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Comparing TurboTax Deluxe and H&R Block Deluxe
Old 02-19-2021, 11:55 AM   #1
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Comparing TurboTax Deluxe and H&R Block Deluxe

So, in order to Blow That Dough, I bought both H&R Block and TurboTax Deluxe versions this year. Why? Why not? I wanted to see what the current state of each is in 2021. Plus it is cold and rainy, and I needed to type something.

Cost, Windoze version, both on Amazon:
- $23 : H&R Block Deluxe Download, black Friday week sale
- $30 : TurboTax Deluxe Download, Dec 26 special, includes $10 coupon presented by Amazon

Overall Impressions:
Both get you there if your return has simple to medium complexity. Each gets you there slightly differently, yet both follow the same Income-Deduction-Taxes-Other-File pattern. Both surprisingly had minor bugs. Both show your status in real time, per entry. In the end, both produced the same number for me for both Federal and State, after a little bit of pain. I preferred TT, but I could live with HRB if I had to.

Supported Forms and Situations:
Both supported some of the forms we've talked about with no problem:
- 1099-B
- 1099-OID
- 1099-R
- Roth conversions prompted while entering 1099-R

TurboTax pings you when you enter a 1099-B, suggesting you give them more money for Premium. In my opinion (and others here confirm) it is not required for retirees. If you have ESPP, NQSO, or ISO situations, Premium helps. Apparently, if you have no clue on your basis, it might help too.

Winners and Losers (Joe's Opinion):
- H&R Block: cost. Clearly the price leader.
- Tie: Overall flow and choice between summary and direct interview. Both allow you to linearly flow through topics, or go to specific ones. TT might have a slight edge, but it is pretty much a tie.
- TurboTax: Summary screens for each category showing year-to-year comparison. HRB lacks this. It really helps to have Y-to-Y numbers of each topic if you are choosing topics. To me, this makes TT worth it.
- H&R Block: Forms. HRB allows you to pop out to look at forms while your interview question is still viewable. TT forces a context switch. You might want to get Sengsational's "draft cleanup" tool for printing, though.
- H&R Block: speed. The program starts faster and operates faster. TT is bloated.
- TurboTax: Exceptions handled better or more descriptions. I'm talking about situations like adjustments, or more than box A or D checked on 1099-B. HRB left more leg-work open to you. I also encountered a bug in this area on HRB (more later). TT's descriptions make more sense. HRB's venture into shop-talk and use some negative logic. More confusing.
I also found the 1099-B info easier to enter on TT, with more descriptions of how to handle Box E (non-covered) situations.

General Impressions:
HRB is down to business and follows a spare, clean style familiar to older windows programs. It also uses pop out windows which I like, some may not. TurboTax is prettier and flashier. It throws up useless "progress meters" that are all fluff and BS. Just show it to me already. I know on Premium it also has dancing bears -- OK, not quite. It has pretty pictures of Enrolled Agents to keep you motivated and to remind you part of the cost allows you a consultation of some sort. I don't see those folks on Deluxe.

HRB also does updates on a schedule. I think one of my bugs was fixed in the day I worked it, and until last night HRB had a bunch of warnings showing that updates were needed, come back when they are done! It did not give me confidence. TT updates whenever it feels like it. Both are still a little shaky if you ask me. I get wanting to file right away, but I'm going to give it a bit more time.

Bugs:
I started my taxes yesterday morning. HRB said an update was due on 2/18, which was yesterday. I didn't get it in the morning. On a 1099-INT from Treasury Direct, I had box 12 filled in. I believe this comes from a TIP. HRB let me enter it and had no further comment except for checkboxes on adjustments. TT let me enter it and presents similar checkboxes. I move on. When I finished both taxes, they were different by a few dollars. I noticed TT did an automatic ABP adjustment for the Box 12 info. HRB had "ABP" denoted, but at 0 dollars. I tried writing over the information in the 1099-INT entry, but nothing worked. I went to dinner, came back, and HRB wanted to update the program. I let it do so. ABP was still zero. I finally deleted the 1099-INT and reentered. At this time, I got an extra question, slightly confusing, asking me if I wanted to apply a bond premium adjustment. So, I gave it the box 12 info which is a bond premium, essentially negative interest. Boom, ABP was now in line with TT and everything was the same. Now I'm not saying that HRB is wrong to force you to enter the premium -- it basically makes you acknowledge it isn't amortized into the interest. What I'm saying is I couldn't even do that until they updated the program. So, apparently I saw a bug in progress that got fixed.

