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I've used H&R Block's tax software (formerly called TaxCut) every year since 1995. Several times when I saw a promotional deal I purchased both TaxCut and TurboTax to compare. I found that TurboTax did not do anything better than TaxCut while costing consistently more. In addition, I like the option of being able to file 5 free Federal e-files as I do taxes for other relatives who are less computer savvy.

If you encounter issues with display, such as not seeing selection boxes, check your screen resolution. Both Windows and Mac minimum requirement for the screen resolution is 1024 x 768 pixels or higher. At a lower resolution H&R Block software will have problem with display such as not properly displaying selection boxes. Screen resolution can be changed on your control panel by change PC's display settings.

I just finished a preliminary tax return and below are my observations. Note: the forms are not final until January 10, 2013.

1. H&R Block starts the interview process with an annoying up-sell pitch, recommending an upgrade from Deluxe to Premium even when it is not necessary.
It would have better if they waited until the financial information is entered and offered the Premium version only to those for whom it might make sense.

What is the difference between Premium and Deluxe? The Premium version offers advanced tools for self-employed and rental property owners: cost basis of home sales, dividents, gifts, and inheritance assets. It has advanced schedule C guidance to maximize deductions for self-employment income. And finally it has guidance for rental property income and expenses. The rest of the Premium package is the same as Deluxe.

Note that the Deluxe package has support for self-employed income as well as stock sale cost basis calculations. This year I had to do both, and I found the guidance to be sufficient to complete the forms.

I am a including a photo (under customer photos) of a table which shows what is included in each package of H&R At Home (Basic vs Deluxe vs Premium).

2. As of 11/19/2012 videos for tax law changes were not available yet (the prompt said coming soon).

3. Minor pet peeve: Help is not context sensitive. For example, when you click on "learn more" about a particular topic the general help window opens but it does not show help topics for the specific topic that you were working on. Instead you need to search and know which words to use locate the relevant topics.

4. Good news: DeductionPro 2012 is now integrated into H&R Block, you no longer need to go to H&R web site.

5. H&R Block provides you some guidance for completing Form 1116 (foreign tax credit, for example from mutual funds). However, you need to keep switching between whole-form view to enter data and then back to interview to read the instructions. Even though the form where you can enter data is visible at the same time as instructions you cannot enter data into it until you switch into whole-form view. This is cumbersome, but at least there is some guidance for this form.

6. Copy and Paste from Interview screens is not possible. Sometimes I wish to do it for some issue as a reminder to myself. My solution is to do PrintScreen (holding ctl key, shift key, and PrintScreen key at the same time). This generates an image of the screen, which I paste into paint or photo editing software which I can print or save for later.

7. I don't use the default location for the tax returns due to how I set up my backup software. The H&R Block software does not initially remember this new location on the second start of the application, it told me I have no returns. I needed to pick the return manually from the File menu, as it did remember recently used files. The third time I started the software, it finally knew the location of the tax return file.

8. I use large font option on my monitor display and in the past had display issues (some things were displayed on top of each other). This year all forms displayed properly with this option. Nice!

9. I purchased H&R Block Deluxe plus State. This version entitles you to 5 free federal state e-files. There is no free e-file for the state return. If you want to e-file you will need to pay a fee of $19.95 to e-file each state return. This charge can be avoided by printing the forms and mailing them in via post office.
SPECIAL NOTE for NY state residents: NY state residents can e-file state returns for free.

10. The price on this package changes day to day. I found a nice tools that shows history of Amazon prices. If you enter "price history alert" in Google it will come up at the top, it has the word camel in the name. I find this tool very helpful. I just looked up that the price last year fluctuated between $20 and the list price of $44.99. During the tax preparation season it hit the $20 mark on three different dates. You can set up an alert tool to email you when your desired price has been reached.

11. For folks trying to download State Forms -- Update 1/17/2013: State Forms became available on January 17. 2013.

If you go to the Software Update Center on H&R website you will see a section called State Updates. Under there you there is a link called "Forms Available". If you click on that, it will show a table that shows availability of forms for each State.

When the state forms will become available they can be downloaded by selecting the State Tab and then clicking on the button labeled "Buy" (a little scary since we already paid for it) but then "buy" will turn into "update" and the forms will be downloaded to your computer.

12. A note for those who use the digital download rather than the boxed edition
This year I am using a boxed edition of the software. Last year I used a digital download and run into a glitch a solution to which I want to include again for those who might run into the same issue this year.

