Tax Benefits for Volunteer First Responders

NATaT Supports Small Financial Incentives for Volunteer First Responders

NATaT supports Congressional efforts to provide small tax incentives to recruit and retain volunteer fire and emergency management personnel. Volunteer firefighters alone save communities of all sizes $129 billion a year, and represent 71% of all firefighters in the U.S. Of the total number of volunteer firefighters, 95% service communities with a population of 25,000 or less. Volunteer first responders provide the first line of defense for many types of emergencies, including fires, emergency medical incidents like the increasing number of opioid overdoses, natural disasters, terrorist events, and other public service calls. Recent reports, however, demonstrate that the number of volunteer firefighters has declined drastically due to 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 the increased demand for their services.

NATaT supports the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (VRIPA), H.R. 1550/S. 1238, which 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 are minimal compared to the estimated cost savings provided by volunteer emergency services.

Currently, VRIPA is included in both the House and Senate versions of the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act, H.R. 5282/S. 2526.  While not controversial, it is unlikely that this bill will move until after the November elections.

To learn more, download the full tax policy paper.