Top positive review
Review and various tips
November 18, 2018
Update January 19, 2019: Almost all forms are final, but not all.
Form 2210 (underpayment penalty), 8582 (AMT calculation), 1040X, 1040-ES are not final.
I was able to download my State return.
Original review below, followed by old updates below.
I was anxious to do my taxes to see the effects of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for my specific case. The current version of the software has some of the changes from the new Tax Law in the current version, but many of the changes will be in the January 3, 2019 update. The warning “this interview is not final” appears on every page, and I could clearly see some things that no longer apply still there. For example, even though the standard deductions in H&R Block software were changed to $12,000/$24,000 the comments said “This year your itemized deductions are less than your standard deductions. In future years, you can bunch your deductions to have more expenses you can itemize.” This is no longer true, deductions over $12,000/$24,000 are no longer allowed. There was also a change in the interview about 401K deductions, and the interview did not say not to report 401K contribution during the interview if the deduction appears on the W2 form and when I reported it HRBlock gave me a double deduction. I would have loved to take that double deduction but I knew this was not right and went back to remove the amount from the interview when I saw the final result. By comparison, HSA deduction interview question stated not to report in the interview if that deduction was reported it on the W2 form.
I have been using H&R Block tax software for many years, and I typically do a preliminary version of the tax return in November. This year I felt the software was less ready than in other years due to a large number of changes related to the new tax law. I have less confidence that the numbers will remain the same after January 3 update.
I keep using H&RBlock because it does what I need and it has always been cheaper than TurboTax. I have been buying the Deluxe version of H&R Block because it covers the mutual funds sales, cost basis calculations are included (Schedule D), the form for Foreign Tax Credit from mutual funds is present (Form 1116), as well as stock sales. To get this functionality in TurboTax you need to buy the Premium version of the software.
* If you are using a digital download you will need an activation code to install the software.
The activation code is shown in Amazon email with the subject line "Your Amazon.com order of "H&R Block Tax Software Del...". If needed you can also get it from Amazon Software downloads. To locate it you need to do this:
1) Log into Amazon
2) Select 'Your account' and the section called 'Digital Content'
3) Select 'Your Games and Software downloads'
4) Then under H&R software entry you will see activation code
* Does H&R allow to install the software on two PCs?
No. The license agreement that one needs to accept during the install says this:
“Software copies. You may only install and use the Software on one computer. You may copy the Software for backup and archival purposes only, as long as the original and each copy are kept in your possession and control.”
* WHAT IS INCLUDED
Using tax software includes two fees - one to use the software and the second one to e-file the returns with IRS. This package includes the cost of using both the Federal tax return and State return for one state. If you need to file tax in two states, you will need to purchase the rights to use the second state software. This package also includes the cost of 5 free Federal e-files, but does NOT include the cost of e-file for the state return. Note that there is no limit on how many returns can be printed on paper for either Federal or State return, so you can print and mail any number of returns you desire.
Note 1: New York State law prohibits additional charges for State e-file (NY residents still have to pay for using the software).
Note 2: In the comments I posted a full list of states that allow e-file, as well as the list states that require the return to be printed and mailed.
* The state forms are not available as I write this review. When I tried to install my state return I got a message that I will receive an email when state return will become available.
When the state forms become available the state software can be downloaded directly from the H&R Block application from the first screen of the state tax preparation.
* Since many of my numbers are not final, I use the capability of the software to mark entries as “tentative” (right mouse click, then select “mark entry as tentative” from a drop down list).
At the end of the interview process there is a check step (which you can run at any time, but the interview ends with this check). This step flags problems (e.g. missing information) and potential audit alerts (e.g. unusual deductions), and reminders (e.g. things you marked tentative). I find this check step very helpful. All entries marked as tentative are listed so it is easy to update them.
* H&R Block starts the interview process with an annoying up-sell pitch, recommending an upgrade from Deluxe to Premium even when it is not necessary. In my opinion, they should have determined if the person would truly benefit from the Premium version first. That would have been useful. As it stands now it is just annoying.
