Everybody’s “favorite” time of year is here once again. It’s tax time.
If you’re looking for free tax filing this year, I am recommending to use H&R Block for 2020 tax filing.
While TurboTax has remained the “gold standard” among the DIY tax software giants, H&R Block has made some very impressive strides to compete with TurboTax. In fact, after taking a long look at both TurboTax and H&R Block for my 2020 tax software review, I am going to go with H&R Block for the win.
H&R Block 2020 Review
H&R Block is almost identical as to what TurboTax offers this year, however H&R Block’s free services are superior. As far as premium services, you will pay a lot less for H&R Block than you will with TurboTax. In addition, H&R Block partnered with Amazon and now offers a 4% tax refund bonus which TurboTax does not. I’ll explain more about how the bonus works further down in this 2020 H&R Block review.
2020 H&R Block Review
Name: H&R Block
Description: H&R Block has options for all tax filers in 2020. Whether you want to file for free, completely online, get help online, or file in person - H&R Block provides all services.
5 Ways to File with H&R Block in 2020
This year H&R Block has 5 different ways to file your 2019 tax return. There are two options for the DIY filers and then you will also have three more options for having them do file your taxes for you.
1. Do It Yourself Online
- Federal Cost: $0
- State Cost: $0
If you pay rent and didn’t sell any investments in 2019, there’s a good chance you can file your federal and state income tax returns free.
It used to be that the only way to get free tax filing was making less than a certain annual income. Now, you can file for free regardless of your income if you only need to claim the following income and deductions:
- W-2 Income (not Form 1099 self-employment income)
- Retirement Plan Income
- Social Security Income
- Student Loan Interest
- Earned Income Credit
- Child Care Expenses
- Child Tax Credits
If you have home mortgage interest to deduct, sold investments, own rental property or earn freelancer or self-employed income, you will have to pay to file your return with H&R Block.
H&R Block Free
H&R Block calls their free filing option, “H&R Block Free.”
With this option, you can file basic federal and state returns free. Seriously, no strings attached.
If this isn’t your first tax season, you probably remember filing your federal return for free. But, having to pay to file your state return. This fee is usually around $40.
Who Can Use It?
H&R states their Free platform is best if you “have a W-2, have kids, and pay rent.”
But, you might fall into this category if you have itemized in the past because of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts is making it harder to itemize. For tax year 2019, experts estimate only 10% of people can itemize instead of the usual 30%.
Gen Z college students and young Millennials will most likely be able to file for free as well. Even homeowners who don’t have enough itemized deductions ($12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for joint filers) can also file completely free.
Easily Upload Your Tax Documents
H&R Block’s free tax filing 2019 perks are pretty good. In the past, you had to type all your tax information by hand. To upload your documents, you needed to upgrade to a paid option.
With your mobile device or webcam, you can now take a picture of your W-2. In seconds, the data uploads to H&R Block and spares you from accidentally typing the wrong information into the incorrect box.
You can also upload the forms you receive from your bank, brokerage, health insurance marketplaces, and student loan lenders too. Some of these forms include:
- 1095-A (Health Insurance)
- 1098-E (Student Loan Interest Paid)
- 1099-DIV (Stock Dividends)
- 1099-INT (Bank Account Interest)
And, H&R Block lets you import last year’s tax return that makes completing this year’s return faster.
Free Earned Income Tax Credit
The free version of H&R Block sees if you qualify for more than 350 credits and deductions. One of these is the Earned Income Tax Credit. If you qualify, you can boost your tax refund without paying a dime to file your return.
Free Chat Technical Support
Since you’re filing a “simple” return, you shouldn’t have any complex tax questions. For the tax questions you do have, you should be able to find an answer in the online self-help guide.
If you can’t figure out how to upload a form or need help navigating the platform, H&R Block offers free chat support. Keep in mind, this isn’t free tax advice like you get from an accountant or Block’s premium Tax Pro Review.
Refund Reveal Explains Refund Amount Changes
The various tax prep programs display your current tax refund amount in real-time. As you enter new income, deductions, and credits, that dollar amount fluctuates. If you’re a tax novice, you might not understand why the refund amount changes.
The Refund Reveal tool helps explain these changes so you understand why you are receiving the tax refund you are. Or, why you’re paying in this year if enough wasn’t withheld.
