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H&R Block Review 2024: The Best Free Online Tax Filing Experience

A great option for taxpayers willing to trade some of TurboTax’s ease of use for a cheaper price.

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H&R Block is one of CNET’s Editors’ Choice picks for 2024. The online tax filing software offers a solid digital interface, great support options and the best free filing experience this year. 

The company offers four tiers for filing tax returns this year -- Free Online, Deluxe, Premium and Self-Employed. H&R Block Free Online stands out because it offers more forms and schedules than TurboTax. Additionally, H&R Block offers in-person assistance at a local branch and online help from a live tax pro. 

The tax service’s main shortcoming is that its interview-style platform doesn’t hold your hand in the same way that TurboTax does. Its new AI Tax Assist chatbot is also not available to taxpayers who file their returns for free.

For those reasons, H&R Block falls just short of the top spot on our list of best tax software list in 2024. But it’s worth considering if you want to pay a slightly lower price or can take advantage of its free filing tier.

  • Fast filing process
  • In-person help at your local H&R Block branch
  • A top online free edition that accommodates many taxpayers
  • More affordable than industry leader TurboTax
  • Interface is not as intuitive as TurboTax’s Q&A model
  • State filing costs extra, per state
  • AI Tax Assist and live tax pro help via chat isn’t available for Free Online tier
  • Has been accused of scamming filers into overpaying in the past

Who should use H&R Block tax software?

If you want to save a few dollars by passing on TurboTax, H&R Block is a suitable option that will feel familiar.

This year, H&R Block is making it easier to switch from TurboTax, thanks to Direct Import. The tool allows H&R Block users to pull in their TurboTax data by typing in the phone number associated with their Intuit account.

You will forgo a slightly better user experience on TurboTax -- but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better free option with as smooth of an experience as H&R Block. The Free Online edition covers students and adults with simple returns and allows a wider range of credits and tax forms than its rival. 

Taxpayers who’d like the option of making an in-person appointment with a tax preparation professional may also find value in using H&R Block. 

Like TurboTax, H&R Block charges customers per state tax return. So if you’re filing multiple state returns, you might want to look elsewhere. (Jackson Hewitt, for instance, offers unlimited state returns, plus your federal return for $25.)

What are H&R Block’s different products?

H&R Block offers four online products -- Free Online, Deluxe, Premium and Self-Employed -- that currently range from $0 to $115. The best tier for you will depend on the deductions and tax credits you want to claim and how much help you want.

Prices may increase as we approach tax day on April 15. 

Free basic audit support is offered with all H&R Block tax plans. But enhanced “Worry-Free Audit Support,” including IRS communication and in-person audit representation, will cost you extra. 

If you require personal assistance, H&R Block offers the option to have a tax pro review your return or to hand your taxes off to an expert for an additional fee -- starting at $55 and $89, respectively. 

New this year is H&R Block’s AI Tax Assist -- a chatbot tool that helps guide tax filers through the process by answering a list of frequently asked questions. This feature, however, is not available for customers using the Free Online tier.

Free Online: Best for students and most W-2 employees

The Free Online plan costs $0 for filing federal taxes and $0 per state. This plan works best for W-2 employees with simple tax returns, but it’s also great for students since it allows for both education tax credits and deductions for student loan interest, tuition and fees.

The free plan covers students, and adults with simple returns, and allows a wider range of credits and tax forms than TurboTax. The free plan includes Schedule 1Schedule 2 and Schedule 3. You can also report many more types of income, including unemployment compensation and claim expenses like education costs.

If you need expert help when filing your taxes, or at the very least want access to H&R Block’s new AI Tax Assist, it may be better to upgrade to the Deluxe plan.

Deluxe: Best for itemizing deductions and HSA contributors

Deluxe features everything in Free Online but also includes itemized deductions and support for health savings accounts, the child and dependent care tax credit and mortgage interest payments.

Not sure whether you should itemize this year? Check Schedule A to see if any expenses apply to you. For instance, you may have received a big property tax bill in 2023, paid medical expenses out of pocket or donated to charity. If the total of your allowable deductions is greater than the standard deduction, it could make sense to itemize. 

You can also file self-employment taxes using H&R Block’s Deluxe option. But you only get access to Schedule C to report different income streams. It appears you’ll need to upgrade to the Self-Employed tier to itemize business expenses.

H&R Block’s Deluxe plan currently costs $55 for a federal return and $49 per state filing. As with any H&R Block plan, you can add professional tax assistance from a live tax pro to the Deluxe plan. 

Premium: Best for investors and landlords

The Premium tier adds several layers of tax services for those with more complicated tax situations. 

If you earned money from a rental property, have capital gains from the sale of investments or cryptocurrency, the Premium plan is for you. With H&R Block’s Premium tier, you can also report self-employment income, but not business expenses. 

