For the last several years, the competition among personal tax preparation websites for our Editors’ Choice award has resulted in a photo finish. H&R Block has won the award once in recent years, but the top slot has most often gone to TurboTax. That said, both services work hard each year to improve and innovate, and no one should take the winner for granted from year to year—we certainly don’t.
There are so many areas where TurboTax and H&R Block are similar, which is why they both scored 4.5 stars. They’re comprehensive, and they cover all of the tax situations that an individual is likely to need to face. They even allow you to enter the details of complex transactions like investment sales. Both, for example, can handle virtual currency like bitcoin in your taxes. But there are enough differences in TurboTax’s favor that it won the Editors’ Choice distinction this year.
We’ll walk you through the sites’ similarities and differences, declaring a winner (or a tie) in each category. At the end, we’ll add up the totals. Keep in mind that they’re both amazing feats of website design. Their developers managed to take the highly fragmented and complex tax-filing process and turn it into a friendly, step-by-step journey.
Which Tax Service Is More Affordable?
The most obvious difference between TurboTax and H&R Block is the price. Both offer four versions that support similar tax topics. H&R Block costs slightly less overall. Its free version covers W-2 income, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), student expenses like tuition and loan interest, unemployment, and retirement income. The TurboTax Free Edition allows you to report on W-2 and unemployment income, the EITC, and child tax credits. It also covers limited interest and dividend income reported on a 1099-INT or 1099-DIV.
The Deluxe versions of both are the most popular. H&R Block costs $49.99 and $36.99 for filing federal and state returns, respectively. It adds access to live phone or chat tech support and coverage of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). You can itemize since the Schedule A is included, as well as enter self-employed income, including contract and gig work. You can’t record self-employment expenses, though, as there’s no Schedule C. TurboTax’s Deluxe version is roughly comparable, though it adds in the student loan interest and education credits that H&R Block offers in its free version. TurboTax Deluxe costs $60 and $50 for federal and state returns, respectively.
If you need to report on investments or rental property, you’ll need H&R Block Premium or TurboTax Premier. Note that TurboTax is better at covering cryptocurrency investments. H&R Block Premium costs $69.99 for federal returns and $36.99 per state. TurboTax Premier charges $90 for federal returns and $50 per state. Self-employed individuals who need the Schedule C have to go for the most expensive versions of both. H&R Block Self-Employed is $109.99 for federal returns and $36.99 per state. TurboTax Self-Employed is more expensive: $120 and $50 for federal and state returns, respectively.
While we’re talking fees, you should always keep in mind that you might not have to pay anything to file your taxes. To find out, you can read E-Filing Your Taxes for Free: Are You Eligible?
There are a few other things to keep in mind, too. No matter which version you use, you don’t have to pay until you file your return. Also, at this writing, H&R Block is still offering its discounts for early filers, while TurboTax is not. (Lower fees is just one of the benefits of not being a last-minute tax filer). H&R Block could go up to full price at any time. And remember that if you have to file in more than one state, you have to pay a fee for each one.
Winner: H&R Block
The user experience for tax websites is unique. While other types of websites use fill-in-the-blank forms, checkboxes, and wizards, that’s all you’ll find on tax sites. On most other websites, you have to familiarize yourself with the home page and learn all the menus, toolbars, and icons so you can find your way around. You often move from one function to another in no particular order. Tax websites, on the other hand, are absolutely linear (or they should be). There is a beginning and an end to the filing process, after all.
We evaluate the quality of a tax website’s user experience based on more than the attractiveness of its fonts, graphics, and layout, though those certainly contribute, too. The user experience can make or break your tax filing experience, so we consider it extremely important. It includes aspects of usability, design, and functionality.
Each site has a distinct personality. TurboTax tries to be a little more conversant, and its language is more casual and understandable; in other words, not quite so filled with IRS jargon. It does a better job of introducing the various topic areas and providing an ending for individual sections. It’s designed to make you feel like you’re having a long conversation rather than just going through a series of data entry screens. H&R Block feels more matter-of-fact. It’s friendly, without bordering on being cloying (TurboTax is sometimes guilty of this).
The sites’ user interfaces are different, too. TurboTax tends to sprawl across the screen. H&R Block is more compact and its screens look more like official forms than state-of-the-art web pages, though they are still visually appealing. Both display readable fonts and occasional graphics.
When we were using TurboTax, we were rarely at a loss about what came next, thanks to its conspicuous navigation cues on every page. H&R Block also provides good navigation cues, though they’re not always as prominent. Turbo Tax flows more easily and transparently from one topic to the next and can sometimes help you forget that you’re doing your income taxes, with all the pain that usually implies.
