TurboTax vs. H&R Block 2019: Which is the best tax software?

Though both services are excellent, certain situations make one the better choice over the other.

hrblock vs turbotax primary
Rob Schultz / IDG

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If you’ve been procrastinating on your taxes, we understand. Part of the challenge is deciding which tax preparer to trust with this annual chore. To help, we pitted two of the best web-based tax-filing applications against each other: TurboTax and H&R Block.

When we reviewed the 2019 versions of popular tax software, these two options finished at the top of the pile. Each offers excellent features and capabilities, clear user interfaces that are easy to understand, and collections of features that most tax filers need. But a few differences give each an edge depending on the situation.

(If you're looking for the best software based on overall circumstances, and not just one or two specific features, you can jump straight to the bottom of this article.)

Let’s dig in.

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Best free software

Figuring out how much it costs to file your taxes depends largely on how complicated your taxes are and whether or not your state requires you to file income taxes.

Both H&R Block and TurboTax offer free state and federal filings for many users, but H&R Block offers free filing for a broader range of users, including folks who have student loan interest and tuition deductions, or child and dependent care exemptions.

Winner: H&R Block

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Price

TurboTax pricing 2019 Macworld

TurboTax's in-app features are slightly better than H&R Block's, but you will pay a little more for them.

For those who can’t use the free filing option, TurboTax and H&R Block offer essentially the same features in packages that have slightly different names. They also both offer options for getting personalized online help from a tax professional for a fee.

TurboTax is about $10 more expensive, by package, than H&R Block is. However, no matter which company you choose, you’ll pay about $40 to file your state return, if your state requires you to file a tax return.

Winner: H&R Block

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Ease of use

For most of the last several years, TurboTax was always the clear winner when it came to user interface and the ease with which you could complete your taxes—but this year, H&R Block has evened things up.

Both TurboTax and H&R Block offer interfaces that are clear and easy to use, with pleasant color schemes. They also each ask clear interview questions that leave you confident that you’ve selected the correct answers and that you’ve entered all the necessary information for the best return possible.

TurboTax does have one annoying behavior—it often asks if you’d like to upgrade to a different version of the app. H&R Block does offer upgrade options, but you’re not getting upsold as constantly while using it. Overall, though, it’s a minor irritation.

Winner: Tie

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Access to professional tax help

h&r block tax pro info Macworld

H&R Block holds an advantage in that you can visit a tax pro in person to talk about your return.

TurboTax and H&R Block both offer access to live help from tax pros, but H&R Block has the advantage with physical offices nearly everywhere. Once you’re done entering your information, you have the option to take your return to one of H&R Block’s local offices. If you’re seeking feedback from people with deep expertise, getting in-person interaction is hard to beat.

Winner: H&R Block

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Self-employed taxes

Though a little more expensive than H&R Block, TurboTax’s higher price tag is worth it for independent contractors. if you file using TurboTax Self-Employed, you’ll also get a year’s access to QuickBooks Self-Employed as part of your TurboTax package.

QuickBooks Self-Employed makes it easy to track your self-employment income throughout the year; guides you when it comes to paying quarterly and self-employment taxes; and helps you keep a better eye on your business-related expenses (and thus possibly a better outcome for next year’s tax season).

Winner: TurboTax

TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Conclusion

The best tax software for you, of course, won’t always line up neatly with a purchase based purely on price or a single feature. So here are our picks for who wins between TurboTax and H&R Block, when based on a more holistic set of criteria.

Basic filers

If you:

  • Have few deductions
  • Won’t itemize your expenses
  • Have no 1099 income
  • Have college interest and tuition expenses
  • And it’s likely you’ll be using a basic 1040 form

H&R Block is the tax application for you. You’ll get far more forms for free and more bang for your no bucks using H&R Block.

Homeowners, Parents, and/or Investors

If you:

  • Receive W-2 income
  • Own a home
  • Have children
  • Have investment income and expenses
  • Plan on doing your taxes on your own
  • Would like the option to have someone review your taxes online

Either TurboTax and H&R Block will suit your needs perfectly. Have a look at each to see which version feels best to you, since the $10 price difference between the two is too little to worry about. Your level of comfort should be your guide when choosing.

tax return life circumstances 2019 (2) Macworld

TurboTax and H&R Block both do a good job handling returns for homeowners, parents, and basic investors, so pick the one with the interface you like most.

Self-Employed (Independent contractors)

If you:

  • Are self-employed
  • Make any income reported on a 1099
  • Mix business and personal expenses
  • Should be paying quarterly taxes

TurboTax is the tax application for you, especially because you get QuickBooks Self-employed when you file your taxes with TurboTax Self-employed. Which, for next tax season, will help you avoid underpayment penalties and stay on top quarterly taxes for the 2019 tax season.

People seeking input from a tax pro

If you:

  • Want the benefit of a personal touch or you want to be able to meet with a real person in a physical building

H&R Block is the ticket for you, as it’s the only one of the two options that offers brick-and-mortar businesses you go to to finalize your taxes.

Complicated tax returns

  • If you:
  • Have made unusual purchases
  • Have bought and sold property
  • Flip houses
  • Spend a lot of time making your income by trading securities

We recommend that you skip TurboTax and H&R Block and instead a few extra bucks on having a tax professional who’s well-versed in the specifics of what you do handle your taxes. If you do, it’s more likely that you’ll get the best bang for your buck and avoid an audit.

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