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Unlicensed tax preparer fined $22,000


The state of Oregon has cracked down on an unlicensed Hillsboro tax preparer who allegedly exploited Hispanics.

In February, the Oregon State Board of Tax Practitioners, in cooperation with the Oregon Department of Justice, levied a $22,350 fine against Aracely Hernandez of Hillsboro. She admitted preparing tax returns and offered immigration advice, even though she did not have a tax preparer’s license or a license to practice law.

According to the justice department, in Latin American countries, “notario publicos” are qualified and extensively trained professionals who offer a variety of consumer and legal services. In the U.S., people who are unlicensed and untrained often hold themselves out as notarios. Unsuspecting immigrants go to them expecting sound legal and financial advice and often get neither.

The board began looking into Hernandez after multiple clients filed complaints with the justice department. Hernandez took their money but left some returns unfinished. She refused to return original documents and threatened clients if they didn’t withdraw their complaints.

The terms of the settlement require Hernandez to return clients their documents and offer them restitution. She also must pay $9,921 in attorney fees.

To better address the notario issue, the justice department is supporting House Bill 2573 in the 2013 Oregon Legislature. It would make the unlicensed practice of law a separate violation of the Unlawful Trade Practices Act. The change would also facilitate justice department enforcement actions against notarios.

Clients of Hernandez seeking restitution should contact the Board of Tax Practitioners at 503-378-4034.

— Jim Redden