required to upgrade to a more advanced and expensive version of the software.
I chose to begin entering my tax information without creating an account to be stored on H&R Block’s servers, even though I know that if I want to save my tax return either to complete at a different time or to finish filing, I’ll need to create one.
For the first step, H&R Block suggests importing a W-2 or 1099 for your income, a feature that requires an upgrade to H&R Block Basic for $19.95. I know that my former employer does not offer W-2, so I skipped this step, opting to input my income manually. The software asks me about any life-changing events during the past year. I selected “lost a job” because I left my corporate employment at the end of the year. I expected some immediate feedback about my life-changing event, but H&R Block proceeded to ask about my filing status (single) and required me to enter my personal information including Social Security number and dependents.
After verifying my personal information, I began the section pertaining to income. This section begins by reviewing a list of my needed documentation for completing this information including a variety of 1099 forms (1099-G, 1099-INT, 1099-MISC, 1099-B, etc.) and any W-2 forms. I pulled up my W-2 online to verify the numbers my former employer reported to the government.
Even before entering any income information, by virtue of the fact I have self-employment and business income, H&R Block informed me an upgrade would be required. For a better look, click on this image to zoom in. Including gains through the sale of investments in your income would require an upgrade, as well. There is no need to get fancy; if you don’t need hand-holding walkthroughs, the H&R Block Basic Edition, the least expensive flavor of the software, is all that’s necessary, although H&R Block recommends the other options, as well.
In fact, they will keep suggesting further upgrades, but if the Free Edition doesn’t contain all the features you need, the Basic Edition will be sufficient.
Adjustments, deductions and credits
I continued through the income section, entering information from my business, and proceeded to the section for adjustments and deductions. After entering the appropriate deductions, H&R provided the opportunity to choose to file using my itemized deductions or the standard deduction, with the total effect on my tax return for each.
Following the deductions, I was prompted to select credits I might qualify for. The Making Work Pay credit was already selected for me, most likely because I had entered W-2 income. The credit section moved quickly for me, and I proceeded to the taxes section, where H&R Block checks for additional taxes or penalties I would be required to pay, such as excess contributions to or early withdrawals from retirement accounts.
Printing and filing the returns
After finishing all sections and reviewing my federal tax return, H&R Block transferred my information to the state return. I entered the information that applies to New Jersey, such as the renter/homeowner rebate. After finishing the forms, I noticed that I did not enter the estimated tax payments I made throughout the year, so I went back to the pages to enter that information for both my federal return and state return.
At this point, H&R Block suggested upgrading to “H&R Block Basic + Best of Both Worlds,” which is an option where the tax returns are reviewed by a local H&R Block office. H&R Block would be the tax preparer of record, so they would responsible to pay any fees due to mistakes on the returns. This service costs $79.95 plus $34.95 for the state return.
In the final stages of filing, H&R Bock allows me to review the charges. I was required to upgrade from the Free Edition to the Basic Edition, so my federal return cost $19.95. The state return cost $34.95. Once filing and providing my banking information for direct deposit, I should receive my refund within ten days.
The first option for paying this fee is H&R Block’s Simple Pay, in which the filing fees are deducted from your refund (if the government owes one to you), for an additional fee. Other options are credit and debit cards, electronic transfer from a bank account, and coupon code. Six lucky Consumerism Commentary will receive a coupon code that will cover the federal and state filing fees, so keep reading to find out how you can enter to win.
Only after paying for the return does H&R Block offer some of its own options for receiving a refund, such as a Refund Anticipation Check. This service, for an additional fee, will provide me with my refund amount quicker than the IRS would produce a check. This might be beneficial to taxpayers who do not have bank accounts for direct deposit and, for whatever reason, need the cash fast. I don’t recommend this for most taxpayers. Open a free bank account and get direct deposit.
Consumerism Commentary is an authorized affiliate of H&R Block. Six giveaway products were provided to Consumerism Commentary free for the benefit of our readers. H&R Block did not compensate Consumerism Commentary for this review.
Updated April 9, 2011 and originally published February 21, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @flexo on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.