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TurboTax vs. H&R Block: Finance Experts Say Which Gives Bigger Refunds

Get the most out of your next filing by choosing the tax software that's best for you.

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Even though we've all gotten used to paying taxes every year, there are a number of different options available to help prepare your filing. For those not planning on bringing in outside professional help, services like TurboTax and H&R Block can simplify the process. But while each provides step-by-step assistance that can help save time and money, experts say there are different elements of both that might make one a better option for you in the end. Read on for their thoughts on TurboTax vs. H&R Block, and which could get you bigger tax refunds.

READ THIS NEXT: 4 Warnings About Using TurboTax, According to Experts.

TurboTax offers a simple user experience.

TurboTax on phone with a keyboard in the background
Julio Ricco / Shutterstock

Most people are willing to put in a little extra work to secure a bigger tax refund. At the same time, part of what makes a specific filing software a viable option is how easy it is to use for someone who knows nothing about taxes. According to experts, part of what makes TurboTax so popular is that it falls into this category.

"TurboTax makes it easy to do taxes by walking you through the process with interview-style questions and many definitions and explanations in plain language," Levon L. Galstyan, a certified public accountant at Oak View Law Group in California, tells Best Life. "Any computer may use the TurboTax online platform, and you can even complete your taxes using the TurboTax mobile app."

Galstyan explains that inexperienced users can determine all of their potential revenue sources and deductions using the DIY filing program.

"The tour into the TurboTax world is reassuringly well-guided and educated for those of us who are anxious," he adds. "And you can spend extra money to meet with a tax advisor if you need even more support."

But H&R Block can be just as easy to use.

An H&R Block tax services storefront with a customer walking by
Shutterstock / Northfoto

Those looking for a straightforward program shouldn't write off H&R Block just yet, though. "Compared to TurboTax, H&R Block's online interface is even simpler," says Galstyan. "It will efficiently gather all the required data without all the upselling for extra features."

If you haven't used H&R Block to file your taxes before, you might be put off by the slightly different approach. Ultimately, however, it will get you where you need to go.

"At H&R Block's online filing portal, there are fewer questions and options to pick from up front, but there is always a method to request more information if necessary later on," he continues. "The business—which formerly depended on foot traffic and appointments at its physical offices—has created a fantastic platform for DIY tax filing."

Like TurboTax, H&R Block users can also pay more for access to some human assistance. But Galstyan notes, "It's possible that you won't require assistance from a professional because the online tax preparation platform is so simple to use."

However, there's still one notable drawback when it comes to the user experience. "If you have to take a break, the software will save your place—but there will be a set order in which you must enter your data," says Galstyan. "And compared to TurboTax, there is less flexibility to skip steps and return to them later."

READ THIS NEXT: 6 Warnings About Using H&R Block for Your Taxes, According to Experts.

Keep in mind what kind of deductions you plan on taking.

ouple paying their home bills over a computer. Focus is on woman.

Getting the best possible tax return often comes down to the types of deductions you can claim when you file. Unfortunately, this part of the process can be especially tricky for taxpayers as they navigate confusing regulations and laws to determine their eligibility. But if you're willing to spend a little more for TurboTax Deluxe, you can unlock capabilities in the software that will help you make the proper selections.

"TurboTax's deduction maximizer tries to find well over 350 tax deductions and credits to help you get every tax break you're eligible for and get the most money back or minimize the amount you owe," Galstyan points out. "The [related] It's Deductible app also helps you determine how much things you gave to charity were worth."

Nevertheless, there's a clear winner between the two software programs when it comes to basic offerings.

"Unlike TurboTax—which charges you to itemize your deductions—the free version of H&R Block lets you complete Schedule A for free," he says, adding that it covers potentially significant deductions, including credits for child and dependent care, interest on student loans, and claims for health care coverage exemption. "In fact, compared to TurboTax's Free Edition, H&R Block Free has more than 20 extra forms!"

Your yearly income could affect more than just your refund.

woman working from home with taxes

Both software programs offer plenty of services and capabilities at their most basic free level, which can be enticing for anyone looking to maximize their savings. But one significant difference between them is that many people may not qualify for the entry-level tier due to how much they make each year.

"Remember that while TurboTax only permits annual income up to $34,000, H&R Block requires an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $66,000 to be eligible for free service," Galstyan says. "For these reasons, I think H&R Block is the 'free' category winner."

Unexpected charges could end up eating into your return.

man doing taxes
88studio / Shutterstock

Everyone hopes for a big return whenever they file their taxes. But even if you're not a pro at filing, paying more for your software upfront can reduce what you ultimately net in cash. Galstyan says this can be especially true for those using TurboTax, which often pings users to pay more for add-ons in higher tiers and for live help.

"If you don't know much about the tax forms, deductions, and credits that apply to you, it can be hard to figure out which version of TurboTax you need. You could go through the whole process of preparing your taxes, only to find out that you don't qualify for the free or cheaper version of the software and have to pay a big fee to file," he cautions. "This could waste your time if you want to find a cheaper option."

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The right option will come down to your unique situation and tax needs.

A TurboTax app logo on a phone screen resting on top of a 1040 tax form
Tada Images/Shutterstock

Ultimately, filing your taxes can expose just how unique each person's financial situation is compared to anyone else. Galstyan says this means that the software you choose should depend on your specific goals.

"H&R Block's free option covers more filers. The cost of the two Deluxe choices is the same, but TurboTax's Deluxe option supports more forms that independent contractors, freelancers, and other contract workers may require," he says. "Both services are user-friendly, although TurboTax is easier to use and uses simpler terms."

But what about getting the most money back? In a quick informal survey of his clients who've filed with both services, he told Best Life that "the consensus was that TurboTax produces slightly higher [federal] tax refunds than H&R Block."

Still, others point out that the final number shouldn't come down to what you're using.

"The tax software you choose should have zero effect on your tax refund," says Robert Farrington, founder and CEO of The College Investor. "Your tax refund is based on simple math. Where tax software plays a role is in helping you find all the correct places to enter your information. If you're getting different results from using two different tax software options, you likely input something differently."

Best Life offers the most up-to-date financial information from top experts and the latest news and research, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the money you're spending, saving, or investing, always consult your financial advisor directly.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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