1. #1
    Sr. Information Officer
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    Arrow Volunteers and the long arm of the IRS

    Firefighting can be taxing enough...and now, along comes the IRS

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Needing to attract volunteer firefighters,
    some northeastern towns are looking to tax breaks. But they've run
    into a major stumbling block: the Internal Revenue Service.
    The IRS considers local property tax abatements provided to
    volunteers in exchange for services as income subject to federal
    taxation.
    That ruling, spelled out in a memorandum written earlier this
    year in a Massachusetts case, has exasperated local fire officials,
    who would rather the abatements be federally tax-exempt.
    "These are all blue-collar working people, and they're going to
    come after us for the nickel and dime," said William Lanning, a
    retired fire chief from South Windsor, Conn., which recently
    rescinded its tax abatement program. It is now considering other
    options for its volunteers.
    Volunteer firefighters are often eligible for stipends and other
    compensation, depending on where they work. Some get paid per call
    - anywhere from $5 to $32 per hour - while others get lump-sum
    payments for a year's work, retirement awards, state income tax
    credits or death benefits.
    But at a time when fire chiefs are struggling to fully staff
    stations, they want to keep property tax abatements in the arsenal
    of options, even though such abatements typically don't exceed
    $1,000.
    "Everyone's trying to find something to give them an edge in
    getting fire service personnel," said Johnny Dennis, who has tried
    to develop a retirement plan for volunteer firefighters in Alabama.
    Dennis' Underwood Petersville Volunteer Fire Department, which
    has lost half its staff since 1979, is still manned around the
    clock, but with fewer people per shift than before. The station
    puts on monthly fish fries to raise more than half its yearly
    budget of $80,000 and can't afford an all-paid service.
    Beyond practical concerns, fire officials argue that more - not
    less - should be done for emergency personnel, especially given the
    anti-terrorism demands placed on them in wake of the Sept. 11
    attacks and the anthrax mailings.
    Then there is President Bush's emphasis on greater volunteerism.
    "If it's necessary to give out a small token to these people to
    make it happen, that's what government should be doing," said John
    McAuliffe, Connecticut director for the National Volunteer Fire
    Council, the main organization of volunteer firefighters.
    The ranks of volunteer firefighters have decreased over 10
    percent in the last 20 years, but they still make up nearly
    three-fourths of the nation's nearly 1.1 million firefighters.
    Small towns are especially reliant on volunteers, with larger ones
    often supplementing their forces with paid personnel.
    "Nobody wants to give up their little turf, but we haven't got
    the money," said Mike Bird, a captain in the Wareham, Mass., fire
    department, which has both paid and volunteer firefighters.
    "That's the only way to survive."
    The decline in volunteers is attributed mostly to the fact that
    the job requires more training, more fund-raising and responses to
    more and varied calls than ever before - at a time when many are
    already strapped by jobs, family commitments and longer commutes.
    "I spend more time in the back of an ambulance than anything,"
    said Joe Maruca, a captain in the West Barnstable Fire Department.
    Many calls are for automobile accidents, medical emergencies,
    rescue operations and terrorism scares.
    Concerned about the decline, Connecticut in 1999 adopted a law
    enabling towns to provide tax abatements to volunteer emergency
    responders, and at least a dozen have done so, according to the
    Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. A similar law was
    recently passed in New York.
    But in January, the IRS ruled that property tax abatements of up
    to $500 given to senior citizen volunteers in Massachusetts could
    not be considered tax-exempt.
    "The payments are compensation for services rendered and,
    therefore, includible in the participants' gross income," wrote
    Heather C. Maloy, IRS associate chief counsel.
    Subsequently, Connecticut towns were informed that the
    Massachusetts ruling would apply to tax breaks for volunteer
    emergency responders, said Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., who next
    month plans to propose legislation that would make such breaks
    tax-exempt.
    Unless that legislation passes, states and towns may hold off on
    any new abatement programs, despite the obvious appeal.
    As Kirby Hannan of The Firemen's Association of the State of New
    York, a volunteer group, puts it: "It sends a message that the
    towns really, I think, want to have sent. ... `Here's four or five
    hundred dollars. We know it isn't much. But we appreciate you."'

    (Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

  2. #2
    IACOJ Agitator
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    Interesting...

    How in the world did they come across Lanning for a statement? Lanning retired from the South Broad Brook (aka South Windsor) FD this past June. He's still the town's fire marshall.
    IACOJ Agitator
    Fightin' Da Man Since '78!

  3. #3
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    So much for communities trying to give back to their volunteers . Yet another reason to drink on one's off duty time.
    Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
    Structures Specialist, MD-TF 1

    These statements are mine and mine alone
    I.A.C.O.J. Building crust and proud of it

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