Throughout Canada, every individual is required to file an annual tax return and those who are working, whether for an employer or themselves, are required to pay taxes on their earnings. Additionally, those who own a business are required to pay taxes on employee wages and submit payroll information to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) each year.
While tax season can be daunting for many, especially business owners, companies like H&R Block Canada can help make the process of filing taxes seamless. Below, we've reviewed the services offered by this tax preparation company and provided you with everything you need to make an informed decision about whether or not H&R Block is the right choice for you.
About H&R Block Canada
H&R Block Canada has been serving Canadians since 1964. The company was founded by brothers Henry & Richard Bloch, who got their start providing bookkeeping services in Kansas City, Missouri in the 1940s. Eventually, they expanded their services to include tax preparation. As word of their services spread throughout the U.S., demand for their help rose and in 1955, the first H&R Block franchise was opened. Eventually, the company expanded north into Canada with its first Canadian branch opening in Calgary, Alberta in 1964.
Filing Your Taxes With H&R Block Canada
H&R Block offers its clients options when it comes to filing their taxes. In addition to preparation services, the company has created a do-it-yourself tax software that guides users through the process of preparing and filing their own returns.
If you're not tech-savvy, H&R Block's in-person tax services may be best for you. With this service, you simply drop your tax papers and personal information off at an H&R Block office or pop-up location and the company's tax-filing experts handle the rest.
When using this method, fees are deducted directly from your tax refund. Payments can be issued instantly for additional fees or you can choose to wait and receive your full refund minus service fees once it's issued by the CRA.
Upload your papers
If you want to avoid the trip into an H&R Block location but you'd still like a professional to handle your tax filing, you can easily upload your tax papers via H&R Block's secure online portal. After doing so, a tax preparation expert takes care of preparing your return and communicates questions or concerns either online or over the phone.
H&R Block Tax Software
H&R Block's software is a full-service tax preparation program. It guides users through the process of entering the information from their T4s and other important tax slips, as well as expenses that can be written off. The program is updated every tax season to ensure that users can accurately enter all information without the risk of accidentally omitting important details.
When you first get started with the program, you'll be asked to import your return from the previous year. If you've previously used another tax filing program, this software allows you to upload your return in PDF format. However, if it's your first time filing a tax return or if your previous return was filed by mail, you can key in your information manually.
Once you've entered your details from the previous year, the program will guide you through which information you need to enter and as a series of questions to ensure you're submitting all the necessary information to ensure that you're getting the best return — or making the lowest payment — possible.
Once your return has been prepared in full, you can connect the program to NETFILE, the CRA's online filing system. This allows you to seamlessly upload your return online and receive any applicable tax refund or other benefits via direct deposit.
H&R Block Tax Software features
H&R Block Tax Software features a variety of added features that make this program stand out among many other tax preparation programs. This includes:
- Tax refund options: Receive tax refunds via direct deposit, paper check or prepaid MasterCard.
- T4 photo import: Import T4s and other important papers by snapping a photo with a smartphone or tablet.
- Auto-Fill: Download T4s and other important data directly from the CRA to auto-fill most information on the return.
- SmartSwitch: Transfer information from other tax preparation programs directly into H&R Block's Tax Software.
- Online help centre: When in need of assistance, H&R Block offers an online forum that can be used to ask and answer questions about the software and tax filing.
The Cost of H&R Block Tax Software
H&R Block offers three subscription levels for its tax software, with the lowest version being available free of charge.
The software's free version includes all of the basic features mentioned above while each subsequent version includes additional features.
Assistance version — $19.99 per tax season
The Assistance version of H&R Block's Tax Software comes with all of the basic features that are included with the free version, as well as:
- Customized tax tips: The software offers tips and ideas for increasing refunds while information is being inputted into the system.
- Unlimited support: Technical support is available via phone or online.
- Automatic transfer for old returns: Details from previous returns can be uploaded to forms automatically.
- SmartReview: A detailed breakdown of how tax refund/payment was calculated is provided prior to filing.
Protection version - $29.99 per tax season
The Protection version of H&R Block's Tax Software comes with all of the features that are included in the free and Assistance versions, as well as:
- Unlimited priority support: Protection customers jump to the front of the line when they require technical assistance with their software.
- Audit protection: In the event of an audit or reassessment, H&R Block's tax professionals provide ongoing support throughout the process.
- Digital return storage: H&R Block stores returns securely for seven years after filing.
H&R Block's Customer Support
H&R Block offers its customers a variety of support options. Its online forum is open to all free and paid users and includes a broad range of topics, questions and answers from real software users. Additionally, software users and customers of H&R Block's physical locations can contact the company's offices if they have questions or concerns about their tax returns.
