The Center for Economic Progress (CEP) took strategic action to strengthen our services and commitment to Illinois families getting back to our roots of helping them move toward financial stability. Spinning off the National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC) into its own independent entity certainly enabled our renewed focus.

And the results are already tangible: our return on investment is $35.  For every dollar invested in CEP, $35 is returned to clients and their communities.

Keep reading to find out about the focused actions we took in 2013.

In turning the calendar to 2014, we have begun a strategic planning process. Well-positioned for growth, we are optimistic; yet, we can always improve. Honing in on what we do best now enables us to do even better. That’s the benefit of focus.

  • Bundled services
  • Expanded capacity
  • Year-round support

This is what makes CEP different: that we offer more than just free tax preparation services.

Our Tax Clinic is a perfect example. Year-round, the Clinic relieves great stress for those facing complicated IRS issues such as innocent spouse relief, audits, collections, and past due tax returns. The Clinic also provides legal representation for free.

In 2013, we focused more resources to expand our services. With a full-time American Bar Association fellow and a director who is a leader in the field, we were able to serve even more individuals.

Tax Clinic in 2013


Increase in the number of clients who received legal representation


Increase in the number of clients who participated in workshops and presentations on their rights and responsibilities as taxpayers


Total tax debt saved

Success Story

Earlier this year, CEP represented a divorced mother who had a financially crippling $87,000 tax lien. She received the lien because she co-signed a joint tax return with her then-husband who, she learned years after, had underpaid taxes and underreported his income.  With our help, she was granted full relief for the three tax years during which her husband committed fraud.

In 2013, CEP surveyed clients to help shed light on how we can improve our tax services. We also hired an experienced tax professional to audit our tax services program and make recommendations for best practices.

Engaging our clients and with feedback from our program audit, many of our strengths were affirmed, while areas for improvement were revealed.

What We Learned:

  • With 40% of our clients claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit, CEP reaches more EIC taxpayers than any other community tax program. We effectively reach people in the zip codes with the highest numbers of EIC taxpayers.
  • In 2013, we launched tax sites in Evanston and Brighton Park. Specifically, in Brighton Park, we renewed our focus on community building and developed community partnerships with United Way Metropolitan Chicago and Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.
  • Our partnerships with banks and credit unions make it possible for us to offer competitive financial products, often at no- or low-cost.
  • CEP is ahead of many VITA programs in using technology to create efficiencies such as delivering volunteer training online and using a web-based project management tool to communicate and manage 40 seasonal tax site staff.

How We Took Action:

  • Launched a quarterly client e-newsletter to provide clients with year-round tax and financial tips.
  • Boosted our capacity to serve more clients and better match volunteer availability and client demand.
  • Shored up our year-round volunteer corps to better serve clients after April 15. In 2013, Money Action Day events and monthly walk-ins resulted in 167 clients served, more than $130k in refunds returned, and 96 clients received financial and tax-related legal advice.
  • Planned to get more innovative at tax time by launching new offerings: preparing a client’s taxes remotely from our main office; having a drop-off service; fine tuning our online volunteer training; enhancing our advertising; highlighting best practices in customer service.
  • Client survey
  • Program audit
  • Taking action on feedback
  • One-time opportunity
  • Expand Reach
  • Support Our Clients

The rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is one of the biggest changes to the tax system. It not only changes the way people access and interact with health insurance — whether through Medicaid or private insurers — it also is changing the tax code to both incentivize, and penalize taxpayers, based on the coverage they secure (or don’t).

The scope and complexity of the ACA rollout provided a unique, one-time opportunity. The majority of our adult clients are uninsured or underinsured — as many as 10,000 could be eligible for health insurance under the ACA.

With more than 20 years experience in providing direct services that enhance clients’ financial security, CEP was in a unique position. We could provide access and information, while at the same time expanding our reach by:

  • Utilizing our existing community-based infrastructure to deliver tax and financial services, including ACA support and information — as the basis for new outreach and enrollment efforts.
  • Leveraging our position as a trusted messenger and voice. CEP frontline staff and volunteers are knowledgeable, well-trained professionals. Often local residents, they understand how to reach and assist diverse and low-income populations — those most dramatically affected by health care reform.