Up to 4% Amazon Gift Card Bonus
When you choose to receive any amount up to an including your full tax refund as an Amazon gift card, Amazon boosts your balance by 4%. Let’s say you choose to take your entire $3,000 tax refund in the form of an Amazon gift card. You would then get thirty $100 Amazon gift cards and then an additional 4% ($120) in free Amazon Gift cards.
But what if you only want to take a portion of your tax return in the form of Amazon gift card?
You can do that as well. Let’s say you only want to take half of your return, $1,500 in the form of gift card from Amazon. H&R Block would issue you fifteen – $100 Amazon gift cards plus 4% ($60) as a free bonus in gift cards from Amazon.
Free Tax Audit Support
If you’re audited, H&R Block provides free basic audit support. They will help explain the audit process and what follow-up actions you may need to complete.
This free benefit doesn’t include audit defense where an H&R Block provides in-person representation when meeting with the IRS agent. This deluxe coverage costs extra.
Tax Filing Options for Homeowners and Investors
If you deduct mortgage interest and property taxes or sell stock in 2019, you have to pay H&R Block to file your federal and state returns. The IRS requires you to report this information on a separate tax form that you include with the standard Tax Form 1040.
These are the three main reasons you have to fill out an extra schedule:
- Mortgage Interest or Property Taxes (Schedule A)
- Self-Employment Income (Schedule C-EZ or Schedule C)
- Investment Income by Selling Shares of Stock (Schedule D)
Our tax code is confusing. Don’t worry about the exact Schedules you must complete right now. H&R Block walks you through every tax situation and fills out these additional forms when you reach that part of the process. Even if you start with the free option, they will notify you when you need to upgrade to an advanced plan to continue filing.
If you can’t file for free, you will most likely either use the Deluxe or Premium plan. For an extra set of eyes on your return, you may also opt for the TaxProGo which lets you file online with the help of an H&R tax professional who offers personal tax advice.
Tip: Save money by filing your taxes ASAP. H&R Block raises prices as the April 15 tax filing deadline approaches. You can get up to 25% off your federal return by acting now.
- Federal Cost: $29.99 for limited time (Full Price is $49.99)
- State Cost: $36.99
Want me to let you in on a little secret?
Downloading the Deluxe software to file your federal and state income tax (instead of filing online) can save you $12.
Who Can Use It?
Homeowners and itemizers with W-2 Income who didn’t sell any investments in 2019.
Itemize Mortgage Interest, Taxes, and Charity (Schedule A)
Mortgage interest deductions, state and local property taxes (up to $10,000), charitable contributions, and medical expenses are all itemizeable expenses.
Since you can claim more deductions, H&R Block uses a more extensive screener to find more deductions. Their DeductionPro tool that provides the value of any tangible items you donate. For instance, this tool assigns a cash value to your clothing and household items you donate to your local thrift store.
Free Tax Document Storage
It’s a good idea to keep a paper copy of your tax return in your personal files for up to six years. This way, you have a copy if you need to apply for a loan or apply to an IRS inquiry. If you’re audited, the IRS can request your tax documents for the most recent six years.
Having a digital copy on H&R Block means you never lose your documents. It’s also easier to send a copy to the loan officer. And if you move to a new house, you don’t have to worry about losing these important papers during a packing purge.
Phone Technical Support
If you don’t like live chat support, you get free phone technical support with H&R Block Deluxe.
- Federal Cost: $49.99 for limited time (Full Price is $69.99)
- State Cost: $36.99
Who Can Use It?
When you sell investments or earn freelancing income in 2019, you must use Premium.
Even if you sell one share of stock, your broker will send you an extra tax form that requires a Schedule D. For instance, if a family member in 2019 sold stock and had $100 in taxable capital gains and didn’t itemize, they will get a Schedule D. Therefore, they will have to now use the Premium option to file their return to include a Schedule D.
However, had they not sold any shares and continued to collect the regular dividend payments, they could have avoided the Schedule D and filed for free.
Also, if you earned any freelancer or self-employment income and receive a Form 1099, you have to file a Schedule C-EZ. When filing a C-EZ, you can still claim basic self-employment deductions less than $5,000 total. For example, this may be something you would complete if you have an side hustle.