H&R Block’s user experience is excellent, but TurboTax ‘s is more aesthetically-pleasing and offers better navigation tools. In fact, TurboTax’s user experience is superior to every other finance-related website we reviewed.
The Preparation Process
TurboTax and H&R Block both provide a complete, start-to-finish experience. They walk you through the 1040 and its assorted forms and schedules, asking questions and moving your answers onto the IRS forms, without you ever having to see them. You just click navigation icons to advance or go back. The sites do all of the necessary calculations and review your return when you’re finished, at which point you can pay their fee and e-file. You can even print your return if you’d like.
They move through the tax preparation process similarly. There are sections—especially at the beginning—where you answer a series of questions by entering data or clickin
g buttons on each screen. As you move into the actual preparation process, the sites divide their content into broad areas like income and deductions. They present lists of all the topics included and use mini-wizards to move you through the Q&As.
Both TurboTax and H&R Block follow the same general topic order: personal information; income; deductions and credits; taxes and other tax situations; and wrap-up. But there’s a lot of room for differences within each broader area. Their order of questioning varies, but both sites follow logical patterns. For example, H&R Block waits to ask a lot of preliminary questions until you get into the income section. TurboTax handles these in earlier screens.
Tax preparation can be unpleasant, and you don’t want to waste a lot of time waiting for screens to refresh. Neither site makes you wait long, though H&R Block is faster overall. You also don’t want to click and scroll any more than is necessary. Sometimes a screen on these sites will ask just one question on a series of screens and force you to click excessively. Other times, the sites put a lot of queries on the same page and require you to scroll quite a bit. Both sites have some unwieldy pages. However, TurboTax advances you automatically when you answer a question on some pages, which saves time and clicks.
H&R Block does not allow you to advance to future topics until you’ve finished the previous screens. That might hold you up if you really want to power through and come back later to provide missing details. TurboTax does let you jump ahead and create flags with notes to remind you about the information you didn’t have at the time. The flexibility is nice, but working out of sequence can be confusing.
Digging for Deductions
It’s impossible to see absolutely every screen when we’re running our sample returns through the sites. But, in our particular journey, we found that TurboTax digs deeper in many areas and allows you to document your personal and business income and expenses more thoroughly, especially in advanced topic areas. For example, at the beginning of the income section, it runs through a list of the types of income you might have, so you don’t miss anything. H&R Block isn’t as proactive in this regard. You have to click the Add Income button on the income home page to see a list.
There are more examples. When you’re entering office expenses on a Schedule C, H&R Block just gives you one blank field for a total. TurboTax lets you add multiple lines so you can list the types of expenses that make up that total. And when you’re finished entering your home energy credits, TurboTax displays a link that says, “Did I get the full credit?” The window that opens explains more about the credit, so you can be sure you’re claiming everything you can.
While H&R Block does give you the option to import transactions from your broker(s) and enter groups of stock sales rather than individual ones, TurboTax is better overall at reporting on investment sales. H&R Block displays fill-in-the-blank screens for each sale (or group) if you’re entering them manually. Each field is labeled with the corresponding box number from the 1099-B. TurboTax asks a series of questions first (such as “Employee stock?” “How many sales?” and “Other types of investments, like land?”). Then, it makes a recommendation on how to enter them and provides exceptional guidance—better than H&R Block’s—as it walks you through this complex process.
TurboTax is better at reporting cryptocurrency, too. It allows you to record sales; conversions and exchanges; and any goods and services you purchased with cryptocurrency. You can import your information directly from eight cryptocurrency services, including Coinbase, Bit Taxer, and Robinhood, or enter it manually. H&R Block has a help topic that tells you to report it under Form 1099-S (Sale of other real estate, collectibles, and other investment property).
Excellent Help Resources
TurboTax and H&R Block excel at providing support to users. Over the years, tax sites have rewritten the arcane IRS instructions many times to be more understandable to the average taxpayer. Today, both H&R Block and TurboTax offer several types of help content. For example, as you read the questions and statements on each screen, they expand on the current query with simple explanations and sometimes link words or phrases to resources with further explanations. We ran into more pages in H&R Block that had no hyperlinks at all than in TurboTax.
Both display this additional guidance in a vertical pane of the screen, but H&R Block has a slight edge here. Its content is always context-sensitive and changes as you advance from one screen to the next. If you’re using TurboTax, you have to click a link to get the written assistance to update. Sometimes the help content appears in a window in the middle of the screen and blocks your view of your work, too. We think TurboTax’s rewrites of IRS instructions are more conversational and easier to comprehend than H&R Block’s, though TurboTax needs to fix the issue with the positioning of some help content.