After I installed the software and started it for the first time it prompted me to enter a key-code. The prompt said that I should have received it in the email after purchasing the software, however the email I received from Amazon did not contained a key-code. I had to call Amazon support and they told me that this information can be found following these steps
1) Log into Amazon
2) Select Your Account at the top right of the page
3) Select Games and Software downloads which is towards the bottom of the long page you see when you log in
4) Then under H&R software entry you will see the key-code that you need to enter to unlock the software

13. Update 12/10/2012. I received a question if H&R allows to install the software on two PCs. I found the answer on H&R Block web site FAQ under the topic "Installing Software on Another Computer"

There are just a few steps necessary to re-install the H&R Block At Home program from the CD you received in the mail. Follow the steps below to re-install the program or install it on a second computer.
Insert the H&R Block At Home CD into your computer.
Click the Need to Re-install? link on the menu bar at the bottom of the screen.
The Frequently Asked Questions page will open to the first FAQ titled, "Can I install the software on a second computer?"
Enter your activation code and last 4 digits of the credit card you used to purchase the program initially and click Activate.
You can find your activation code in your purchase confirmation e-mail.
Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

14. Update 12/18/2012. Repeating another great question from the comments to share with everyone.
Q: Is there an audit check which marks problems with red flags?
A: At the end of the interview process there is a check step (which you can run at any time, but the interview ends with this check). This step flags problems (e.g. missing information) and potential audit alerts (e.g. unusual deductions) with red flags , and reminders (e.g. things you marked tentative) with yellow flags.

15. Update 2/7/2013. I received a question if I had any problem doing update from the CD purchased from Amazon.
I have performed several updates without problems. If you have a firewall, the firewall prompts with a question if you trust the software and you need to reply "yes". If you say no, the install will be rolled back. If you accidentally reply "No" to this prompt, I would recommend uninstalling the software. Then installing it again, and then trying another update. Alternatively you can deactivate the firewall during the install.

I have been a H&R Block/TaxCut user for many years. The interview process is helpful in reminding you things you might have forgotten. 2012 H&R Block package addressed a couple of my old pet peeves (for example, integration with DeductionPro). So I am quite pleased with it and recommend it!

Ali Julia review
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5050 comments477 of 485 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 23, 2013
The software appeared to install just fine from the CD shipped to me. After successful installation, a federal update was available, downloaded ok, but INSTALLATION "rolled back" and was not applied. I tried the H&R Block download website and same thing occurred. Tried on my other PC, same results. I've used their product without a hitch for years....after being disconnected from telephone tech support twice before getting to a human voice, I resorted to online chat support where I was told "since you did not purchase the software through H&R Block any issues with your purchase must be directed to the original source of purchase" PERIOD. I regret that because H&R Block slammed the door on customer support in this manner- because the successfully downloaded update cannot be applied- it some ISN'T their problem???!!! WOOOW... Look out!
How can a consumer go to ANY store and buy their product IF not purchased DIRECTLY from them?? Are you kidding??!
Looks like TurboTax is getting my business this year and beyond.
1515 comments44 of 49 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 19, 2012
I used Turbo Tax year after year, but switched to Tax Cut a couple years back and have not looked back. The first year I switched, it only included a single federal e-file, but now I believe it includes 5 federal e-files. State still costs extra if you opt to e-file your state return. I believe that runs closer to $15 or $20.

