Congress has not yet restored recently expired tax provisions, including the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (VRIPA), that expired at the end of 2010 due to the larger debate about the federal deficit.
Throughout most of 2011, Congress focused on reining in spending and the best methods to address the nation’s long-term deficit. During the summer, Congress voted to raise the debt ceiling and created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. This bipartisan committee, composed of 12 members (six Republicans, six Democrats) must vote on a report recommending policy changes to reduce the deficit by November 23. If passed out of committee, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate must vote on the Joint Committee’s proposal by December 23.
How does this affect the volunteer fire service?
The Deficit Committee is expected to include recommendations on revenues and tax expenditures in their report. With the committee’s deadline fast approaching, its report may be the only tax package to move through Congress by the end of the calendar year—and could be the only opportunity to extend VRIPA.
The IAFC recently sent a letter (PDF) with other national organizations to the members of the Deficit Committee asking that they “keep in mind the urgent need to extend VRIPA.” The letter explains that federal taxation of volunteer recruit and retention benefits reduces the incentive value and increases the tax burden for volunteers.
Volunteer firefighters should not have to pay the federal government in order to serve their local communities. Many members of Congress agree with us and more will join our efforts once they learn how policies in Washington affect firefighters in their congressional district.
The IAFC will continue to advocate that VRIPA be included in any tax-extension or tax-overhaul plan. To be successful, it’s important that fire chiefs and other constituents remind their individual members of Congress about the need to extend VRIPA.
Please continue to call, write and email your representative and senators on this issue. Ask your representative to show support for volunteer firefighters by cosponsoring the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (H.R.2353/S.933).
Both bills put VRIPA back on the books, excluding from taxable income any property tax benefit. Additionally, both the House and the Senate bills increase the previous $360 limit for other payments protected from federal taxation to $600 per year.
The clock is ticking to extend VRIPA before the end of the year; reach out to your elected officials today.
Tony Baker is a government relations manager with the IAFC.