Milaca tax preparer pleads guilty to 15 tax-related felonies
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Revenue announced that the Mille Lacs County Attorney’s Office recently reached a plea agreement with Cindy M. Halgren, a tax preparer from Milaca. Ms. Halgren pleaded guilty to twelve counts of preparing false or fraudulent tax returns and three counts failing to pay state income tax. Based on public Minnesota Judicial Branch records, Ms. Halgren is scheduled to be sentenced in June.
Ms. Halgren was charged with 45 tax-related felonies in November 2018. According to the complaint, Ms. Halgren operated a tax preparation service, Clearview Tax, out of her home. Department investigators determined that between 2012 and 2018, Ms. Halgren prepared and submitted false tax filings for multiple customers and herself. Ms. Halgren allegedly filed these tax returns on the individuals’ behalf without reviewing them with her customers or having them sign the returns. Many returns appeared to include expenses for activities that customers identified to Ms. Halgren as hobbies, but were portrayed as business deductions. Ms. Halgren also falsified information on her own income tax returns and property tax refund returns filed for 2014 through 2016.
Although the department does not certify tax preparers, state law requires that tax professionals who prepare income tax returns must follow its standards of ethics and conduct. The majority of tax professionals abide by these standards and provide honest service and sound advice to their clients. In the rare event that a tax professional does not comply with these standards, they may be subject to penalties or criminal prosecution and may be barred from representing clients before the department. Taxpayers can report unprofessional conduct through the department's tax preparer page or by calling 651-296-3781.
Before you hire a preparer, take the time to ask the following questions. Qualified tax professionals should be able to provide you with complete answers to each of the questions below:
- What kind of formal tax training do you have?
- Do you hold any professional licenses or designations, such as certified public accountant (CPA), enrolled agent (EA), registered accounting practitioner (RAP), accredited tax advisor (ATA), or accredited tax preparer (ATP)?
- Do you belong to any professional organizations?
- Do you take continuing professional education classes each year?
- How long have you been preparing tax returns?
- Have you ever filed a tax return that was similar to my situation?
- Can I contact you all year long, or just during filing season?
- Have you ever been disciplined by any regulatory organization or governmental oversight authority for your tax preparation practices?
- Will you represent me if I’m audited by the IRS or the Minnesota Department of Revenue?
- How much do you charge and how do you calculate your fees?
Other things to consider
- Be careful of tax preparers who claim to know “the secrets” of obtaining unusually large refunds.
- Be cautious if someone charges fees based on a percentage of your refund.
- Never sign a blank tax form—even for your preparer.
More information on choosing a preparer is available on our website.