Tax Armageddon Comes Early for Volunteers

Inside the Beltway, a new term will be repeated throughout the 2012 election season: “Tax Armageddon.” This doomsday-inspiring term refers to Dec. 31, 2012.

Usually a day of celebration, New Year’s Eve 2012 marks an ominous omnibus of forced spending cuts and the expiration of the current payroll tax cut, Bush tax cuts and other tax provisions.

One provision has already expired: the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (VRIPA), which expired on Dec. 31, 2010.

Now many volunteer firefighters and emergency service personnel are discovering they owe Uncle Sam a little extra this year.

For the last several years, volunteer and combination fire departments haven’t had to report property tax benefits and the first $360 in other volunteer recruitment and retention benefits. This year, however, volunteer firefighters had to pay the federal government for serving their local communities.

In Congress, the IAFC continues to advocate for the extension and an increase to the VRIPA with the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2353/S. 933). Both the House and the Senate bills reinstate VRIPA, protect the property tax discount incentive and increase the previous $360 limit for other payments that are excluded from federal taxation to $600 per year.

Both the House and the Senate bills continue to gain cosponsors. We anticipate that after fire chiefs from around the country come to Washington for the CFSI events this month, we’ll add even more.

If you’re coming to Washington, bring the stories your volunteer firefighters have shared with you about having to pay more taxes this year than last year. Share the complaints you’re hearing from your personnel about all of the time they spend away from their family for training, meetings and missions and how the federal government simply doesn’t understand the volunteer fire service.

Explain to your representative and senators that while they worry about Tax Armageddon at the end of 2012, volunteer first responders are already feeling the pain.

Tony Baker is a government relations manager with the IAFC.

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