Dodd introduces Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act of 2010
Northwest Corner residents benefit from emergency services provided by dedicated and highly trained volunteers. Having all-volunteer fire and ambulance squads saves towns enormous amounts of money â€” and provides an added benefit: Area residents say itâ€™s comforting in an emergency to see a familiar face.
But ever-increasing demands on the time of the volunteers and increasingly extensive certification requirements are making it difficult for many volunteers to make the commitment.
The situation reached a critical stage here around the mid-1990s. Towns began looking at the cost of paid emergency services, and quickly decided to instead offer tax breaks, pension plans and other means of recruiting, retaining and rewarding volunteers.
However, in 2002, the Internal Revenue Service threw a spanner in the works by taxing all volunteer incentive benefits as earnings.
In 2007, U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (SS1466). It included the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 and excluded from taxation property tax abatements and up to $360 per year in other compensation.
Both bills expire at the end of this year.
Under new legislation introduced late last week by Dodd and Collins (called the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act of 2010), property tax abatements and up to $600 per year in volunteer personnel compensation would be exempt from federal taxation for an additional three years.
â€œVolunteer firefighters and first responders often balance full-time careers and family obligations with service to their communities,â€ Dodd said in a news release. â€œRequiring these brave and selfless volunteers to pay taxes on the benefits they receive creates a disincentive for them to serve. This legislation will help maintain strong and well-staffed first responder departments in the face of local and state budget cuts that have forced many to reduce their numbers.â€