TT still has a bug which was almost as maddening. It is on my state tax form. It gets confused if you donate to our wildlife fund a portion of your refund, and ask for all of your refund to be applied to next year. It takes this info, then fails on final check. It then complains about my Breast Cancer donation being negative. Wait, I did the Wildlife check box, not the Breast Cancer checkbox! It is all confused, and surprised it didn't crash. I had to back it all out and not take the "apply entire refund," but instead apply an amount that still leaves enough for me to to make the donation. HRB, however, handled it without comment. It didn't create an impossible situation with forced negative numbers, it just silently rejected the extra donation if you apply the refund elsewhere.

Why I'm Staying With TurboTax:

So I think HRB is perfectly usable, especially on simple forms without nonsense like ABP adjustments for TIPS. It is also a breeze if you have 100% covered securities on your 1099-B. I just found TT to handle the ABP better, and I found entering the 1099-B easier on TT.

That aside, the $7 extra is worth it simply for the summary pages during entry which show the number from last year, and your current year running number. Super, super useful.

Otherwise, it is mostly a wash.
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Old 02-19-2021, 12:28 PM   #2
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Thanks for doing the comparison and taking the time to summarize. I’ve been using TT, Deluxe or Premier for about 15 years. I tried another, don’t remember which (HRB, TA, KTC), and it was inferior to me so I went right back to TT. It is nice to have all my history, updated basis, carryovers et cetera all setup each year, a win-win hook with TT. I’m planning to stick with TT, especially now that I know Deluxe will do everything I need without me buying Premier unnecessarily for a couple years.
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Old 02-19-2021, 01:09 PM   #3
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So far, the biggest gripe I have with H&R Block is the way they handle the foreign tax credit (form 1116). The stupid software knows the numbers from the brokerage data I downloaded, but it fails to auto-fill or even suggest that you should file for the credit.

What's up with that?
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Old 02-19-2021, 01:14 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twaddle View Post
So far, the biggest gripe I have with H&R Block is the way they handle the foreign tax credit (form 1116). The stupid software knows the numbers from the brokerage data I downloaded, but it fails to auto-fill or even suggest that you should file for the credit.

What's up with that?
I wonder if you have to do something semi-manual kind of like I had to do with the ABP?
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Old 02-19-2021, 01:15 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
especially now that I know Deluxe will do everything I need without me buying Premier unnecessarily for a couple years.
Yep. I was in the same club!
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Old 02-19-2021, 01:19 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeWras View Post
I wonder if you have to do something semi-manual kind of like I had to do with the ABP?
It will let you enter the numbers manually, and it even tells you that it knows the amount (in the instructions it gives you), but it fails to use that number, and it also seems to fail to cross-check.

It's very odd, and google tells me it's a known issue at least since 2016, so there must be some rationale that completely escapes me.
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Old 02-19-2021, 01:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twaddle View Post
So far, the biggest gripe I have with H&R Block is the way they handle the foreign tax credit (form 1116). The stupid software knows the numbers from the brokerage data I downloaded, but it fails to auto-fill or even suggest that you should file for the credit.

What's up with that?
FWIW Iíve always found the foreign tax credit to be the most confusing part of TurboTax too, year after year...
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Old 02-19-2021, 01:27 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twaddle View Post
It will let you enter the numbers manually, and it even tells you that it knows the amount (in the instructions it gives you), but it fails to use that number, and it also seems to fail to cross-check.

It's very odd, and google tells me it's a known issue at least since 2016, so there must be some rationale that completely escapes me.
Yeah, can't comment much further. I get a foreign tax credit from my Vanguard funds, but those are "simple" and go directly to line 1 of schedule 3. Works the same on both TT and HRB. No 1116 required in my case.
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Old 02-19-2021, 01:28 PM   #9
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A few years ago I did a similar exercise, comparing TT and Block side by side.

Wound up with a similar result -- a preference for TT.

