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H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review: Still tops for tax preparation

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 provides the best overall tax prep service

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © H&R Block)

Our Verdict

A visual interface and the introduction of screen sharing and live Online Assist help keep H&R Block highly competitive.

For

  • Elegant, visual design
  • Clear language and copious support
  • Online Assist for live tax pro help and screen sharing

Against

  • Choosing a tax pro to virtually do your taxes is not integrated into the online product
  • Sluggish interface

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 is the company’s latest iteration of its do-it-yourself tax prep service. The latest version is our pick for best tax software for 2021 thanks to its thoughtful, efficient design, easy-to-grasp explanations and midrange pricing.

This year H&R Block adds Online Assist, so you can tap tax expert help at any point while you’re building your return. This step-up feature fills a void in the product while still providing the one of cleanest and most efficient tax interfaces we’ve seen and educational help to keep you updated on what affects you in the tax world. Read the rest of our H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review to find out if this is the best tax software for you.

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review: Pricing

H&R Block's federal online tax software encompasses four tiers, each with a stacking list of added features and support. Plus, each level lets you add screen share and on-demand chat and video assistance.

Besides the Deluxe version ($49.99) we've tested here, H&R Block's offerings include Premium ($69.99) and Self-Employed ($109.99) tiers. As is typical for tax software, you don't pay up front with H&R Block; instead, you pay when you file based on which tier you end up at.

For example, we started our review at H&R Block Deluxe, the first step up from the company's free tier, and then moved through the experience from there. Once we had entered that we had 1099-Misc forms and were self-employed with expenses, the interface directed us to upgrade to that version to have access to the correct tax forms.

H&R Block has five Mac/PC downloads as well, starting at $29.95 for the Basic version and scales up to $89.95 for Premium & Business (appropriate for small business owners). These versions are best for those who prefer to keep data locally, and not in the cloud. The company has a $145 small business product under its Block Advisors banner that integrates with other small business services.

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review: State Filing

Except for H&R Block's Free version, which includes a state tax return at no cost, other H&R Block online versions require an additional $36.99 per state. State e-filing is included in all online versions. As always, you move onto the state return only after completing a federal return; the service will auto-populate relevant information accordingly.

The Deluxe+State, Premium, and Premium & Business download versions all include the software for one state form, but bizarrely charge $19.95 to e-file.

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review: Features

H&R Block's Free online (and Basic download) versions are meant only for the simplest of federal tax returns. As soon as you have a deduction to declare (beyond child care or student loan interest), you'll need to step up to a higher version with more features that let you deduct things like donations, real estate taxes and mortgage interest. H&R Block works with Stride, a mobile-expense tracking service, to auto import your data.

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

New this year: Those who are self-employed and who don’t have expenses can file at the Deluxe level; previously, the only option was the most expensive tier for Self-Employed, regardless of whether you had Schedule C expenses. At the Premium online level, you gain access to Schedule C and D, support for self-employed filers with limited business expenses, and support for logging investment and property income as well as for tracking Health Savings Accounts. The Self-Employed online version offers more complete support for independents and freelancers, with higher deductible business expenses and support for filing for home-office deductions, depreciation and vehicle expenses.

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review: Available Help

H&R Block has done a solid job of bolstering its help features. As you move through your online return, you get context-sensitive help at the ready, always visible in a right-hand pane that can be accessed by the question-mark icon on the top navigation bar, or by clicking on the Learn More links in the main interface.

The help pane changes automatically as you move through different screens in the central interface. It is efficiently designed and saves you from fumbling around the interface — a real pleasure and a time saver.

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Help includes answers to common questions, a help search bar and related additional information. If you haven't already upgraded to the “Online Assist” tier of service, you can click on the Get Expert Help icon at the upper right to upgrade. The options include Online Assist, at $109.99, which adds screen sharing and live video and chat with an online tax professional; and Tax Pro Review, starting at $59.99 for a tax pro to review and file your taxes for you; get both, and the add-on costs $119.98 total. (Prices may vary depending upon which version you’re using).

As a baseline, all H&R Block products include the online help pane and text-chat technical support offering free, 24/7 guidance on using the product.

While H&R Block does offer a way to file with a virtual tax pro’s help, the service is marketed outside of the do-it-yourself packages discussed above. Rather, the approach leverages the company’s many brick-and-mortar offices to make an appointment during business hours with a local tax pro who will do your taxes. By contrast, competitor TurboTax integrates its Live Full Service as a step-up for its other products, and it provides an all-digital process for uploading relevant documents and meeting with a tax pro virtually.

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review: Ease of Use

The H&R Block online interface continues to reflect a unified, cohesive experience with bold, clear fonts and language that's generally friendly without being too colloquial. As you move through the service, the help panels guides you through the tax code changes and how it might affect you.

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We appreciated how efficient H&R Block's interface was to navigate. Beside the help pane on the right, the main window is flanked by a left navigation pane and two top navigation bars — one which always gave access to help and price previews to see how much our return was going to cost. That second navigation bar lets you move through your federal and state returns and start the e-filing process.

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We could import W2 info in a variety of different ways, including taking a picture and uploading it, and the program did a good job prompting us to add potential information as we moved through questionnaires in the different sections (Your Info, Income, Deductions, Credits, Taxes, Wrap-Up).

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Entering data is more streamlined than in competitors (for example, what you need to do to enter charitable deductions).

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

H&R Block Deluxe 2021 review: Verdict

The cohesive H&R Block Deluxe 2021 interface, combined with the service's helpful guidance, pricing and safety net of affordable tax pro help, makes it the best tax software to use when it's time to file your taxes.

For those who need more hand-holding, TurboTax Deluxe is the better option as it has more extensive tax pro assistance — even if you have to pay more for the service. For everyone else, H&R Block Deluxe is easier to navigate and more well-rounded at all levels, which makes it our top pick.

Melissa Perenson spent more than a decade at PC World and TechHive, and she has freelanced for numerous publications including Computer Shopper, Tom’s Guide, TechRadar and Consumers Digest.