Ann Esarco Instrumental in Shaping Free Tax Clinic
MCC Accounting instructor Ann Esarco’s passion for tax preparation is helping 600 people a year. As coordinator of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Clinic, a free tax assistance clinic for low income individuals and families, she ensures that people receive their fair share of a refund and, at the same time, makes sure others are not taking advantage the system.
“We stand between the money and the taxpayer,” Esarco said. “Some people think they’re entitled to a large refund based on the earned income tax credit, when they really don’t qualify on all points.”
In its sixth year, the tax clinic is open three hours a day on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings in Room A102 and is staffed by Esarco and a team of 15 community volunteers, six accounting students and a site manager. This year, they prepare about 30-45 returns a day, which is twice as many as last year. According to Esarco, the increase in the volume of returns is due to the economy, which has resulted in many people losing their jobs and facing foreclosure or already having had their homes taken away.
“I am passionate about taxes and we want to help the community,” she said, adding that the Clinic originally was run by the Center for Economic Progress for the first four years. “When they stopped running it, we decided to take it over.”
Esarco stresses to all of her students, from those in beginning accounting to students enrolled in her Accounting 290 Topics class, which trains students for the VITA clinic is that they can apply accounting knowledge throughout their lifetime, no matter what field they work in. Students in the VITA program also take an ethics test, a law test and a basic tax preparation test before they can volunteer at the clinic.
“Know your money,” Esarco said she tells her students. “When handed a financial statement, students should read it and be comfortable with it and have no fear of it.”
An MCC accounting instructor for 20 years, Esarco originally became interested in accounting while working for an entertainment company after she earned her GED. She experienced a chaotic school career because her family moved often and she attended eight different schools in nine years. She dropped out of high school after finishing her freshman year and went to work for an entertainment company, preparing paperwork for their CPA.
“I liked accounting because it seemed precise,” she said. “There were no gray areas. I saw it as a black and white discipline with applied rules and I knew I could be successful at it.”
After earning her GED, she attended three community colleges, including MCC, pooled all of her community college credits with some four-year credits and eventually earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting. She continued her education, earning a master’s degree in taxation and a Ph.D. in education, specializing in instructional design and online learning.
When she’s not teaching or filing tax returns at the clinic, she is busy training for the 2013 Chicago Marathon. She also is a coach for Girls on the Run, a youth mentoring program for girls in grades 3-5.