Research shows that 25% of Americans have no savings and an estimated one in four adults do not have or rarely use a bank account.

One way that people can save is to commit at least part of their tax refund to a savings account or U.S. savings bond. Many taxpayers, however, are unaware of this option.

Consider that:

  • More than $300 billion is refunded to taxpayers annually ($2,300 per taxpayer). For some families, their refund is the largest lump sum they receive all year.
  • A tax refund provides an opportunity to improve a family’s financial situation. It can be the difference between those who manage to stay afloat and those who sink into debt. Not having an emergency savings fund is often a reason individuals borrow too much money at high interest rates.
  • Keeping $500 to $1,000 of savings for emergencies can allow a family to meet many of life’s unexpected, yet inevitable, challenges — from needing new brakes on your car or buying your child eyeglasses to covering the dental expense of filling a painful cavity or paying for a parking ticket.
  • Inform
  • Empower
  • Provide Options

Life Happens. Save For It.

Tax-time Savings Campaign from CEP

2013 Annual Report

As part of our financial capability program, CEP in 2013 began planning an awareness campaign that included:

  • Marketing efforts focused on challenging clients to save.
  • Planning for CEP staff and volunteers and our bank and credit union partners to be present at two of our 2014 tax sites. Together they will be able to provide counsel and assistance with setting up accounts.


2013 Annual Report

Download the full report here >

CEP served as the parent organization of the National
Community Tax Coalition LLC until September 30, 2013.

See our 990 and our latest audited financial statement.


$250,000 +

  • City of Chicago
  • Illinois Department of Human Services
  • Illinois Department of Public Health
  • U.S. Department of Treasury - Internal Revenue Service

$100,000 - $249,999

  • JPMorgan Chase Foundation
  • Prudential Foundation
  • Walmart Foundation

$50,000 - $99,999

  • American Bar Association
  • Citi Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation
  • Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust
  • United Way of Metropolitan Chicago

$25,000 - $49,999

  • Bank of America Charitable Foundation
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois
  • Brinson Foundation
  • Exelon Corporation
  • Grand Victoria Foundation
  • State Farm
  • Steans Family Foundation
  • The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation

$10,000 - $24,999

  • COUNTRY Financial
  • Discover
  • Evanston Community Foundation
  • First Midwest Bank
  • Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois
  • Mary Reusche
  • netSpend
  • Northern Trust Charitable Trust
  • Pierce Family Foundation
  • The Chicago Bar Foundation
  • The Field Foundation of Illinois
  • U.S. Bancorp Foundation
  • United Way of Elgin

$5,000 - $9,999

  • CME Group
  • Hoffer Foundation
  • Illinois Bar Foundation
  • Jack Ringer Family Foundation
  • Michael Fayhee
  • Pierce and Associates
  • Popular Community Bank Foundation

$2,500 - $4,999

  • BCM Harris Company
  • Brian Folkers
  • Cole Taylor Bank
  • Daniel Sprehe
  • FTI Consulting
  • Kirkland & Ellis LLP
  • Lauren Robinson
  • Lisa Canafax
  • McDermott Will & Emery
  • Scott Matrenec
  • Seyfarth Shaw LLP
  • Sodexo
  • United Way of the Bay Area

$1,000 - $2,499

  • Anne Murdoch and Michael Walker
  • Anonymous
  • David May
  • Eddie and Dawn Gershman
  • Harlan Teller
  • Jennifer Tescher and Jonathan Eig
  • Laura Duda
  • Mary Alberts
  • Ray Padilla
  • The Greatest Good
  • Thomas Kittle-Kamp
  • TTX Company

$500 - $999

  • Andrew Hogue
  • Brendan Lynch
  • David Geiselhart
  • George Wright
  • Gopi Vajravelu
  • Guinevere Moore
  • Holly Ashworth
  • Katherine Moburg
  • Meredith Mack
  • Mr. and Mrs. John R. Congdon
  • North Shore Community Bank & Trust Co.
  • Raymond James Financial
  • Richard Wetherald
  • Robert Davis
  • Robert McKenzie
  • Tom Blaser