H&R Block’s Premium tier could be a lucrative option for investors to save money compared to filing with TurboTax. H&R Block’s Premium tier costs $85 for a federal return and $49 per state return under current pricing. AI Tax Assist is also available with this tier.

This year, TurboTax’s self-employed tier has been lumped together with its Premium filing option and starts at $129 for federal tax returns and $64 per state return. 

Self-Employed: Best for gig workers, contractors and business owners

The Self-Employed plan is H&R Block’s most expensive, currently at $115 for a federal return and $49 per state. For that price, you get everything the service’s cheaper tiers offer and more. 

The Self-Employed plan works best for freelancers, small business owners and gig workers. If you had a side job or revenue stream in 2023, you’ll likely have to select this advanced tax preparation plan.

H&R Block DIY products, compared

Best forProductFederalState*Live tax pro review
Students and most W-2 employeesFree Online$0$0$55 federal; $0 per state
Itemizing deductions and HSA contributorsDeluxe$55$49$120 federal; $49 per state
Investors and landlordsPremium$85$49$180 federal; $49 per state
Gig workers, contractors and business ownersSelf-Employed$115$49$210 federal; $49 per state
Pricing as of April 8, 2024. *Pricing is per state return.

What’s going on with H&R Block and the FTC?

After its well-documented battle with TurboTax, the Federal Trade Commission has now accused H&R Block of deceptive marketing practices, indicating the company knowingly advertised its tax filing software as free to taxpayers that did not qualify to file using its Free Online tier. Doing so, the FTC says, caused taxpayers to start filing their taxes via H&R Block, only to find out their tax situation wasn’t covered.

The Feb. 23 complaint highlights how difficult it is to downgrade from a paid tier on H&R Block to its free tier. If you start your return with H&R Block Deluxe (which currently costs $55 for a federal return and $49 per state return) and realize you can file for free, you have to contact a customer service agent via phone or live chat. 

H&R Block’s online tax-filing software doesn’t include a physical button you can click to downgrade or start your taxes over. But the service makes it easy to upgrade to a more expensive tier at any time. 

H&R Block’s Chief Legal Officer Dara Redler told CNET the company stands behind its unmatched tax expertise and fair and transparent pricing. 

“H&R Block has offered a free DIY filing option for more than 20 years to help millions of Americans file their taxes,” Redler said in an emailed statement. “The multitude of resources we offer to all filers via educational resources, free tools and calculators, and The Tax Institute demonstrates our commitment to making filing your taxes more accessible and more transparent for all.”

We view H&R Block as a top option for filing your taxes online. I used the service to file my return for free this year. But make sure you qualify to file for free before you start. You likely won’t need to pay for any upgrades if you have a common tax situation.

How does H&R Block work?

If you’ve used TurboTax in the past, H&R Block’s user interface won’t require too much of a learning curve. It doesn’t hold your hand like its main competitor, but it features a similar interview-style model where you answer questions to determine things like your filing status and the right tax plan for you.

Given my tax situation this year, I qualified for H&R Block’s Free Online Tier -- thanks to the wide array of tax forms H&R Block includes in its free filing option. I did not qualify for TurboTax’s Free Edition. 

H&R Block’s online platform is easy to use, even without assistance from a live tax pro or its new AI Tax Assist chatbot. I’m a big fan of how H&R Block allows me to jump around different tabs and plug in tax information in the order I choose. 

Help screens are easily accessible too. They pop up on a side panel on the right-hand side of the screen. I’d prefer help screens in the middle of the page, as to not shift my eyes so much. But I understand why H&R Block handles it this way -- if you leave the help screen open, it auto generates answers to questions you might have as you go through the process. Some people might find this particularly helpful.

My main gripe with the help screen is that there’s often a lot of info to sift through for even simple questions. A brief FAQ-style format with the option to dig in further could be better. 

If you’re paying for H&R Block’s Deluxe, Premium or Self-Employed tiers, it’s worth noting that its AI Tax Assist chatbot is a delight to use -- but it has some snags.

Like the free help resource tool, AI Tax Assist pops up on the right-hand side of the screen and has predetermined questions you can ask. But you can also ask it whatever you like as well as follow up questions.

Chat text about 1099-NEC forms
H&R Block/Screenshot by CNET

During testing, we also realized that you can type in simple search terms, such as “rental income” or “1099-NEC” without receiving an error message. 

H&R Block told CNET that its AI Tax Assist responds best to conversational-style questions. I found that If you ask it anything too specific, it may tell you that it cannot answer your question. This happened when I asked the AI tool, “How many 1099-NEC forms can I file?”

To the AI’s credit, when I asked the same question the next day, I received a more scripted answer that told me I could file as many 1099-NEC forms as necessary to account for freelance income. In one case, when asked if I may receive a 1099-K form this year, the chatbot provided outdated information.

