Catching Up with TAP Alumni

St. Louis , Mo.

Ron Szweda (ND '61 Accountancy) started the St. Louis TAP in 1998, modeling it after the Chicago program. He continues to serve as the managing director. The program has five sites and staffs the locations with a total of 350 volunteers. About 200 of them are involved in the tax preparation process with the remainder responsible for marketing and support. Returns are filed electronically to expedite the refunds. Szweda has several annual meetings with his site managers, sends an annual report to each volunteer and hosts an annual picnic.

In his May, 2006 letter to volunteers, Szweda said, “Since the beginning of TAP nine years ago, our volunteers prepared tax returns for 11,362 families and generated $12,947,000 in refunds. Every dollar of these refunds went directly to these families to assist them in upgrading their standard of living.”

Szweda is a semi-retired CPA who participates in Senior Olympics events in Missouri and Illinois and spends a great deal of time with his eight grandchildren.

Ann Arbor , Mich.

Jim and Kathy Sullivan

Jim Sullivan (ND '95 Accountancy) has been running the TAP VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) for the Ann Arbor Alumni Club since 2000 and has recently started a new initiative in conjunction with the IRS for training the club's volunteers.

Not many of the club's volunteers are accounting or even business alumni. There is an internist, a scientist and an engineer who return each year simply because they are asked. Volunteers meet with clients at the Hope Center in Ypsilanti . In the six years of the program, they have assisted more than 250 taxpayers claim in excess of $200,000 in federal and state refunds.

Sullivan says that he is always grateful for the feeling he gets helping people deal with the confusing process of filing a tax return. He says, “I know how important the program is to the taxpayers. When you have a single mother of two small children living off of part time wages, making 12K a year, and see the relief on her face when she finds out she is getting a refund of almost $4,000—that is a good feeling.”

Sullivan owns a CPA firm specializing in tax and merger and acquisition for small non-public companies and is an owner-partner in other business ventures.

DuPage County , Ill.

At a ND alumni function in 2001, the club president asked if someone would start up a TAP. Without much thought, Steve Auerbach (ND '87 Accountancy) volunteered, running the program for its first five years.

The DuPage County program involves 30 to 40 preparers as well as another 20 volunteers who assist with marketing and support.

Auerbach credits the Chicago office of the IRS for the training and cooperation it provides, saying, “Without them, our success would be impossible.”

Auerbach is the global head of Project Management for Calyon Financial, a global brokerage firm. He says he shares carpool responsibilities for his son and daughter with his wife, Amy.

Atlanta , Ga.

The Atlanta TAP program was started seven years ago by Jim Webster (ND '64 Accountancy), who continues as recruiter and managing preparer.

Webster says that he started the program seeking to give back to the community while also accomplishing two things: sharing his time and talents and providing a high quality and valuable service so that the recipient remembers Notre Dame as the source and can appreciate the efforts of the graduates and the University.

Most volunteers serve as preparers for two to four years, although Webster notes that one has been with the program since the beginning.

Webster says, “There are significant rewards annually working with the quality of the ND grads—all much younger than I—and the occasional, but not uncommon, tears of gratitude from our patrons. We do require them all to promise to cheer for Notre Dame in the upcoming season.”

Webster is a semi-retired CPA who runs, plays league tennis, cycles 70 miles a week and does some adventure travel.

South Bend , Ind.

Tim Emerick (ND '00 Accountancy) has been involved with TAP since 1998 when he served as the Plymouth , Ind. site supervisor. The following year, Professor Milani asked him to supervise the entire Notre Dame program.

Wishing to remain involved following graduation, Emerick has volunteered his time to help ND students at various TAP locations in South Bend .

Emerick says that he continues to assist with student locations in the Mishawaka-South Bend area because it allows him to give back to the community and to make a difference in someone's life. He recalled the time that a mother came in with a child who was 3 or 4 years-old. Her income was less than $5,000 and all she could say was, “Don't ask me how I make it.”

And, of course, there is the added benefit of being able to stay involved with the University.

Emerick is an associate at Barnes & Thornburg LLP in South Bend , Ind.

Baltimore , Md.

Ten years ago, Garr Isacco (ND '66 Finance) heard that the University was getting involved in TAP. Given that he is a CPA, he volunteered to run the program—and still does, because he enjoys the work and the clients are grateful for the assistance.

The program is staffed by two volunteers and serves approximately 25 families each year, meeting at two locations in the Baltimore area. Due to limited access to technology, the program is small, but Isacco is working on changes to expand it.

