If you want the advantage of going with a trusted name in tax preparation but prefer the convenience of doing it at home, you might consider H&R Block’s assortment of online services. From simple do-it-yourself State and Federal E-file returns to full-service preparation without leaving your chair, they offer a product for every need and every budget. I found H&R Block’s online interface to be slick and intuitive, with complete instructions for each step in the tax preparation process. All information is entered into secure web pages, meaning that your critical tax data is encrypted for your safety. However, you should be sure that your computer is virus and malware-free before you start. For additional security, pages will time out if left idle. If you anticipate being away from the keyboard for a while, or need to take a break, you can save your work and come back to it later using your own unique login. Users who owe taxes can pay via H&R Block’s website, or opt to pay the IRS themselves.
The best feature of H&R Block’s online tax preparation offerings is that you can choose the level of assistance you need. The Free Edition + E-file service allows users to fill out and submit their own 1040-EZ for no cost. For $19.95 more, you can add on H&R Block’s Worry-free Audit Support® guarantee, as well as the option to import existing information from TurboTax or H&R Block TaxCut software, or info on file at your local H&R Block office. If you’re willing to pay $39.95 or more, you can take advantage of advice from a licensed tax professional.
Of course, there are some drawbacks. State tax preparation will cost you an extra $29.95 per state return issued, even if you use the Free Edition. Since many states offer fill-in PDF forms these days, it’s hard to say quite what it is you’re paying for. Also, if you’re new to E-file as I was last year, H&R Block will surprise you at the end of your session by asking for your Federal E-file PIN. In the end, I had to change my order to pre-filled PDF files (something which I could have produced on my own) and mail them. (If you’re a new E-filer, check out this IRS E-file checklist to find out what you’ll need to do it properly.)
Overall, H&R Block’s products are a reasonable value for the money if you anticipate needing some extra support when you file, or if you’d like audit protection. For a simple return, though, the Free Edition is not substantially better than what an enterprising individual can produce on his or her own, and isn’t a great value if you plan to prepare your state taxes at the same time. For most, H&R Block’s online offerings will save time more than money, and they’re great for individuals who don’t have time to file with a tax preparer in person.