H & R Block Tax Software
There probably aren’t a whole lot of taxpayers in the United States who are unfamiliar with H & R Block, but few may know about H & R Block Tax Software. The company has been around for nearly 60 years, and they’ve done extensive advertising, so for many Americans, the name is synonymous with “tax preparation.” The company currently has more than 11,000 tax preparation offices in the United States alone, along with more than a thousand in other countries. Chances are good that there’s an office near you, and more than twenty million Americans have their taxes prepared for them by H & R Block every year. What you may not realize, however, is that the company also offers a do it yourself software product, H & R Block Tax Software, that allows you to prepare your tax returns at home, using intuitive, easy to use software that walks you through the process, yet costs you a fraction of the price you’d pay to have the company do your taxes for you. Originally called TaxCut and also known as H & R Block at Home, the product now referred to on their Website as H & R Block Tax Software comes in four versions, each of which is designed to help people with specific tax needs.
All four versions of H & R Block Tax Software are downloadable, which means you can get started quickly. While the company does offer a free online edition for Federal tax returns, this version of the software is quite limited in ability and scope.
The Basic Edition of H & R Block Tax Software is for filers who have limited deductions and basic W2 income. It does allow you to import last year’s return information from H & R Block’s own software as well as Turbotax and Quicken.
The Deluxe Edition of H & R Block Tax Software is designed for homeowners or investors, and has additional features to help you with mortgage interest deductions, valuation of charitable deductions, and investment and dividends. This edition also includes everything in the Basic Edition above.
The Premium Edition of H & R Block Tax Software is designed for those who are self-employed or own rental property, so it includes the necessary sections to handle business deductions (Schedule C) and rental property income (Schedule E). This edition also includes everything in the Deluxe Edition above.
Premium & Business Edition
The Premium & Business Edition of H & R Block Tax Software is primarily for small business owners, as it includes sections for partnership, corporations, and LLC businesses. It also includes forms for handling payroll and other related issues. This edition also includes everything in the Premium edition above.
Prices currently range from $19.95 for the Basic Edition to $79.95 for the Premium & Business Edition. Keep in mind that these versions of the software are for Federal tax returns only; tax returns for your state, if necessary, are extra.
Pros and Cons of H & R Block Tax Software
H & R Block has been in business for a long time, and they have some rather elaborate in-house software to help their tax preparers quickly and efficiently do their customers’ taxes. It’s no surprise, then, that H & R Block Tax Software is thorough, intuitive, and fairly easy to use.
Each section of H & R Block Tax Software has an overview and a checklist to make you aware of what needs to be covered in that section and to help ensure that you provide all of the necessary information. If appropriate, follow-up questions will be asked when you check certain boxes if additional information is needed. Help is always available, as is additional information via “Learn More” links on every page. Pages for deductions will have section-specific help pages to make it easy for you to decide what does and does not qualify as a deduction, for instance.
Each section also provides you with the ability to add a “bookmark” in case you need to come back to either recheck your information or to add additional information later. These bookmarks appear at the top of the page for easy reference, and you can add notes to remind yourself why you put the bookmark there in the first place. The software also has a good search utility for finding particular forms, and it can auto complete your search in case you’re not sure of the name. That can come in quite handy for seldom-used forms.
Printing your forms is easy, using a large icon at the top of the page. You can print current forms, as well as returns from previous years, provided that you’ve previously imported them.
Help is also available both online and over the phone, and H & R Block is more than happy to discuss any problems you may be having with the software or your return. This is a nice alternative to many tax preparation products, which only have help available online or via email.
The import feature is a bit of a problem, as you are only allowed to import data one time. You need to get it right, otherwise, you won’t have the opportunity to import again.
The pricing of H & R Block Tax Software is reasonable compared to having them do your taxes for you, but it can be somewhat expensive when compared with other products. Depending on whether you need state returns or not, it can cost $100 or so to prepare your taxes yourself. While this is a good product, there are others out there that can do the same thing for less money, so that’s really a decision you need to make.
All in all, H & R Block Tax Software is a good product that will work well for many consumers. It does have one significant drawback, however – the software isn’t clairvoyant, and it can only work with the information that you provide to it. Sure, H & R Block Tax Software can help you maximize your deductions, but there are ways to deduct certain expenses that it doesn’t know about. Sometimes, tax law allows you to make calculations in several different ways and one method might work better than another. That’s great if you know that, but the software may not.
The bottom line is that H & R Block Tax Software is for tax preparation, and not Tax Strategy. It’s the latter that is going to save you the most money. What you need in addition to good tax preparation software is a source of information that will show you deductions, tax breaks, and other completely legal methods of saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your taxes.
After all, you could be paying thousands of dollars in extra taxes, every year, and not even know it. There’s a solution for that, and it’s simple, up to date, and something that will help you save money each and every year.
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