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If you have a complex tax return, many deductions, or receive 1099s forms as an independent contractor, you may want to enlist the help of a tax prep company for filing your taxes.
Companies like H&R Block, Liberty Tax Service, Jackson Hewitt, and PWC offer tax prep services for anyone. We researched tax prep services to compare their offerings. Keep reading to see our reviews of the top four tax prep services in the U.S.
We evaluated consumer reviews, the services offered, the companies’ overall reputation, certifications and education required for the tax preparers, pricing, availability, special programs like rapid refund services, and each company’s longevity to compare the top tax prep companies in the U.S.
Headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey, Jackson Hewitt has been in business more than 35 years. Three thousand of the company’s 6,000 offices are located in Walmart superstores, providing a convenient location for busy Americans to file their taxes.
Like H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt offers online tax software for taxpayers who prefer to do it themselves. You can also file online through the software and pay for expert support from a tax preparer.
Like the other top tax prep services in the U.S., Jackson Hewitt is independently owned by franchisees, which means quality of service and offerings may vary.
However, the company has several offers that are standard across franchises, including a refund of your tax prep fees plus a $100 bonus if a competing tax prep firm can get a bigger refund for you. The company also offers a Lifetime Accuracy Guarantee, promising to pay your penalties and interest if there is an error with your return.
You can upload your paperwork online in advance or drop off your paperwork at a Jackson Hewitt location or stay on-site for a one-on-one appointment. The company says most tax returns are completed within one hour. That makes it easy to drop off your returns and wrap them up when you’re finished with your Walmart shopping trip.
Jackson Hewitt does not publish its tax prep prices online, but for many of the company’s special offers, a minimum tax prep fee of $150 applies.
In past years, the company offered a Refund Advance loan with 0% interest through MetaBank. Early filers could get a loan up to $500 as early as December based on an anticipated refund. Other Refund Advance loans permitted borrowers to receive as much as $6,400 from their tax refund, with the loan repayment deducted directly from their tax refund.
Borrowers receive the loan money through an American Express Serve Card or via direct deposit into their bank account.
You can also pay for your tax prep service using your tax refund.
The Jackson Hewitt headquarters in New Jersey are accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 2018 with an A+ rating. Fifteen other Jackson Hewitt locations also maintain accreditation with either A+ or A- ratings.
The company offers online and in-person tax prep courses for its employees and prospective employees. It also offers free continuing education for employees. However, the company does not state how long their tax preparers have worked for the company, on average, so you could risk working with an inexperienced tax preparer.
If you’re looking for fast and convenient tax prep services, as well as an early tax refund anticipation loan, Jackson Hewitt may be the best choice to help.
H&R Block stands as one of the most well-known tax prep companies in the U.S., with offices in all 50 states. The company also offers online do-it-yourself tax filing services at various price points depending on the complexity of your tax returns. H&R Block tax preparers can also help you file your state tax returns.
H&R Block’s prices to work with a tax preparer start at $49 if you prefer to upload your forms without visiting a local H.R. Block office. Prices start at $69 for in-office visits to e-file Federal taxes. State taxes have additional fees associated.
The company also offers a free “Second Look” tax review. You can bring the past year’s tax returns and the company’s tax experts will review them to ensure you didn’t miss any deductions you deserved.
H&R Block enables you to file your taxes with help from a professional with no fees upfront. When you use Refund Transfer for an additional fee of $39.95, your tax refund goes directly into a special FDIC-insured account. You then pay any tax prep and filing fees from that account. The rest of your refund will be mailed to you as a check, deposited to an existing bank account of your choosing, or distributed via an H&R Block Emerald Prepaid Mastercard.
Even if you don’t choose the Refund Transfer option, you can receive your refund via check, direct deposit or prepaid Mastercard.
Historically, H&R Block has also offered a tax refund anticipation loan for qualified taxpayers.
H&R Block was founded in 1955 by brothers Henry W. and Richard Bloch. Today, it is a publicly held company with more than 11,000 company-owned and franchise locations across all 50 states. It is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, but it does hold an A+ rating from the consumer watchdog organization.
Because some H&R Block locations are owned by franchisees, service and expertise may vary depending on the owner. However, H&R Block holds its tax preparers to specific standards. Tax preparers must complete a six-level certification program and more than 60 hours of training to achieve master tax advisor status. Tax professionals in individual offices also have access to The Tax Institute at H&R Block, staffed by Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), IRS enrolled agents, tax attorneys, and former IRS agents.
H&R Block says the average tax preparer at the company has more than 12 years of experience. But new tax preparers can join the H&R Block team after just 12 weeks of online training. Keep this in mind when you select an H&R Block location, especially if your taxes may be complicated.
It’s also important to read the fine print on the H&R Block website. The company’s 100% satisfaction guarantee does not apply to post-January 1, 2020 tax law changes and free audit in-person audit support is only available for those who purchase H&R Block desktop software solutions and it does not include legal representation if you are audited.
Also, the company’s “no surprise guarantee,” which includes free audit assistance, may not be available at all locations.
If you’ve ever driven in a downtown area or near a busy commercial street around tax time, you may have seen an individual dressed like Lady Liberty, directing you to the Liberty Tax prep office.
Liberty Tax Service ranks as the third largest tax preparation service in the U.S., behind H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt. The chain has 3,359 offices, according to AccountingToday.
Like its competitors, Liberty offers a refund of any penalties or interest resulting from an inaccurate tax return. The company also promises to refund your tax prep fees if you filed online but another tax prep firm was able to secure a bigger tax refund for you.
Select offices will also check past returns for errors.
Because Liberty Tax Service companies are all owned by franchisees, Better Business Bureau ratings and consumer reviews vary widely. The company does not seem to offer the same level of training as H&R Block does for its tax prep professionals.
The Better Business Bureau shows that 50 Liberty Tax locations across the country hold BBB accreditation, all with A+ ratings at this time.
Unlike competitors, Liberty Tax offers an income tax loan, or a tax refund anticipation loan, which puts money in your pocket before you might normally receive your refund. You may get approval in 24 hours or less, and can have money deposited directly into your bank account.
Liberty Tax offers three tiers of tax prep services:
The service, offerings, and prices for the three main tax prep service chains in the U.S. seem to be comparable. Because these businesses are owned by franchisees, customer service quality and even the programs offered may vary. Jackson Hewitt may cost slightly more than competitors – as it does not publish prices – but its convenient locations are a bonus. H&R Block promises transparent pricing and also offers the most information about its services compared to competitors.
Millions of Americans rely on one of the top three tax prep services to file their state and federal tax returns every year. H&R Block, Liberty Tax Service, and Jackson Hewitt all provide convenient and affordable options for tax filing.
However, if you are a small business owner, independent contractor, or a college student, you may have more complex tax returns. You may wish to enlist the help of a local tax accountant or another tax professional to complete your returns to ensure you’re declaring all the deductions you deserve.
Look for a tax accountant who:
If you have simple returns, the convenience and cost savings of going to a national chain for your federal and state tax filings might make sense.
Hiring a tax prep service can increase your refund or help reduce your tax liability, because professionals understand what deductions you can take according to IRS rules. They also know the right questions to ask to get you thinking about deductions you may not have considered.
Remember, a tax preparer can only report the information you give them. It’s important to report all income on your tax returns. Also, gather bank statements, credit card statements, or receipts showing all your expenses for the year. You may have deductions you didn’t realize you could take, which may lower your tax bill.
To get ready for your tax appointment, gather:
Many tax prep services and tax accountants will review your prior year’s returns for free, to ensure you received all eligible deductions.