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H&R Block At Home 2012 Tax Software Review

Great Mobile Apps, but Help Search Needs Improvement

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

By

H&R Block At Home software box
H&R Block, Inc.
H&R Block At Home for tax year 2012 has added three new features:
  • If you use H&R Block At Home Deluxe and Premium, you won't have to access DeductionPro separately since it is now integrated into those two versions. DeductionPro is used to find the highest value of noncash donations to charity for the purpose of taking a tax deduction.
  • If you used H&R Block At Home last year, you're using it again this year and you have a simple return, H&R Block At Home online will use information from last year's return to customize the tax interview for you. The interview should be shorter, which will save you some time.
  • Real time chat for tax questions has been added with registered tax professionals who answer questions about income taxes.

H&R Block At Home 2012 Versions and Guarantees

The Mac tax software includes the Basic through Premium versions. Those versions are available for Windows PCs, along with H&R Block At Home Premium & Business, which provides a personal tax return with one for small businesses. The online versions include Free, Basic, Deluxe and Premium. H&R Block At Home Best of Both, once again my favorite tax software value at just under $80 for software plus all year access to a tax pro, is also included with the online line up. See H&R Block At Home: What You Get for Tax Year 2012 for details about the various versions and prices.

Mobile versions include:

  • H&R Block 1040EZ for iPhone or Android, which files a simple return and is available in both English and Spanish. This app lets you file your federal and state return for free, including e-File, through February 15, 2013, $9.99 thereafter.
  • H&R Block At Home iPad app, which can be used to file any personal income tax return regardless of complexity. Use this app, and if you want to, you can complete part of your return on your iPad and part of it using the online app since data is shared between the two.
  • H&R Block app is not for filing a tax return, but to get answers to tax questions, track your refund, find an H&R Block office and estimate your taxes. This app can be used on iPhone, iPad or Android devices.
  • Block Live isn't so much an app as it is a service that lets you have your tax return prepared by a tax professional using an iPad or Android mobile device that supports video conferencing.
Free audit support is included with all versions of H&R Block At Home, including Free Edition and mobile versions. If you are audited, an H&R Block enrolled agent will help you through the process and you will receive representation. No other tax software offers this service without added cost. Users are also guaranteed that they will get the greatest refund or lowest tax liability possible, and calculations are guaranteed accurate.

Using H&R Block At Home

The Life Events list in H&R Block At Home tax software finds deductions.

H&R Block At Home 2012 Life Events List

HRB Digital LLLC
I used H&R Block At Home Premium online for this review. Online and desktop versions work the same or very nearly so.

H&R Block At Home looks much like last year's versions did. Changes were made primarily to the help section on the right side, with the Bookmarks moved to a menu at the top. Bookmarks are used to mark a spot in the return as a reminder to return to it or to enter comments to document any additional information you may need to reference later about information entered into the return. Unresolved bookmarks identified before you file your return to ensure that you go back and complete the information.

Other options that can be selected from the top right menu bar are Print Returns, Find a Form, Save & Quit, Create an Account (only if you've not created a user name and password yet) and Take Me To. The last option is for navigating around the tax return, but only for those parts of the return you've completed. You can't skip ahead in the return in H&R Block At Home.

Everything below the top menu will be familiar if you used H&R Block At Home last year. There are tabs for Main Menu, Federal, State and File (to e-File your return). Submenus appear below a tab when you click on it. For example, the Federal tab has Personal Information, Income, Adjustments and Deductions, Credits, Taxes and Federal Wrap Up which walks you through some final considerations before filing your return.

After importing information from last year's return prepared with another tax software product, I found that like last year, personal information transferred over but not self employment information. I had to take the time to enter business information and data for related deductions. Otherwise the software worked well as long as I used the "Learn more" links, discussed below, which provided the best help as I went along.

Finding Help

When I started my return, I selected the option to import data from last year's return completed with TurboTax (which I test annually along with H&R Block At Home). The instructions say that if I saved that return to the default location, it would be in the Documents folder. I never save tax returns to the default location, and some people who are using tax software don't know what "default location" means. Other than a mention of the file extension found at the end of the data file, there is no further explanation for locating the file for the import. So, I entered "find turbotax data file" into the Help Center search box to see what would come up for someone who needed more assistance with this. The results offered, which started with a 2004 Customer Satisfaction Survey, were no help at all.

In last year's review, I said that H&R Block At Home's help search had improved because the search terms I used all brought up relevant information. Unfortunately, I did not have the same experience this year. To add to the example above, I searched for Form K-1 to get more information, and the first result on the list was a PDF for the state of Alabama from 2002. The second item on the list was better, but was just one sentence explaining what the form was with no links to further information if I wanted it. A search for 1099 wasn't helpful until I narrowed it down to 1099 MISC, which yielded a good explanation of what this form is and where to enter it on my return. My advice is to use the most specific search term possible when using the Help search in H&R Block At Home.

Getting to the tax help provided live by an agent is not as easy as it was last year because the option to ask a tax question has been removed from the Help resource area on the right. A list of common questions is still on the right and questions change to be relevant to what you're working on in the return.

To ask a tax question or get tech support, I had to first enter a question in the Help search box, review the answers and then click on Go under "Tax rules question" or "Need program help?" which finally brought up the information about tax help chat and support phone number. Tech support is offered from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. CST over the weekend, and extends to midnight on weekdays. Tax help is impressively offered 24 hours a day during income tax season.

Throughout the tax interview, you'll find "Learn more" and other links to further information and explanations, and helpful references. For example, I needed to find a business code for Schedule C, and just clicked the Lookup button next to where the code would be entered. A page popped up with selectable business sectors so I could find the code I needed.

Bottom Line Review: H&R Block At Home 2012

The help topic section in H&R Block At Home tax software for tax year 2012.

H&R Block At Home 2012 Help Topic

HRB Digital LLC
Each H&R Block At Home version is a solid value from a cost standpoint. Prices range from $20 for the Basic version to $65 for Premium. There's a free online version and the value packed $80 Best of Both, too. State returns are included with higher versions and are otherwise $35-$40 to add, and there may be e-File fees. You can complete a federal return with H&R Block At Home and then use free state income tax software to file your state return as an option. Tax returns can be printed or e-Filed, and there are advantages to filing electronically.

While I have never been a fan of not being able to skip around to different parts of the tax return to enter information as it starts coming in, the inability to do this in H&R Block At Home is a small inconvenience and it will stop you from overlooking any part of your return. Still, the final review of the return should call out any uncompleted entries. If you want to be able to skip around, you can try TurboTax.

A bigger problem with this year's H&R Block At Home is the lack of direct access to a link to ask a tax pro or tech support a question. I understand that it's best to direct users to the Help search first, but that search doesn't always provide the best results, which presents another problem.

I doubt that returning H&R Block At Home users will have any trouble using the software or online app. New users who have read this will know how to get to the live tax help or tech support, but others will likely have a problem finding it until they stumble onto the information if they use the Help Center search.

I can sum my opinion up by saying that H&R Block At Home is good tax software, but the help feature doesn't really seem to take the needs of many users into consideration. For the most part, this is not an issue if you follow the interview, and don't search for information before you are working in the related topic arean and then use the links for explanations. You can always use an online version to try the software (you don't pay unless you file) whether you want to use it or the Mac or Windows software to file your return. There are other tax software options that offer a better experience with the help resources if you need a lot explanation while completing your return, but none that offer quite the same value for the price that H&R Block At Home does.

H&R Block At Home Premium Online tax software was used for this review, in Firefox browser.

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