$250 - $499

  • Ashley Hayes Forte
  • Carter Howard
  • Dan Lyons
  • Daniel Kanter
  • David Varnerin
  • Dorsey & Whitney Trust Company
  • Grant Thornton LLP
  • Jennifer Seaton
  • Jodie Winnett
  • Jonathan Pitts in honor of Ellen Mitchell
  • Martin J. and Susan B. Kozak Fund at The Chicago Community Trust
  • Patrick Curran
  • Robert Weinberger
  • Steve Zeller

$100 - $249

  • Adrienne Harrison
  • Alfredo Favela
  • Anonymous
  • Arwen Lauen
  • Ashkon Farmand
  • Beth Pagnotta
  • Bryan and Pamela Gruley
  • Carol Cole
  • Constance Dornan
  • Eileen Bourke
  • Elizabeth Frye
  • Eric Grant
  • Fifth Third Bank
  • Hilda Renteria
  • Illinois Action for Children
  • Illinois CPA Society O'Hare Chapter
  • Jean Soh
  • John Lamszus
  • Katherine Davis
  • Maritessa Asejo
  • Monica San Miguel
  • Nikki Yuen
  • Patrick Moran
  • Paul and Patricia Carmignani
  • Richard Walker
  • Robert Gordon
  • Robert Murphy
  • Robert Rudolph
  • Ronald Sonethal
  • Rony Youkhana
  • Sarah Marshall
  • Susan Abraham
  • Terri Zhu
  • Theodore and Christine Krakowski
  • Tom and Yili Pritchett

Up to $99

  • Adam Freeman
  • Alan Cooper
  • Alberto Ortega
  • Anderson Elliott
  • Angella Joseph
  • Anonymous
  • Antonio Urrutia
  • Benjamin Davidson
  • Bennie Nida Concepcion Plant in honor of Primitivo S. Concepcion
  • Brian Carlson
  • Christiana Atisele
  • Christopher Sarcletti
  • Claire Howard
  • Danielle Howard
  • Eddie McClinton
  • Elliott Ivy
  • Francisco Perez
  • Gail Clark-Herron
  • GE
  • Glenn Jones
  • Gloria Gates
  • Graff Valve & Fittings Co.
  • Gussie Calhoun
  • Haley Marceau
  • Idella Kennerson
  • Innogive Foundation
  • Jacqueline Cellisa
  • Jamie Crockett
  • Jeffrey Heakin
  • Jordan Ciccarello
  • Jose Valadez
  • Joseph Holberg
  • Juan Rea
  • Julia Tirado
  • Kenneth Keefner
  • Kuppalapalle Vajravelu
  • Lisa Robinson
  • Luis Bermudez
  • Maria Estrella
  • Maria Palomo
  • Maria Vega
  • Marie Leogene
  • Marisha Chareonvooti
  • Matthew Casey
  • Mcormilyne San Jose
  • Melodee Knapp
  • Meta Rose Johnson
  • Michael Byrne
  • Michael Haley
  • Michael Mertes
  • Oscar Cardenas
  • Pablo Escobar Gonzalez
  • Pedro Delgado
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
  • Rhonda Jarvis
  • Sarah Brotherton
  • Talmadge Payton Jr.
  • Thomas and Constance Guardi
  • Uvaldo Nieto
  • William Jefferson
  • Yung Ling Liu Choi

Matching Gifts

  • Abbott Laboratories
  • Bank of America Charitable Foundation
  • Exelon Corporation
  • GE Foundation
  • JPMorgan Chase Foundation
  • Morgan Stanley
  • U.S. Bank
  • W.W. Grainger, Inc.

In-Kind Support

  • Arturo Velasquez Institute
  • Dawson Technical Institute
  • Father Gary Graf Center
  • FTI Consulting
  • Gail Borden Public Library
  • Harold Washington College
  • My Chicago Golf
  • McDermott Will & Emery
  • Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc.
  • Northern Trust
  • Oasis Legal Finance, LLC
  • Prairie State College
  • St. Sabina Employment Resource Center
  • Rosa Genoveva Cunalata
  • Truman College
  • University of St. Francis
  • Waubonsee Community College


In 2013, over 800 individuals invested their time to help us meet our mission. We thank all our volunteers.  Following are CEP volunteers we want to recognize for going above and beyond in 2013.