Having employees or claiming asset depreciation means you have to upgrade to the Self-Employed plan. This also applies to rideshare drivers.
Import 1099-B Investment Income
So you don’t spend as much time completing the Schedule D as the rest of your tax return, you can import your broker’s investment income statement. On the Schedule D, you must report the cost basis (the original investment amount) and the final sales value for each investment sale you make.
This can be a monotonous task. It’s also easy to type the wrong information in the wrong field causing further delays
However, H&R Block helps you determine the accurate cost basis for stocks, home sales, inheritance, and other investment income.
Import Expenses from Expense-Tracking Apps
When you have freelancer income to report from a Form 1099, you probably have deductible expenses too. You can import your expenses from apps like Stride, Uber, and Lyft. These apps can track your mileage and other expenses so you don’t want to forget.
For example, as a self-employed person myself, I keep a running log for all my business-related expenses so I can quickly tally my expenses in January. And, tracking expenses in real-time ensures you don’t forget certain expenses.
- Federal Cost: $79.99 for a limited time (Full Price is $104.99)
- State Cost: $36.99
Who Can Use This?
To save you money, H&R Block will determine if you can file a Schedule C-EZ first. They will prompt you to upgrade if you have a complex self-employment tax situation.
Find Common Business Deductions
One benefit of being self-employed is that you can deduct certain expenses that W-2 employees can’t. To help you find every possible deduction, H&R Block helps you find eligible business deductions, asset depreciation, and startup costs to lower your taxable income.
2. Do It Yourself with Online Help
H&R Block also offers two virtual tax prep add-on services. The first service is their Basic Online Assist which is still for the DIYers, but also gives you access to online or phone support from a certified tax professional.
Basic Online Assist
- Federal Cost Starting at $39.99
- State Cost Starting at $0
With Basic Online Assist, you complete your return yourself and a tax expert reviews it before sending it to Washington.
This isn’t a bad idea if you’re itemizing or you earn self-employment income as these two types of returns are more complex. And, you think there is a possibility you may miss a few of the many deductions the IRS allows you to deduct, then it may be a great idea to pay the small premium now for a bigger return.
3. File My Taxes For Me Online
- Federal Cost Starting at $49
- State Cost Starting at $39
The other virtual tax prep option is Tax Pro Go. This is most similar to walking into your local H&R Block office to file your taxes. Since it takes place online, it can be cheaper and more convenient if you have a busy schedule.
With Tax Pro Go, the tax expert completes your tax return for you. This is ideal for complex returns where you deduct asset depreciation or payroll expenses.
How It Works
When you choose Tax Pro Go, you are matched with a tax professional who has expertise the state you are filing in and best suited for your particular situation. Then you simply drag and drop your tax documents via their online dashboard and you can also schedule a live call or chat with someone if you have any questions.
Once they are finished preparing your return, H&R Block will sign and file your return for you. This is perfect for those who are looking to maximize their return with the least amount of effort on their part.
4. File My Taxes For Me – Drop Off and Go
- Federal Cost Starting at $69
- State Cost will vary by state
With over 12,000 H&R Block locations across the United States, this is a great option if you feel more comfortable dropping off your taxes files in person.
Without even scheduling a time, you can pop in and drop off your tax documents and a tax professional will prepare, sign and file your taxes for you.
5. File My Taxes For Me In Office
- Federal Cost Starting at $69
- State Cost will vary by state
If you still prefer to meet in person with a tax professional, you can. H&R Block also offers in-person tax consulting with a tax pro in any of their 12,000 locations across the United States.
What I Like Most About H&R Block
- Most non-itemizers can file federal and state taxes free
- All plans can digitally import tax documents to quickly complete return
- Easy-to-Navigate Platform
- 4% Amazon gift card bonus
- Can have a tax expert review your return (Tax Pro Review or Tax Pro Go)
H&R is one of the best tax prep programs for free tax filing. Even if you have to pay, the user experience is better than discount filing programs.
What I Dislike About H&R Block
- Six years of storage only comes with paid plans
- Can file Self-Employed returns for less elsewhere online
If you want H&R Block to digitally save your tax documents, you must pay for a premium plan. Some people might wish to have free document storage in lieu of having H&R Block auto-fill your taxable income into your Form 1040 tax return.