The IRS recently announced it would delay implementing the new 1099-K tax reporting requirement for 2023 tax returns, which wasn’t noted by the AI filing assistant. Instead, it gave me outdated information and told me I might get a 1099-K if I earned over $600 in 2023. The IRS has confirmed 2023 will be treated as a transition year, so you should only receive a 1099-K if you earned more than $20,000 via payment apps, or had more than 200 transactions.

We brought this to H&R Block’s attention and their data team confirmed new content was being added to cover the recent IRS switch.

“The goal of GenAI is to learn and improve based on customer questions, feedback, and content,” H&R Block said in an email to CNET Money. “We continue to tune our AI Tax Assist for accuracy, relevancy, etc., and are constantly adding and enriching tax content to provide the most accurate answers to our clients’ questions.”

Be cautious and double-check the answers the AI Tax Assist chatbot gives you with your own research or by consulting a tax professional.

In addition to filing your taxes online, H&R Block offers two different mobile apps that allow you to file returns: MyBlock and H&R Block Tax Prep. Tax Prep focuses mainly on filing your tax return, while the MyBlock app includes a variety of additional features like video chat with tax professionals and in-person appointment planning. You can switch back and forth between web and mobile as much as you like.

Is H&R Block’s tax pro help worth the cost?

It depends on how comfortable you are doing your taxes on your own and how complicated your taxes are. But most taxpayers with common tax situations won’t need personalized assistance.

H&R Block’s do-it-yourself tax options make it relatively easy for you to navigate the tax-filing process, though not quite as easy as TurboTax. Its free online resources will answer most questions that will pop up. Plus, H&R Block’s Deluxe, Premium and Self-Employed tiers, you will be equipped with the company’s new AI tax assistant and live expert help via chat. Unless you have a particularly complicated or confusing tax situation this year, turning over your documents to H&R Block’s tax pro service is likely unnecessary.

Here’s how much it costs to turn your taxes over to an H&R Block tax pro:

Tax situationEstimated price to file with a tax pro
W-2 incomeStarting at $89; state is additional
Student loans/tuition; retirement incomeStarting at $150; state is additional
Sold stocks/cryptoStarting at $165; state is additional
Claiming dependentsStarting at $185; state is additional
Self-employed; had a side hustleStarting at $203; state is additional
Owned rental propertyStarting at $240; state is additional
If you have multiple tax filing situations, your starting price may be higher.

If you do want professional help and have a complicated tax situation, we recommend comparing the costs of other CPAs to find the best fit. 

Other notable features H&R Block offers

H&R Block offers multiple free tax tools for anyone visiting their site, including a tax calculator to estimate the size of your refund, a “where’s my refund?” tool to track the status of your return and a tax prep checklist to review before you start the tax filing process. 

You can choose to receive your tax refund from H&R Block in a few different ways:

  • Direct deposit
  • Paper check in the mail from the IRS
  • Transfer to a Spruce mobile bank account from H&R Block
  • Transfer to the prepaid debit card Emerald Card

The Emerald Card is a Mastercard-branded prepaid debit card issued by Pathward, N.A., and offered by H&R Block. It works much like any debit card at retailers and ATMs, and funds are protected by the FDIC and Mastercard’s “Zero Liability” policy. You can manage the card on the MyBlock mobile app. Just be sure to read the Cardholder Agreement on H&R Block and review the fees before signing up.

You can also use your expected tax refund to pay for your H&R Block tax preparation fees using a feature called Refund Transfer, but there’s an additional fee of $39 for a federal return. Assisted tax prep clients will not pay a fee for state refund transfers.

Is H&R Block right for me?

H&R Block 2024 tax software remains a top contender in the battle for best tax preparation software though its user experience is not as clean or direct as TurboTax. The four tiers of service cover every common tax situation, and the Free Online plan could be a great fit for many students with student loan interest deductions and W-2 filers with simple returns.

The optional AI Tax Assist service is a welcomed addition to H&R Block’s platform, as it guides paying customers through the tax filing process with relative ease. 

H&R Block overall includes many valuable services for taxpayers, including two mobile apps, tax calculators and multiple options for receiving tax refunds. 

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and isn’t influenced by advertising or partnerships. It hasn’t been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Danni Santana has spent seven years as an editor and business journalist covering industries like sports, retail, restaurants, and now personal finance. Most recently he worked as a retail editor at Business Insider. He is a graduate of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. His biggest loves outside of the newsroom include, running, cooking, playing video games and collecting sneakers.
Peter is a writer and editor for the CNET How-To team. He has been covering technology, software, finance, sports and video games since working for @Home Network and Excite in the 1990s. Peter managed reviews and listings for during the 2000s, and is passionate about software and no-nonsense advice for creators, consumers and investors.
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