100+ Hours

  • Laurence Appleton
  • Melanie Arceo
  • Aja Brewer
  • Angelica Castillo
  • Lauren Conrad
  • Norval Galloway*
  • Abraham Garcia
  • Tonei Glavinic
  • James Jackson*
  • Bernice Jones
  • Esther King
  • Stanley Koziol*
  • John Kozlowski*
  • Judy Lazar
  • Daniel Lindquist
  • Justina Lukosiunaite
  • Ming Mac*
  • McDermott Will & Emery
  • Pamela McNichols*
  • Neil Meltzer*
  • Jeffrey Moore
  • Joe Murphy*
  • Benjamin Nellans
  • Jacqueline Nyenke
  • Royace Prather
  • Elizabeth Pritchard*
  • Barry Pritchard*
  • Ashley Ramchandani
  • Thomas Reske
  • Ernestine Ridgnal*
  • David Rock*
  • Amar Shah
  • Lucille Tripp
  • Willis Wade Jr.
  • Joseph Williams
  • Minnie Williams*

50-99 hours

  • Anna Acevedo
  • Bruce Aiello*
  • Betty Akins*
  • Penny Alcala
  • Magdalena Amancha
  • Juan Avila*
  • Dille Berberi
  • Amanda Bethencourt
  • Lilian Black
  • Paul Brinkman*
  • Kathleen Bromley*
  • Arlene Burns
  • Nohora Chacon
  • Howard Cohen
  • Judith Cohen
  • Brenda DeGeer
  • Molly Ekerdt
  • Corrine Fayne
  • Ann Fox
  • Bill Forney
  • Mary Gallagher
  • Frank Gant*
  • Elena Gaponenko
  • Paul Garcia
  • Delores Garrett*
  • Mary Geoghegan*
  • Saundra Green*
  • Thomas Guardi
  • Yue Guo
  • LaTwanda Guyton*
  • Doug Hart
  • William Hausle
  • Stephen Hawrysz
  • Monique Henderson
  • Gloria Herrera*
  • Fred Hicks*
  • Christopher Hilton
  • Andrew J Hogue
  • Claire Howard
  • Gerard Inguagiato*
  • Patricia Jackson
  • Jocelyn Jaramillo
  • Frances Jenkins*
  • Michelle Joiner
  • Carol Kelly*
  • John Kintner*
  • Bahram Kalantarpour
  • Steven Krasner*
  • Ewa Kremer
  • Chang Li


  • Charlotte Lichtenfeld
  • Lilibeth Llagas
  • Shirley Marrs
  • David May*
  • Emily McKnight
  • Thomas Melvin
  • Marci Metz
  • Dyann Miller
  • Maureen Mottram
  • Gary J Neumayer
  • John O' Hara*
  • Dit Olshan
  • Williamette Osborne
  • Joan Osika
  • Bing Owens*
  • Larry Owens*
  • Allen Pavia
  • Gail Parry
  • Alicia Peterson
  • Brent Phillips
  • Johnnie Potts
  • Sal Porras
  • Thomas Pritchett
  • Dolores Ratajczak
  • Jasmine Razo
  • Vincent Reinhardt*
  • Mark Schauwecker
  • Stephen Smith
  • Lucana Speechley*
  • Susan Stodolsky
  • Laura Suhr
  • Muthuswamy Sunder
  • Judy Thomas
  • Eric Tobin
  • Gopi Vajravelu
  • Burt Walker
  • Yang Wang
  • William Webber
  • Rose Weissbaum
  • Charles White
  • Mary White*
  • Greg Wilson
  • Pin Yu Wu
  • Yaqiong Yao
  • Mitchell Yates
  • Kun Ye
  • Ruoxiang Ye
  • Rony Youkhana*
  • Sizheng Zeng
  • Xi Zhang
  • Bohao Zhao

*Has volunteered five or more years