What Else To Know About Filing 2019 Taxes
While you have to file income taxes every year, your tax return will be different this year. If your employer withholds part of your paycheck, you might already see a small difference in your take-home pay.
Below are a few important changes you should know about so you don’t think H&R Block is miscalculating your taxable income.
Fewer People Can Itemize
While we’re not going to talk about all the 2019-2020 tax law changes, one notable change is the increased standard deduction. Before, roughly 30% of taxpayers filed an itemized return with multiple tax-deductible expenses. That number is expected to shrink to 10% of all filers now.
This is partially because of several deduction removals like tax prep fees and unreimbursed work and travel expenses. Keep in mind, you can still deduct most of these expenses if you file a Schedule C to report self-employment income.
And, because the 2019 standard deduction increases to these new amounts:
- Single Filers: $12,200
- Head of Household: $18,350
- Married, Filing Jointly: $24,400
To “itemize,” you’re essentially limited to the three most commonly itemized expenses:
- Home Mortgage Interest
- State and Local Taxes
- Charitable Deductions
Change to Home Mortgage Interest Deduction
If you have a mortgage originating on or after December 15, 2017, you can only claim the interest paid on the first $750,000 loan balance.
This restriction primarily affects homebuyers in high-cost-of-living areas like San Francisco, Seattle and New York City.
State and Local Tax Deductions Capped at $10,000
You can now only deduct the first $10,000 in state and local income, sales, and property taxes each year. This deduction is more commonly known as SALT and will continue through 2025 per the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.
Anybody Can Deduct Student Loan Interest
One deduction that isn’t changing is deducting student loan interest. Even if you file for free, you can deduct the first $2,500 of student loan interest. You will receive Form 1098-E from your lenders stating how much interest you paid.
This deduction instantly reduces your taxable income just like pre-tax, traditional 401k or IRA contributions.
Health Insurance Is No Longer Required
For the past few years, you were subject to a financial penalty if you didn’t have adequate health insurance coverage from your employer, healthcare marketplace, or a health sharing ministry. The IRS collected this fee when you filed your federal income tax return.
With tax year 2019, the individual mandate is no more! If you paid penalties in the past, you won’t pay one this year.
Compare Prices for Downloading Software and Filing Online
To save a few dollars, compare H&R Block’s file online price to downloading their software first. In either case, your tax return is digitally sent to the IRS and your state’s tax agency.
While you might think filing online is always cheaper, H&R Block software downloads might be the cheaper option. If you have a computer and time to download, it’s worth price shopping.
Is Free Online Tax Filing Legit?
I might be dating myself here, but free tax filing online is still relatively new. As a cash-strapped college student, I would scour the web looking for free tax prep software. If you didn’t click the correct link on just the right page you had to pay to file your “free” return. But, you didn’t find out until after you entered all your information. So, you either paid the prep fee or re-entered all the information with a different tax prep program.
While these programs accurately calculated my tax refund, the experience wasn’t always pleasant. The websites were clunky and sometimes hard to navigate.
That’s not the case when you file taxes for free today. You can easily file with your phone, tablet, or computer. And, you no longer have to hand-enter all your information by hand.
What’s the Best Way to File This Year?
In summary, H&R Block has 5 different options to make sure all filers have the best option for filing this year. If you are the DIY-type, then you have the two options:
- H&R Block Free
- H&R Block Online Assist
But, if you would rather have a tax professional file for you (and I don’t blame you), then there are three options to choose from:
- Tax Pro Go where you upload all docs on line and a tax professional prepares, signs and files for you
- Drop off in office
- In-person consultation
Now, with each of the online options, you have four different tiers to choose from based on your current situation.
The Four Tiers of H&R Block Online Filing
H&R Block offers four core products. The summary below helps you quickly see which option your tax situation lands in.
- W-2 and dividend income only
- Not itemizing
- Didn’t sell any investments
- W-2 and dividend income only
- Can itemize
- Didn’t sell any investments
- W-2, dividend, or basic freelancer (Form 1099) income
- May or may not itemize
- Sold investments
- Own rental property
- Self-employment income
- Advanced business deductions including ridesharing expenses