Tax Benefits for Volunteer First Responders

NATaT Supports Small Financial Incentives for Volunteer First Responders

Volunteers comprise 71% of firefighters in the United States and save local communities of all sizes an estimated nearly $140 billion a year. Of the total number of volunteer firefighters, 95% work in communities with a population of 25,000 or less. Volunteer firefighters provide the first line of defense for many types of emergencies, including fires, emergency medical incidents, terrorist events, natural disasters, and other general public service calls. However, recent reports demonstrate that the number of volunteer firefighters has drastically declined and that this decline stems from difficulties in recruiting and retaining these essential volunteers. Reasonable financial incentives for volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel serve as important recruitment and retention tools for local emergency response departments who are struggling to meet increased demand.

The Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act, H.R. 1550/S. 1238, would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exclude property tax benefits and up to $600 per year in other benefits provided to volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel from employment taxes and wage withholding. These benefits were in law from 2007 to 2010.

With the ranks of volunteer fire and EMS personnel declining but still critically needed, the federal government should provide small incentives to these volunteers who risk their lives for little or no compensation. The cost of these incentives to the federal government would be minimal compared to the estimated cost savings provided by volunteer emergency services.

To learn more, download the full policy paper.