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Tax season has arrived in the United States, and for many folks, this means using tax preparation products to file federal and state taxes. As usual, the two most significant tax preparation services, H&R Block and TurboTax, are offering free online services for qualified users. However, these free products aren’t all equal.
For the tax year 2018, H&R Block has pulled out the stops and is offering more credits and deductions than the free TurboTax product. In doing so, H&R Block’s free plan includes 45 forms required for filing, versus just 22 from TurboTax.
Let’s take a further look at what H&R Block’s free tool offers.
Who Should Use H&R Block’s Free Online Service?
The free online service from H&R Block is designed for those who receive a W-2, have kids, and pay rent. It’s also ideally suited for tax situations where one may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, has childcare expenses, pays student loan interest, or had income from a retirement plan.
Those likely to receive a child tax credit or who rely on Social Security income also qualify. H&R Block’s basic plan offers simple W-2 importing through snapping a picture, self-help via an online help center, and technical support chat.
What Forms Does H&R Block Offer?
H&R Block’s free offering lets you file your federal and state return for free. Keep in mind that this only covers basic returns, however. These include the traditional 1040, Schedule EIC, and Schedule 8812.
You can also use this package with other common tax forms such as Form 1099 (including B, DIV, INT, and R), 1098 (E and T) and 1095 (A and B). If you require other forms, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan.
How H&R Block’s Free Plan Differs From TurboTax’s
Using H&R Block’s free plan, you can submit student loan interest and tuition payment information. You can also file for the Child and Dependent Care Credit and Form 8880, the so-called “Saver’s Credit.” Social Security, unemployment income, and Form 8965 Health Coverage Exemptions are also covered under the basic plan, unlike the free TurboTax version.
Did you live in more than one state in 2018? H&R Block’s free plan allows you to submit multiple state filings for free, while TurboTax’s free plan only allows you one free state filing.
Here’s a breakdown of the differences between both plans:
If you’re paying off student loans, you can qualify for credits and deductions, including:
- Student Loan Interest Deduction
- Tuition and Fees Statement (1098-T)
- American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Education Credit
Of these three, TurboTax’s free version does not include the first two.
For parents, several credits are available to bring the tax bill down, including:
- Child and Dependent Care Expenses Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Additional Child Tax Credit
- Earned Income Credit
These credits are all available in H&R Block’s free program. You’ll need to pay extra with TurboTax to see if you qualify for the first credit on this list.
Finally, Health Coverage Exemptions (form 8965) and part-year health care coverage can be calculated for free through H&R Block’s basic plan. Unfortunately, the same does not apply to Turbo’s free offering.
Don’t Forget H&R Block’s Other Plans
For those who don’t qualify for H&R Block’s free tax preparation plan, there are others to choose from.
The H&R Block Deluxe plan is $29.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for each state. By comparison, the TurboTax Deluxe plan costs $39.99 for federal filing and $39.99 for each state. This program is ideally suited for homeowners who pay real estate taxes, make charitable contributions, and use a Health Savings Account (HSA).
The Deluxe plan also includes DeductionPro to help you optimize donations for the most deductions. Other benefits to using this plan include access to six years’ worth of tax returns and technical support, by both chat and phone.
Meanwhile, the H&R Block Premium plan is for freelancers, contractors, and investors. This is the one you should use if you have income with expenses of less than $5,000, or have stock sales or rental property income. The Premium Plan is $49.99 for federal filing and $36.99 per state. These prices compare favorably to TurboTax Premium, available for $59.99 and $39.99, respectively.
There is also an H&R Block Self-Employed plan which costs $79.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for each state. TurboTax’s similar plan is priced at $89.99 and $39.99, respectively. The Self-Employed plan is for those with small business expenses, including home office, depreciation, and vehicle expenses.
H&R Block also has brick-and-mortar stores where you can have agents assist you with your filing. These H&R Block in-person packages start at $49.
This Tax Season, the Choice Is Clear
Both H&R Block and Turbo offer free tax preparation plans. However, as we’ve seen, the free plan from H&R Block offers more credits and deductions. It’s the one you should use if you qualify. Doing your taxes has never been easier!