Research shows that tax season gives Americans anxiety and confusion reigns around how to prepare taxes.
There isn’t much in this world that could make taxes fun. However, by picking the right tax preparation route for your needs you can cut out some of the stress and confusion that comes with reporting your earnings to Uncle Sam.
However, before you lay out money on tax preparation, it’s important that you know which solution is going to fit your budget and your requirements.
In this guide on H&R Block vs TurboTax vs an accountant, we are going to be looking at the pros and cons of each of these tax preparation solutions so that you can determine which fits the bill for your tax requirements. Read on to get clear on how to choose between these three options.
The first area where TurboTax, H&R Block, and accounting services differ is in capability. The differences TurboTax vs H&R Block are worth taking a look at, as these two services are often thought to be very similar.
Also, its also important to consider H&R Block and TurboTax vs an accountant, as accountants provide a different type of service to these two tax preparation solutions.
TurboTax offers users a self-serve tax preparation platform. The platform is laid out to be highly user-friendly, with many of the fields formatted in a questionnaire style.
TurboTax offers a number of different packages, including a free basic package, live basic, deluxe, premier, and self-employed. If you require live assistance from a tax professional, you can access this via screen sharing for an additional cost.
One of the advantageous features of TurboTax is that thanks to the fact that it is owned by Intuit, the self-employed package supports integration with QuickBooks. This means that you can import your expenses with very little effort if you use Quickbooks for your business accounts.
Overall, TurboTax is a highly user-friendly solution that is suited to individuals who want to file their own returns and want a highly streamlined and clear process.
H&R Block is similar to TurboTax in that with this solution you can fill out your own return. However, where TurboTax vs H&R Block differs is that H&R Block also offers you the option to have your tax returned completed and filed by one of their staff.
You can either upload the applicable documents for this, drop them off at one of H&R Block’s locations, or work one-on-one with a tax professional.
Lastly, for a blend between the two services, you can choose to fill out your return yourself, but with the option to pay for live, on-demand help.
One of the perks of H&R Block for customers is their physical locations. For those that are not comfortable doing their taxes online, dropping off their documents at one of H&R Block’s locations can be an easy solution.
Similar to TurboTax, H&R Block also offers different levels of packages. Their current packages include the free option, basic online assist, deluxe, premium, and self-employed.
Unlike TurboTax, H&R Block does not offer integration with accounting packages. However, what it does offer (in its self-employed package) is the ability to import Uber driver tax information.
In summary, H&R Block provides a similar service to TurboTax, along with options to have their staff complete your return for you.
In contrast to services like TurboTax and H&R Block, accountant services are tailored to your needs. They are more personal, as you will likely sit down with your account or have a virtual meeting. They will ask you questions, and then prepare your return for you and file it.
If they know their stuff, they might also be able to spot deductions that you weren’t aware of.
However, where the real difference of H&R Block and TurboTax vs an accountant comes in is that they can provide tailored advice and tax planning. This is ideal if your business has grown, or if you need to plan strategically for things like capital gains taxes.
Overall, hiring an accountant is a good idea if you want an accountant’s advice and know-how for your taxes, or if you are in possession of numerous assets and investments. An accountant can also give you tax-related advice on areas such as blended marriages and joint returns.
Be aware that you will need to provide your accountant with an accurate set of books. Any errors in these will fall at your door, not their’s. What’s more, if your books are incomplete, and the accountant has to process things like receipts—this will drive your bill way up.
When it comes to TurboTax vs H&R Block, TurboTax is renowned for having excellent customer service. However, this doesn’t mean that H&R Block’s customer support is lacking.
One thing to be aware of with H&R Block is that many of the ‘tax professionals’ on their floor are not CPAs or accountants. While they are trained in filling out tax returns, for complex matters they will need to refer to someone higher up to make a call.
When it comes to what level of customer support you will receive from an independent accountant, this can vary. Some accountants are easy to reach and easy to make an appointment with. Others might be so popular that you have to book an appointment months in advance.
However, by and large, you should get a good level of ‘customer support’ from an accountant, as their job is to cater to your financial needs as a customer.
H&R Block is cheaper than TurboTax. Their packages cost significantly less, however, TurboTax has recently brought down their prices to be more competitive. Let’s take a look at how the different tiers of TurboTax and H&R Block compare.
H&R Block offers a free package that includes basic federal and state returns. However, if your taxes fall beyond the scope of a 1040, Schedule EIC, and Schedule 8812, then you will need to look at the paid tiers. These include the following:
- H&R Block Deluxe: $49.99 for federal returns and $36.99 for state returns (provides for itemization and includes forms for homeowners)
- H&R Block Premium: $69.99 for federal returns and $36.99 for state returns (includes Schedule C-EZ, Schedule D, Schedule K-1returns, Schedule E, and accurate cost basis)
- H&R Block Self-Employed: $104.99 for federal returns and $36.99 for state returns (includes the features of all other packages along with Schedule C)
TurboTax also has a free package that includes a 1040 and some child tax credits. Once again, if your taxes are anything other than basic, you will need to go with one of the paid tiers, which include:
- TurboTax Deluxe: $60 for federal returns and $45 for state returns (includes a charitable donations calculator)
- TurboTax Premier: $90 for federal returns and $45 for state returns (caters to rental property and investment income, stock gains/losses reporting, and refinancing deductions)
- TurboTax Self-Employed: $120 for federal returns and $45 for state returns (includes access to self-employment tax experts, and focuses on maximizing business deductions)
As far as an accountant goes—the price you’ll pay can vary widely. However, as most experienced accountants tend to charge anywhere between $40-$400 per hour, you will likely pay more for their services than for either H&R Block or TurboTax.
However, depending on your situation, this investment may pay off through enhanced tax planning and increased deductions and compliance down the line.
H&R Block vs TurboTax vs an Accountant: Which Is the Best One to Choose?
When it comes to H&R Block vs TurboTax vs an accountant—the right solution to choose really depends on your personal needs, situation, and preferences.
For example, if your books are a mess, or your return is complicated for some reason, a CPA firm may be in a better position to help. Though it will be more expensive. I have found that a good CPA can save you more than they cost you in via tax reduction.
If your books are organized and the return is fairly simple, but you don’t want to do it all yourself, H&R block may make sense.
Or if you are very comfortable with your bookkeeping and filing a simple tax return, Turbo Tax will be the most economical.
All that said, if you own a business and it grosses over 100K per year you would likely benefit from strategizing with a CPA and implementing some tax planning. But bear in mind you want to do this before the end of the year!! It’s harder to do tax planning once you are past December 31st.
If your books are in need of maintenance, or you need help with the financial side of your business, drop me a line, or take advantage of my free 20-minute consultations. I offer retainer services as well as financial packages.