What is the difference between Premium and Deluxe? The Premium version offers advanced tools for self-employed and rental property owners: cost basis of home sales, dividends, gifts, and inheritance assets. It has advanced schedule C guidance to maximize deductions for self-employment income. And finally it has guidance for rental property income and expenses. The rest of the Premium package is the same as Deluxe.
Note that the Deluxe package has support for self-employed income as well as stock sale cost basis calculations.
* To combat stolen-identity tax returns H&R Block now requires you to provide state-issued ID number.
* H&R Block provided me some guidance for completing Form 1116 (foreign tax credit, for example foreign tax paid by a mutual fund). However, I needed to keep switching between the whole-form view to enter data and then back to interview to read the instructions. Even though the form where you can enter data is visible at the same time as instructions you cannot enter data into it until you switch into whole-form view. This is cumbersome, but at least there is some guidance for this form.
* I like DeductionPro which helps suggests reasonable prices based on condition of the donated used clothing items. It is nice not to have to come up with what is reasonable on my own.
* The final tax return can be saved in a .PDF format for future reference. I always do that so I can re-print an old return without having to run an old copy of H&R Block (especially down the road when a new computer may not even have an old H&R Block installed).
* H&R Block can print forms when Ethernet connection is disconnected. In 2014 TurboTax's introduced a requirement that the data had to be sent to Intuit's servers to be formatted for printing. H&R Block does not have this requirement.
* Does H&R has the ability to import TurboTax data from previous years?
Yes. TurboTax files have a .tax extension. Use the Browse button within H&R Block application to navigate to the folder you need and it will import the data from TT return. In addition this year you can also import pdf file of your return no matter what software you used to save the old return.
* If you owe taxes there are three options for payment: electronic withdrawal from your bank, mailing a check and paying by credit card from a secure web site. Is there a charge to pay by credit card? Yes. There are several web sites that provide this service with a "convenience" fee (lowest fee is $2.58 flat fee for a debit card and 1.87% fee for a credit card). If you search for "pay taxes by credit or debit" you will see the detailed fee schedule on the irs.gov web site.
The price on H&R Block package changes often and you can catch some great discounts. I got H&R Block on Black Friday sale. If you missed that sale you can still get bargains by using a tool that alerts on Amazon prices discounts for any product. If you enter "Amazon price history alert" in Google it will come up at the top, my favorite has the word "camel" (repeated 3 times) in the name. You can set it up to send you an alert when you desired price drop is reached. During the last tax year season the price fluctuated between $20 and the list price of $44.99, dipping below $30 a number of times. It also qualifies for digital credits for No-rush Prime shipping.
Also note that Amazon adds the State sales tax to the final price of H&R Block (in states where it has physical presences such as Massachusetts).
This year software is less “ready” due to the large number of tax changes, however I had no technical issues or software glitches. If you have a question I have not covered leave a comment and I will do my best to answer it.
Ali Julia review
Update December 2018:
I am posting an update from the comments section to alert people who may not read the comments. @I.P. thanks for the update.
The 2018 software has a H&R Block known critical issue. When starting a return and trying to import your 2017 data the program will crash if your 2017 Schedule B/1099B has more than 250 stock entries. H&R Block claims the issue will be fixed in the first update in Jan.
Update January 5, 2019.
I successfully updated H&R Block without technical issues. However (1) A number of forms are still not final (e.g. charitable deductions, Keoghs/Simple IRA, check for penalties, and a few others) (2) State version for my State was still not available
Update January 20, 2019
I ran into an issue trying to save my return as PDF995 (i.e. as PDF). Reinstalling PDF995 software (it comes with H&R Block software) did not help. When I looked under Print Settings it showed PDF995 as the default printer. I had to change the default printer to my real printer and then I was able to successfully save as PDF995. I wanted to share this tip in case someone else runs into this issue.
This year there have been problem with activation code which surfaces during e-file. You can get a new code by calling 1-888-482-9288 and pressing 4.
When the activation code fails the software will request $10 charge for e-file. This cost is already included in the software purchase, don't pay it. Be aware that you credit card gets authorized even if there is no charge made and this might trigger fraud alert.
If you need to chat with H&R block I posted a link to 24 hour active chat on H&R block web site in the comments (no links allowed in the review).