NVFC Submits Testimony to House Ways and Means Committee on Volunteer Recruitment/Retention

On April 15, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) submitted testimony to two Tax Reform Working Groups that were established by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means to collect information to be used in the development of comprehensive tax reform legislation. The testimonies recommended simplification of the manner in which volunteer recruitment and retention incentives are taxed.

“Firefighters that are paid a modest amount still consider themselves to be volunteers and view the benefits they receive as a form of reimbursement for all of the sacrifices they make serving their department,” said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg in testimony provided to the Income and Tax Distribution Working Group. “These sacrifices include not only the time and energy that they donate but, frequently, paying for items that the department either can’t afford or doesn’t have the administrative wherewithal to provide.”

Stittleburg recommended that Congress enact the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (VRIPRA), which would exempt small benefit amounts that volunteer emergency responders receive from being taxed as income. Passage of VRIPRA would ensure that volunteers don’t have to pay benefits that amount to reimbursement for expenses incurred on behalf of the department. Click here to read the full testimony and here to use the NVFC’s Capwiz service to contact your U.S. Senators to ask them to cosponsor VRIPRA.

Stittleburg also asked Congress to simplify federal tax rules governing length of service award programs (LOSAPs) by passing the Volunteer Emergency Services Recruitment and Retention Act (VESRRA). In testimony submitted to the Pensions/Retirement Tax Reform Working Group he explained that:

“Because the federal tax treatment of LOSAP is unnecessarily confusing and restrictive, some states have been hesitant to pass laws authorizing local departments and/or governments to establish plans. Without state authorization, plans are difficult to establish and local governments are frequently prevented from contributing funds. Even in states that do authorize LOSAP, application of… …problematic rules… …can make administering plans unnecessarily costly and confusing.”

The full testimony on LOSAP was submitted along with a technical explanation of VESRRA developed by Ed Holohan, an actuary and member of the NVFC’s LOSAP Committee. You can view the full testimony here and the NVFC’s Capwiz Action Alert on VESRRA here.

The NVFC also submitted an addendum accompanying Stittleburg’s testimony citing data that show the number of volunteer firefighters in the United States decreasing even as the average age of firefighters serving communities with 2,500 or fewer residents is rising. The addendum can be viewed here and also contains copies of 13 articles that were published within the last year about recruitment and retention challenges that volunteer emergency services agencies are facing across the country.