Isacco recalls one especially gratifying experience when he learned that a refugee from El Salvador used her Earned Income Tax Credit refund to buy a house under a special Maryland program for low-income families.

Isacco is the part-time comptroller for the Marist Society in Washington , D.C.

Cuyahoga County , Ohio

IRS Commissioner Mark Everson and Ben Nichols

In 2006, the Cuyahoga County EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) Coalition, which works with almost 20 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites throughout the county, prepared tax returns for more than 2,700 clients who received in excess of $3 million in refunds. For Ben Nichols (ND '93, Accountancy), who is the coordinator of the coalition, it all began when he was Professor Ken Milani's teaching assistant and TAP coordinator his senior year at Notre Dame. And except for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, Nichols has been preparing tax returns ever since.

Nichols trains more than 100 volunteers who meet with clients and prepare tax returns in locations such as church basements, social service agencies, libraries and even the bullpen at a telemarketing business.

Nichols said that he continues to participate because “there's no better feeling than telling a low-income family that they are going to receive 40 percent of their annual income in one check. I wish my job was this easy every day.”

Nichols works for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., a national nonprofit that helps developers build and finance affordable housing and is also the fiscal agent for the EITC Coalition.

McHenry County , Ill.

Started in 2001, the Woodstock , Ill. TAP collaborates with the local Rotary Club for both public relations and volunteer recruitment. The program is staffed with bilingual volunteers who meet with clients at rotating sites—either a Catholic or Unitarian church or an apartment complex.

The site manager, Joe Cox (ND '92 Economics), has been with the program since its inception.

Cox says, “I feel obligated to give back to my community and want to set an example for my children that community service is important. Also, this program is unique [for] our community.”

Cox is a vice president at JPMorgan Chase, a member of the Woodstock Morning Rotary Club and president of the Alumni Association of Leadership, Greater McHenry County.

Black Hills , S.D.

The Black Hills Notre Dame Club has been participating in TAP since 1999, primarily meeting with Native American families at a Catholic Church Mission.

Jami Poeppel (ND '94 Mechanical Engineering) has been involved since 2001—and has made it a family affair, inviting her dad to participate as well.

Poeppel says, “I get excited every time we realize a larger-than-expected return for a young family. The family gets so excited and immediately starts to plan what it is they are going to do with the money—usually something like a new TV or car—and I find myself joining in. Then my dad sort of squashes the fun with advice about savings. As I have learned along the way, my dad is always right. I skip to his way of thinking and start nodding along.”

Hilton Head, N.C.

When thinking of Hilton Head, visions of beautiful gated communities and pristine resorts come to mind. Residents and patrons with comfortable incomes would seem to be the norm. But working to keep yards neatly manicured, hotel rooms sparkling and restaurants bustling is a low-income population, many of whom are Hispanic with limited English proficiency.

Enter TAP. The Hilton Head program was started in 1998 by Tom Loosbrock (ND '52 Architecture), who was a member of the Senior Alumni Board. Loosbrock handles administrative duties; Sean Naughten (ND '61 Chemical Engineering) oversees the tax preparation.

More than 125 returns are prepared annually by fewer than 15 volunteers who meet with families at the Hilton Head library every Saturday morning during tax season. An interpreter is on-site to assist as needed. Most of the current tax preparers have been involved in the program since it first began.

As an example, Loosbrock said, “It's extremely worthwhile for us and Notre Dame to have this as part of the alumni effort to help people in such a special way.”

And when asked about a special experience, Loosbrock recalled a young Hispanic man who came to the site for assistance with his tax filing. Over the years, he strove to improve his working situation and, eventually, he was no longer eligible for TAP. However, he continues to come to the site—in the role of a translator for other Hispanic families.

Charleston , S.C.

Charleston , S.C. began its program in preparation for the 2001 tax season. Although the club does not fully man a tax assistance site, members volunteer with others at local sites. Site locations are coordinated with local agencies such as the Urban League and volunteers meet with clients at local libraries.

Jerry English (ND '71 Architecture) is the site manager and has been involved with TAP since 2001. English considers the opportunity to assist local international students in filing returns to be among his most meaningful experiences with the program.

“I view this community service as something special for the low-income individuals who may not otherwise be aware of the programs designed to provide assistance through the tax code,” he says.

English is an architect practicing in Charleston and one of the founders of the ND Club of Charleston, having served as president for several years.


Copyright © 2006 University of Notre Dame All Rights Reserved Last Updated on: October 31, 2006