Having used it several years in a row now, I am very comfortable with the interview format, where they simply ask you questions and fill out the appropriate forms. Users with more complex returns may end up in the forms on occasional, but they've definitely made simple returns very easy. The other nice thing is that it pre-fills all of the questions with data from last year, so you save a lot of time having to look it up as long as you have last years files on the computer still.
11 comment21 of 24 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 19, 2013
I have used this product successfully for years to prepare and e-file our Federal and state returns. I am a retired professional in this field. I have purchased this product through Amazon the prior few years but this year received a promotional mailing in December and purchased it directly from HR Block (a mistake as Amazon has it cheaper). Long story short... prepared our joint returns as per usual and when completed printed a copy to review for completeness and accuracy of data entry before e-filing as this is a wise thing to do. If you e-file and then "print a copy for your files" it is too late to correct anything. Note that the returns had passed all of the audit tests performed by the software and it said ready to file. After making a few minor data entry edits and re-processing thru all the program audits with no issues then tried to e-file but software would not let me as it said I already printed a paper copy for mail filing. Tried many times unsuccessfully and then contacted customer service via chat. Reply message in broken English said once you print return you cannot e-file. Interesting that the software allows you to change your mind and abort e-file and go back to paper according to Help feature but not the other way in this experience. Then using the software I re-prepared the entire returns from scratch with a different file name, did not click print, but the software would still not let me e-file this totally new and separate return. Called customer service and after a long wait got an ESL phone rep who said this shouldn't be, the software should let me click e-file after printing a paper copy. He had me upload the return and said I did every thing correctly and he couldn't get it to work either. He verified I had purchased the correct product that included e-file. He said he would have to "escalate it" and I would get a phone call withing 24-48 hours with a solution and an email with a case number within an hour. It's been a week and have received neither. I did receive two customer satisfaction emails asking if I was pleased with the "solution to my issue" which of course I was never given and I replied appropriately. I will be pursuing a refund from HR Block but am not holding my breath. Note... after not getting the promised phone call within 48 hours I couldn't fool around anymore with these clowns and prepared and e-filed our Federal and state returns using TurboTax on-line provided free to me by a mutual fund. I was pleasantly surprised and found TurboTax more robust in some of the more complicated areas such as foreign tax credits, etc. and generally a better product in my opinion... and it worked!
2/20/13 update... received a phone call this morning out of the blue from "escalation" at HR Block that I had been told I would get "with 24-48 hours" mid last week. The rep said "I see you called a few days ago", I said no I called a week ago and told her I was told 24-48 hours. She said oh no we can't return calls that quickly we are swamped and I shouldn't have been told that. I told her lets cut the nonsense that I already spent 30 minutes on the phone yesterday to get a refund of my purchase price since I didn't hear back on a timely basis and the program didn't work. She said let me check on the refund (that I was told yesterday by an HR Block rep would credit my visa card within 3-5 days). Rep today said uh oh you missed the 60 day window by a few days from when you purchased it and the refund request rejected. I said the product was not equipped to process returns 60 plus days ago, the clock in my opinion starts from when a complete updated product is first available for use. Note they will try to in my opinion mislead you on their refund policy, it is a complete satisfaction guarantee (you don't need to give a reason although they will argue with you in my experience here) and beware if you purchase this product when you get the promotional mailing they send in December as it is likely it will be beyond 60 days when the product is updated so you are first able to use it to prepare and file your returns. And I had good reason to return this product anyway. After some blunt discussion the rep agreed under the circumstances to make an "exception" and "process a paper refund check by mail" since it is beyond 60 days and said I "should" get it in a week or so. Will update review as to what happens but again am not holding my breath.
Note to update... I did get a refund for this defective product from Block and the check cleared. Know your rights when dealing with these jokers!
11 comment9 of 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 5, 2013
Ever since upgrading to Windows 8, I would have problems running certain install programs including the initial time when I ran the downloaded program for H&R Block At Home 2012 Deluxe + State download. I would get an error stating "The extended attributes are inconsistent." I thought that it was related to the programs being incompatible to Windows 8. This doesn't appear to be case.

Check out this URL for an existing error related UAC Prompt error (which for some of us running under Windows 8 appears to occur more frequently -- at least for me).

If you read one of the replies near the bottom of the page which states

..if you jump straight to turning off Windows sound notification for UAC prompt. This can be done by hitting Windows key+E -> In the computer section select "Control Panel" -> In control panel search bar (top right) type `Sound' -> select "Change system sounds" -> select "Windows User Account Control" and change the sound to (none) then click OK.

This worked for me and then I was able to install H&R Block at Home Deluxe +state at home.

Of course, use your own judgement to follow any advice on the URL or this review. At least for me, changing the system sound worked.
11 comment19 of 22 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 2, 2013
I've been a Turbo Tax user for some years. It served me well, but I thought I would try the competition. After all, H&R Block is a big name, and it costs less. Early on, the program told me that my adult live-at-home son wouldn't qualify as a dependent. Huh? I checked my entries, new earnings threshold and could find no reason. I re-entered the data. Same thing. So I looked it up on the IRS website (which can be very helpful and is easy to use). IRS says he is dependent. What to do? Maybe an email to H&R Block. Oh, that will be $20. Maybe an online chat? Oh, that will be $20. Later, I updated the software (I had done this before). The problem went away. I now feel uncomfortable using it, and feel like H&R Block will try to nickle-dime me to make up for the lower purchase price? I'm not a happy camper.