Both TurboTax and H&R Block have searchable databases of tax information. Simply enter a word or phrase to find well-written, accessible articles (usually) and, often, pages where you can enter the related information. Both sites do a good job here. The first few links typically address the specific question, but sometimes veer off into other topics or very specific situations that don’t affect most taxpayers.
Then, there are the interactive help tools that both offer. These are automated conversations with bots, that respond to you as if they were a real person typing back at you. You can enter a question or phrase and the tool offers links to answers and additional resources. In TurboTax, it’s called the TurboTax Digital Assistant. You open it by clicking on a question mark in the upper right corner of the interface.
H&R Block calls it the Virtual As
sistant, and it doesn’t work as well as TurboTax’s. In fact, sometimes it just wouldn’t open at all. You first have to click on a question mark in the upper right to open the searchable help screen. Then, you click on the chat icon in the lower right. We typed in several common terms and phrases such as “Where do I enter prescriptions” and “IRA” and “investment income” and didn’t get any helpful hits. Eventually, it asked if we wanted to chat with a live support agent. TurboTax gave me far more hits, some of which were helpful. You’re likely to have much better luck if you just use the searchable help on both sites.
Both H&R Block and TurboTax make CPAs, EAs, and other tax experts available for unlimited live support as you prepare your taxes. You communicate with them via video chat. You can see them, but they can’t see you. H&R Block calls this Online Assist and we were quoted a price of $60 when we were testing with H&R Block’s Self-Employed edition. For $29.99 more, we could have added Tax Pro Review and had a tax professional review, sign, and e-file our return. H&R Block Self-Employed itself costs $109.99 for federal returns and $36.99 per state, so the total cost for the site and its virtual support would have been roughly $237.
TurboTax has a similar service: TurboTax Live. The base price for TurboTax Self-Employed is $120 for federal and $50 for state returns. TurboTax Live Self-Employed costs $200 plus $55 per state. Both companies also allow you to upload your tax documents to a pro for preparation, review, and filing. Prices vary based on the complexity of the return. People who were self-employed for some part of their income last year should read Did You Work for Uber, Lyft, or DoorDash Last Year? Here’s What It Means for Your Taxes.
There are probably millions of U.S. taxpayers—most of them younger, with uncomplicated financial situations—who complete and file their tax returns on their smartphones. Both H&R Block and TurboTax make this possible. These apps are so comprehensive that you could prepare even a complex return with them.
The TurboTax Return App is available for both iOS and Android. It offers the same tax topics that are available on the browser-based version, and it incorporates the same sleek look and personality. Intuit offers two other mobile apps: TaxCaster and ItsDeductible. You can enter a few details about your life to get an estimate of your tax refund by using TaxCaster, while ItsDeductible is a tool you can use all year to record your charitable donations. At tax time, you can sync that data with TurboTax.
The H&R Block Tax Prep and File app (iOS and Android) does a beautiful job of replicating the desktop experience. Both versions offer simple navigation, an able help system, and comprehensive coverage of tax topics. Screens look just like they do on the browser-based version, with a few exceptions. For example, the mobile versions display icons at the bottom of the screen, replacing the desktop version’s top toolbar.
All things being equal, we’d rather prepare a return on the H&R Block mobile apps than on TurboTax’s. H&R Block’s apps are faster. They have more visible navigation tools, so it’s easier to get out of the current line of questioning and move somewhere else (as long as you’ve been through the section you want to visit.) The help sections are more thorough too; the apps use the searchable help system found on the website, while TurboTax’s app relies on its Digital Assistant. And H&R Block’s apps didn’t occasionally stall like TurboTax’s did.
Of course, if you’re using TurboTax on the desktop, you’re going to use its companion mobile app, which is fine. It’ll get you there capably. But if you’re planning to prepare your taxes on your smartphone only, I’d go with H&R Block.
Winner: H&R Block
H&R Block and TurboTax are clearly your two best options when it comes to preparing and filing your personal income taxes online. They’re also the most expensive tax sites we reviewed, but they are definitely worth the extra money if you want the best, most comprehensive experience.
As for our scoring, there were four ties. H&R Block won two categories, Price and Mobile. However, the difference in cost is not substantial, and not everyone will use the mobile apps. The two categories that TurboTax won are more closely tied to the actual tax preparation process: User Experience and Digging for Deductions. When you get down to the nuts and bolts of taxes, all other things being equal, those are two of the attributes that matter most, and that’s why TurboTax was the clear winner among this year’s tax preparation services. Still, If you’ve used H&R Block in the past and are happy with it, you might want to stick with what you know.
As always, be vigilant in protecting your privacy during the tax-filing season. Our guide on how to avoid tax scams can help you out.