H&R Block is based here in Kansas City, MO and I spent my last 3 years of college (years 1997 – 2000) working there in the tech support department – where I provided support for the local offices, rapid refund, tax software, and other software products.
I held various positions – Technical support specialist, Tech Support Specialist 2, Subject Matter Expert, Trainer, and Assistant Supervisor of Tech Support so I got to know all their products and services inside and out.
Their consumer tax software was previously called “TaxCut,” but several years ago was renamed “H&R Block At Home”.
“H&R Block at Home” has always compared favorably to the higher priced competitor TurboTax and the lower priced competitor TaxAct.
The biggest difference between the different editions of the H&R Block software (i.e. basic, deluxe, premium) are the help videos that are included – regardless of the edition you purchase they all include every tax form you will need as a landlord.
In other words, if you don’t require any help videos, particularly if you tax situation hasn’t changed much from prior years, then the basic version of the software will cover all of your needs just as well as any other version.
TurboTax employs a much different strategy in it’s various editions offered this year – whereas their basic version has a very limited selection of tax forms
Users are forced to purchase either the more expensive deluxe version to have access to a few more forms or spend even more money to purchase the premium version of TurboTax if the deluxe doesn’t have the forms that are required.
I haven’t reviewed TaxAct in several years, so I am not qualified to comment on the most recent versions of their product. I am aware that TaxAct now offers downloadable windows software, but in years past, when I used their software they only offered a web-based version.
I am not a fan of using any company’s web-based tax or bookkeeping software as I typically find the security risks and potential loss of data as too high of a price to pay. I much prefer installing software on my PC, so that I have much more control of my data.
Also, it should be noted that in the last 3 years when I have compared H&R Block at Home to the TurboTax software, in dozens of returns entered I have always come up with identical refund amounts.
In my opinion, if you are coming up with different refund amounts, it is not often because the softwares are doing the math differently, instead it is most likely because the softwares ask the interview questions differently which might make it easier for a user to skip over a particular tax topic where some important data should be entered – which obviously would lead to different refund calculations.
I would say that 99% of the time, the interview questions asked by the various tax software are near identical, so most people wouldn’t experience any problems. But as landlords, we often realize that we are not part of that 99%, instead we are the 1% for whom minor differences can lead to major complications if not outright consequences.
Although, in many other areas I try to root for the “little guy”, it is hard for me to give TaxAct any consideration here, due to the my previously unsatisfactory experience with using their product, and the fact that the alternatives are backed by companies who are literally household names: H&R Block, a company that is synonymous with tax preparation; and Intuit, the company who produces Quickbooks.
I am admittedly biased for various reasons including my previously employment at Block, and also since I have great affection for my hometown of Kansas City and the many world-class companies that started here or currently have their headquarters here – a few of which include Garmin, Sprint, Hallmark, Applebees, AMC, Cerner, Russel Stover Candies, American Century Investments, DST Systems, Waddell & Reed, and as previously mentioned H&R Block.
Nevertheless, the H&R Block at Home software still comes out ahead here, in part because every edition is significantly cheaper than TurboTax, but primarily because every edition includes every tax form a landlord might need – allowing you to easily navigate to and open any form in question, so you can compare your entries to how the tax form was completed last year, which makes it very easy to double check your work.
Being immersed in the H&R Block environment for those 3 years helped prepare me for my career as a real estate investor, and I strongly suggest that any prospective real estate investors take a tax preparation course if any are offered in your area. Doing so will surely help prepare you to take your business to the next level.
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