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Larson’s Tax Benefit for Volunteer First Responders Included in End of Year Package

December 17, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. John B. Larson (CT-01) voted for H.R. 1865, Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, which included Larson’s Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (VRIPA). The bipartisan legislation would exempt from taxation the benefits volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel receive from their communities for tax year 2020.

“Our first responders put their lives on the line every time they respond to a call to protect our communities. They take these risks and volunteer on behalf of their neighbors, yet have been forced to pay federal taxes on the small tokens of gratitude their communities bestow in return. I’m proud that this bipartisan bill will now become law. This is the least we can do for these brave men and women,” said Larson.

Larson authored a similar bill that was signed into law in 2007, but the exemption expired in 2010. Currently, volunteers must pay federal income tax on these modest incentives. VRIPA would allow volunteer first responders to exempt from federal taxation any property tax reductions and up to $600 per year in other benefits in tax year 2020.

In recent years, the number of volunteer firefighters in the United States has declined by nearly 41,000 while the number of volunteers over the age of 50 has steadily increased. To boost recruitment and retention, many volunteer fire and EMS agencies provide minor financial and non-monetary incentives, including but not limited to uniforms, annual award ceremonies, and reduced property taxes.

The services donated by volunteer first responders are estimated to be worth approximately $46.9 billion annually. Without these services, many communities would be unable to provide firefighting and emergency medical services.