Bill could give Ky. volunteer firefighters tax credit

An income tax credit that would be equal to $1,000 could be available to certified volunteers

By Rachel Adkins
The Daily Independent

ASHLAND, Ky.  A proposed bill could assist volunteer fire departments throughout Kentucky with recruiting new firefighters and compensating them for costs that come with the job.

Rep. Rick G. Nelson, D-Middlesboro, is the force behind the bill that would provide volunteer firefighters an income tax credit that would be equal to $1,000 for each active certified volunteer firefighter.

“To become a volunteer firefighter, individuals must dedicate many hours of personal time for training and physical ability testing,” said Nelson. “Most volunteers do not get paid when responding to calls or for the required training. If payment is made, those payments may not cover the expenses of the volunteer.”

Finding volunteers has been a difficult task for the Cannonsburg Volunteer Fire Department, according to Fire Chief Timothy Stewart. The department currently has 20 regular volunteers and Stewart believes the bill would be a tremendous help in increasing that number.

“There’s not a lot of incentives any more for firefighters to volunteer,” he said, adding assistance at the state level is needed.

An active certified volunteer firefighter is defined as a firefighter who:

- Volunteers for a qualified fire department.

- Is active with a qualified fire department for the entire taxable year for which the tax credit is claimed.

- Appears on the list of certified volunteer firefighter provided by the Commission on Fire Protection Personnel Standards and Education.

Tim England, deputy chief of the Westwood Volunteer Fire Department, likes the fact that firefighters must meet the criteria to receive the tax credit, citing it will help motivate the younger firefighters to become certified.

“I see some real benefits to it,” he said.

New firefighters have two years upon joining the unit to receive their certification. After that, he explained it could hurt the department’s state aid.

There are 42 volunteers on the roster and, according to England, each member receives a small non-monthly reimbursement check that is based on how many calls they take and the training they have.

Nelson’s proposal calls for a credit to be created in January and he plans to pre-file his legislation this year to be presented during the 2017 General Assembly.

Copyright 2016 The Daily Independent

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