I just bought Turbo Tax to do my taxes. I'll figure my taxes with both programs to see what happens, and I hope to update this review when I'm done.

So, anything positive? As far as I got, it was easy to use. It also imports data from a prior year Turbo Tax file, which is a nice feature for switchers. And the initial purchase price is less. Can I hear "you get what you pay for"?

UPDATE: My taxes are now filed (with Turbo Tax), but I couldn't bring myself to do it again with the H&R Block program. So I can't give a full comparison. I can comment on the H&R Block as far as I got. The Turbo Tax is more polished and more intuitive. The H&R Block screens seem cluttered and it can be hard to find something that is right under your nose. Program updates: With Turbo Tax, you press one obvious button to check for updates. If there are none, you go straight to the program. If there are updates, you press a button to install them and you are good to go. H&R Block gets you an update screen where the information and possible actions are harder to find. Also, each time you update H&R Block, you get a Windows security alert warning you that H&R Block wants access to your computer. Turbo Tax seemed to offer updates more often, as when the Fed makes new information available. H&R Block seems to operate on their own schedule, maybe monthly, where all the changes are consolidated. So it's on H&R Block's schedule, not the Feds. I'm sure most people can do their taxes on H&R Block. I won't, however, for three reasons: taxes are complex enough without your tax program making it harder; it's clunky by comparison; and I don't trust it (see original review above).
0Comment8 of 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 3, 2013
Very unclear - I've used other software in the past for taxes, and this is terrible. When I called multiple times with the same simple question about their software, the very inarticulate people searched their database and kept giving me wrong answers (more accurately, answers to the wrong questions... what they could find, not what I was asking).
0Comment8 of 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 7, 2013
Cannot get the update to install. Was told by H&R Block that I would have to buy new software and cannot return this because it is over thirty days old. What a waste!!!!!!!
0Comment8 of 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 7, 2013
I When you try to e-file your H&R Block At Home taxes for New York State, you get the following error:

We and the New York tax office are hard at work getting state e-filing ready for you. You’ll need a state update to e-file. Check for an update on or before [date]

where [date] is today or tomorrow. Every day H&R Block moves it back one day. There is apparently no customer support or vendor-supported forums. H&R Block gives no indication when it will be ready.

I wonder whether I made a mistake switching from TurboTax to save $10.
55 comments10 of 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 5, 2013
While I have bought this program for the last 5 years, I was your typical late filer (4/14) and had no issues. But, this year because I am submitting college financial aid applications, I have to file early in order to be accurate and to meet the application deadlines. I e-filed 3 days ago and got a rejection from the IRS for my son's 1040A because it did not have the AGI for 2011. This is his first time filing and there is no 2011 AGI. But, the program and the IRS are looking for it. There are directions for no 2011 AGI and I followed it, but the e-file system is still looking for a 2011 AGI. Now, I have to file by mail.

On my 1040, the IRS accepted it. But, I got a message saying the IRS e-file system is not ready to process 1040s with certain forms (like depreciation, additional income, and two more). I have to file my 1040 early also for my son's college financial aid applications and the early deadlines. The last form they say will be included is in March, but all my deadlines are Feb 15-28. I also have to mail my 1040.

So, I paid for the free e-filing versions and I cannot e-file until much later.

I called H&R Block CS and they could not help. They only help if you don't understand the program. So, I ask for a refund of the difference between this version and the basic, no free e-file version - since I will have to mail hard copy anyway. They said "no" since I did not buy through them. They said get your refund through Amazon. I told them it was not Amazon's fault.

Since I am on a rant. The program is not as easy to navigate as I recall. If you just go through the interview and have no issues, it is fine. But, if you want to review a specific interview page, you have to go through the start of the whole section. The "Go TO" feature is limited to taking you only to the start of a section, not to the particular page.

I had to navigate through the sections to troubleshoot the above and found it took far too long to go through the sections.

The 1 star is for this version which already had about 2 major updates since purchasing in early January. If you are a procrastinator like me (except avoid the rush on 4/15 as the servers will slowdown and you won't know if accepted or not until 4/16. Then OOPS), wait to file until mid-late March. H&R BLock says next upgrade is 28 Feb.
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