H&R Block vs. TurboTax vs. Jackson Hewitt: An Overview

Here comes tax season again, when you must decide whether you want to take the do-it-yourself route or hire somebody to prepare your tax return for you. But the question isn't that black-and-white. There's a middle ground.

You can use one of several tax preparation online apps and software programs if you choose to prepare and file your own taxes. H&R Block, TurboTax, and Jackson Hewitt are among the most popular. Which you choose can depend on your personal financial situation and how much you want to spend. (Prices and features described below are as of March 13, 2019.)

Key Takeaways

  • All three providers offer various tiers of programs that you can choose from depending on the complexity of your tax situation. More complicated means paying more.
  • All three offer free editions for the simplest returns.
  • The least expensive version is offered by Jackson Hewitt.
  • The most expensive programs for more complex tax situations range from $49.99 (Jackson Hewitt) to $69.99 (H&R Block) and $119.99 (TurboTax).
  • All providers caution that prices can go up at any time, and they generally do as tax day draws nearer.

H&R Block

H&R Block offers five tiers of tax preparation programs as of the 2019 filing season when you're preparing your 2018 tax return. They include a free version, Deluxe, Premium, and Self-Employed.

The Free Edition should do you just fine if you have only W-2 income and you rent your home. It can handle child dependents, too. A free state return is part of the deal.

The Deluxe plan, H&R Block’s next tier, is designed for homeowners, investors, those with retirement income, and those who've made contributions to health savings plans. It offers support for stock and other investment sales, and it also covers home-mortgage interest deductions, charitable giving deductions, and all other itemized deductions if you don't want to claim the standard deduction. It costs $49.99 and that includes support for Form 1099s, free tech support, and a “drag and drop” feature that permits the free import of current and past-year data. Plan to spend an extra $39.99 for each state return filed.

The next plan is the Premium online tier, coming in at $69.99. This should meet the needs of freelancers and independent contractors, and it also accommodates investors—thinks anyone who receives one or more Form 1099. Again, each state return is an additional $39.99.

H&R Block has also added a self-employed product to serve the more than 60 million freelancers, independent contractors, and other self-employed taxpayers. Among its features are an import of Uber driver tax information and full support for common tax situations faced by self-employed individuals. This product costs $104.99 plus an additional $39.99 for each state tax return. The Self-Employed online edition includes support for rental property owners as well.

Finally, there is the Tax Pro Review package, at $144.99 plus $39.99 for each state filed. In addition to all of the features and services included in the less-expensive offers, this tier provides for a tax professional's review and double-check of your return. They will also officially sign the return before filing it for you.

All of the paid packages include the capability to integrate with Stride Tax data, according to the H&R Block website.

All programs include live chat with an expert if you run into a problem, along with a screen share feature so you can show where you're having difficulty. H&R Block offers the ever-popular W-2 capture feature so you can simply snap a pic of your form without entering all that tedious information by hand. And you can import your old returns if you did your taxes with another software provider in previous years.

TurboTax

TurboTax is thriving, not just because of its aggressive ad campaign but also because Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, also makes QuickBooks, the popular accounting software. It offers a free Basic version, but like competitors' free products, is generally suitable for only the simplest tax situations and returns. A state return and e-filing come free with this package as well.

TurboTax is the only one of these programs that lets you seamlessly import from the accounting program QuickBooks.

TurboTax’s lowest-tier paid option, the Deluxe package, is it's most popular. It can deal with all manner of tax credits and deductions, and it's offered for $59.99, up from $39.99 advertised in February. Each state return costs an additional $39.99.

TurboTax’s Deluxe plan also maximizes mortgage interest and property tax deductions, and it offers a "deductible service" that can help you organize charitable donations and value them correctly. It covers freelance and 1099 income, along with simple expenses.

The $79.99 Premier plan is what you'd use if you have investments. It also covers rental property and related tax implications. Each state return filed using this option will set you back another $79.99.

The Self-Employed edition is the upper end of the TurboTax’s plans. It's designed for small business owners and sole proprietors. It costs $119.99, up from $89.99 in February.

This package lets users import data directly from QuickBooks, a significant advantage. You might have asset depreciation and Schedule C income as a small business owner, which makes the Home & Business tier a necessity.

All TurboTax versions let you speak with a CPA or an IRS enrolled agent for help and advice, and all include that nifty form W-2 picture capability. The Premier edition will auto-import investment income for you.

Jackson Hewitt

You've probably noticed Jackson Hewitt cubicles in the superstore if you're a Walmart customer. Jackson Hewitt has more than 6,000 locations, and half of them are inside Walmart stores. The company also offers an online filing platform.

Jackson Hewitt offers a free option for simple returns, including state filing, but you have to claim the standard deduction — no itemizing. You must earn less than $100,000, and you can only have W-2 or unemployment income. You can be either married or single, and you can use the free version to claim the earned income tax credit (EITC), but only if you don't have any dependents.

The next step up is a $29.99 edition for more complicated returns. It's geared to homeowners, parents, and retirees, and it covers investment income. Children and other dependents are no problem. It can handle claiming the EITC and the child tax credit, as well as the child and dependent care credit. Student loans and educator expenses are covered as well. But Jackson Hewitt includes one of those "price can go up at any time" warnings. The $29.99 figure is accurate as of March 13, 2019. State filings will cost you $36.95 each.

The top tier edition is aimed at small businesses and those who are self-employed, or anyone with an income over $100,000. It covers rental property income and expenses as well. It will cost you $49.99 as of 2019, and an additional $36.95 per state—the same as with all the Jackson Hewitt offerings except the free edition.

Special Considerations

All these packages include selling points such as maximum refund guarantees, free e-filing of federal returns, and 100% accuracy. The differences involve how much you have to pay to access the features you need. All three offer federal and state returns at no cost for simple returns.

The differences between TurboTax’s Premier plan at $119.99 and Jackson Hewitt’s at $49.99 aren't that apparent, making the $40 savings with Jackson Hewitt (at least until prices go up) worth considering.