Of course, with any software, technical support is just as important. Those who subscribe to the company's Assistance version have access to unlimited phone and chat support, while those with the Protection version have priority access to technical support.
Pros & Cons of Using H&R Block's Tax Preparation Services
Just as with every type of software or service, H&R Block's service and tax preparation software comes with its fair share of pros and cons.
Pros of H&R Block
- Options are available for every budget
- Staff are experienced at filing income taxes for business owners and individuals
- Can help you recognize opportunities to increase your refund or reduce your amount owing
- Tax professionals ensure all papers are filed according to Canadian tax law
- Refunds can be issued upon filing
- Software offers a free filing option
Cons of H&R Block
- Software users need to pay up to access priority support or audit protection
- Cash advances paid out against tax refunds come with high interest rates
- Pop-up locations may disappear after tax season, making it difficult to obtain support in the event of an audit or reassessment
Alternatives to H&R Block
H&R Block's variety of options for tax filing makes it a great choice for Canadians who prefer to have some form of help when tax season rolls around. Of course, it's important to consider your other options before committing yourself to work with this particular service.
Below, we discuss some of the most popular alternatives to H&R Block's in-house and do-it-yourself tax preparation services.
While H&R Block does offer business tax services, hiring an accountant is usually the best option if you own a complex small or midsize business that you're filing taxes for. This is particularly true if you have a large team of employees that you're required to deduct income tax, Canada Pension Plan payments and Employment Insurance dues from.
While an accountant does provide comprehensive service and isn't likely to get your taxes wrong, it can be an expensive choice with the average accountant charging anywhere from $50 per hour to several hundred dollars.
Independent tax preparation services
Throughout Canada, there are many freelance accountants and independent services that pop up during tax season. While these services are typically sufficient when you need assistance preparing your tax return, it's important to keep in mind that many of them are only accessible seasonally. That means that you don't have the option of following up for clarification after ta season is completed and it can also be difficult to obtain support if you face an audit or reassessment.
Completing and filing your own taxes
If you're experienced at preparing and sending in your own tax returns, you might feel like paying someone else to do your taxes is a waste of money. Of course, it depends on your situation, but it's important to remember the risks involved with completing your own tax return. That includes:
- Providing the CRA with inaccurate information
- Accidentally omitting information
- Missing potential write-offs or credits
Additionally, tax preparation is a tedious job that causes most Canadians a great deal of stress. By hiring a professional to prepare your return, you're able to avoid taking on this hefty task on your own.
Other software programs
There are a variety of other programs out there ranging from freeware to full-service tax preparation programs. For the sake of simplicity, we'lltake a look at Canada's top free and top paid tax preparation software.
Intuit TurboTax can be downloaded online or purchased in stores. Its price ranges form $79.99 for the do-it-yourself version to $129.99 for a version that allows you to upload your own tax information and have a tax professional complete your return for you.
TurboTax is similar to H&R Block in that it offers users convenient features such as autofill and NETFILE filing; however, it also offers a broader range of features that are specific to those who are self employed or business owners. Additionally, with both versions of this program, a real live tax expert reviews returns for accuracy and works directly with Canadians to make sure they don't lose out on potential credits or write-offs.
If you're filing a simple tax return, H&R Block comes out on top of TurboTax in regards to price and ease of use; but for those who are filing business or self-employment returns, TurboTax is generally the better choice.
While SimpleTax isn't exactly a free service, it does ask users to pay what they think the program is worth when filing their returns with the program. Users can download it for free and choose to pay a nominal fee for use or if desired, they don't have to pay at all.
The program's features aren't as comprehensive as H&R Block's but for simple returns, SimpleTax does the trick. It provides guidance through every step of return preparation by asking easy questions and having users select items to add to their return as they go.
Just as with H&R Block Tax Software, users can upload their details directly to Simple Tax from the CRA to autofill their form. Once they're ready to file, the return can be uploaded directly via NETFILE.
Is H&R Block Right For You?
If you need some additional support when filing your income taxes but you don't feel that your needs are complex enough to require a professional accountant, H&R Block is likely a good choice for you. It can also be a great option if one of the following scenarios applies to you:
- You'd like some guidance in filing your taxes but don't want to pay for a tax preparation service
- You want to know that you're following the correct process when preparing your return
- You're unfamiliar with Canadian tax law and want to ensure that you're not inadvertently omitting any required information
- You want to maximize your refund or look for ways to reduce the amount you'll be required to pay when you submit your return
It's worth noting that some individuals may find themselves just as successful by completing their return on their own while others, particularly those with complex business tax returns to file, may find themselves better off by enlisting the help of a professional accountant. In the end, it comes down to selecting the process that best suits your particular needs at tax season.