Felder Bill to Increase Tax Credit for Volunteer First Responders

Senator Simcha Felder (D-Midwood) and Assemblywomen Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh) introduced legislation (S6802) that would increase the Volunteer Firefighter and EMS State income tax credit for the first time in 12 years. The $200 tax credit currently available to active volunteers has remained unchanged since first established in 2007.

This important legislation would increase the credit to $500 for eligible individuals and $1000 for married joint filers who do not receive any direct monetary compensation for their service. If enacted, the credit would go into effect for taxable years beginning in 2020.

“Volunteer firefighters and first responders, including Hatzalah members, are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No matter the weather, the conditions or the time of day, these extraordinary people answer the call to keep New Yorkers safe,” said Senator Felder. “It is time to recognize their invaluable contribution by updating and increasing this tax credit.”

“New York State is in desperate need of attracting more volunteer firefighters. The brave men and women who often risk their lives in order to protect our communities do so without pay and without many of the other benefits afforded to career firefighters,” said Assemblywomen Gunther. “They save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars every year and we all owe them a debt of gratitude.”

“Volunteer emergency medical service organizations like Hatzolah support and further city resources and have been shown to improve response times in emergencies where every second counts. While our volunteers are unconditionally committed, it is certainly encouraging to be appreciated in this way,” said Isaac Stern, CEO of Hatzalah.

The number of volunteer firefighters in New York State has dropped from 110,000 in 1990 to fewer than 100,000 today. Increasing the tax credit can strengthen recruitment at a time when many fire departments and EMS agencies throughout the state are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the next generation of volunteers.

“Our system of providing fire and EMS services varies by municipal jurisdiction, but most of our emergency responders are part-time volunteers. Unfortunately, each year fewer and fewer New Yorkers are willing or able to volunteer and we need to do more to incentivize them. We support this legislation because we need these volunteers to fight fires and respond to medical emergencies in our communities,” said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties.

“As members of the communities they serve, volunteers closely familiar with a neighborhood can always be found nearby, and are exceptionally devoted. New York State owes a debt of gratitude to the men and women whose sense of personal duty and monumental commitment often come at great personal cost. This tax credit is a small price to pay for the tremendous value and savings that volunteer first responders provide,” concluded Senator Felder.