First thing I noticed was that they use different rounding conventions, and Block actually had me paying $1.00 less in tax. All other differences were more or less cosmetic.

But the killer was that TT did my state return correctly and Block made a dog's breakfast out of it. So I've stuck with TT since then.
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Old 02-19-2021, 01:36 PM   #10
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But the killer was that TT did my state return correctly and Block made a dog's breakfast out of it. So I've stuck with TT since then.
Iíve done three states in TT, all correctly IME too.
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Old 02-19-2021, 01:44 PM   #11
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I expected a difference in the State results (NC) and was happy to see they were the same. The situation with the little refund break outs to a few charities is more or less noise and irritation for which they obviously didn't put a lot of effort into programming illegal entries. At least they caught the impossible entry even if the error was confusing.
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Old 02-19-2021, 01:48 PM   #12
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Good info JW!
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Old 02-19-2021, 04:28 PM   #13
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Great info, Joe.

Sounds like your foreign tax credit was less than $100, which is much simpler that filling out form 1116. It's a lot of steps, but TT has guided me through it in past years. This year I was under $100 and I either did something wrong or had to force it to use schedule 3 rather than 1116. It probably saw the FTC carryover I had, but I don't think I'll ever be able to claim those before they expire since I sold off my foreign stock fund.

The year I used HRB I couldn't use the FTC so it didn't bother filling out form 1116, which caused a problem the next year when I tried to carry over a previous credit. That and other problems made me swear off HRB for good.

TT wasn't perfect this year. My state return wasn't accepted, but when they notified me they figured out their error and told me how to get the fix in an update, and resubmit. As part of those instructions, it said something about being able to file my California return...I'm in Virginia. A little sloppy, but my resubmit worked. First year I paid the $20 to e-file state instead of print & mail, maybe my last year.
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Old 02-19-2021, 06:17 PM   #14
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Yeah, it is a balance of taking risk while opening a window for scam early filers versus waiting for others to find the bugs ahead of me.

Thanks for finding a bug.
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Old 02-19-2021, 06:58 PM   #15
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I don't worry about the scammers and I have to wait for all the 1099's before I can file. And I hold out even longer for the "corrected" 1099's.

Not to mention the "corrected" software.
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Old 02-20-2021, 10:16 AM   #16
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H&R Block is much cheaper...needed to prepare a form 1041 so I bought their "Premium & Business" (Windows, no Mac version available) off newegg.com for under $40 after coupon end of January.

It included BOTH Premium and Business as separate programs...and each included one state for no extra charge.

When I used Intuit's TurboTax Business (~$120) in previous years it didn't cover my state so I had to prepare my state's equivalent of form 1041 by hand each and every year.
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Old 02-20-2021, 10:20 AM   #17
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Thanks for posting this - very valuable exercise for all of us! I use H&R Block because their corporate base is in my hometown. Also their phone support for both the program and tax questions has been very reliable, for me anyway.
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Old 02-20-2021, 11:09 AM   #18
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Thanks JoeWras. Good information and nice write-up.
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Old 02-21-2021, 06:56 AM   #19
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H&R Block is much cheaper...needed to prepare a form 1041 so I bought their "Premium & Business" (Windows, no Mac version available) off newegg.com for under $40 after coupon end of January.

It included BOTH Premium and Business as separate programs...and each included one state for no extra charge.

When I used Intuit's TurboTax Business (~$120) in previous years it didn't cover my state so I had to prepare my state's equivalent of form 1041 by hand each and every year.
No doubt about it, HRB's biggest benefit is that it is less expensive.
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Old 02-21-2021, 10:28 AM   #20
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Thanks JoeWras for all the effort and great comparison.

I often wonder what the other software is like now as it's been 10+ yrs since I used TT, but wouldn't want to switch without strong motivations as fearful switching will not carry over well. Plus the new learning experience.

I'm not clear on:
"TurboTax: Summary screens for each category showing year-to-year comparison. HRB lacks this. It really helps to have Y-to-Y numbers of each topic if you are choosing topics. To me, this makes TT worth it."

Is this done at the end of each topic or while doing a topic ?
By topic I'm guessing you mean as an example: Interest. ?
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