It's becoming more difficult for fire departments and other volunteer groups to recruit volunteers.
Some rules applied by the federal government could make the general survival of these organizations even more challenging.
First, some fire departments have been notified that they could come under the ObamaCare regulations because the members are declared employees for workers' compensation purposes.
As a result, there are cases whereby health insurance may have to be provided for them, but a tremendous burden on their treasuries.
Hopefully, federal lawmakers will hurriedly enact regulations exempting the firefighters, ambulance responders, and other emergency personnel who give freely of their time from the provisions of ObamaCare.
Obviously if personnel are actually employed and receive a salary, the Affordable Care Act regulations would apply.
This shouldn't be the case regarding volunteers.
Also, the IRS has put emergency responding organizations on alert that if they are given any type of stipend for their efforts, it is not only considered taxable income but the recipients must receive W-2s and not 1099s.
This means taxes must be withheld, including Social Security taxes.
Reportedly one fire department in Connecticut has been penalized by the IRS for issuing 1099s instead of W-2s.
This is verbatim from an IRS publication given to them:
"In some cases, volunteer firefighters receive benefits in the form of state or local tax credits or rebates. If these benefits are offered in return for services performed, their value represents income to the worker for Federal tax purposes and should be included in taxable wages."
Isn't it ironic that big corporations get all sorts of tax breaks while the little guy who gives freely of his time and risks his life to protect others by joining an emergency response team gets no break at all?
Besides placing an enormous financial burden on volunteer organizations, these regulations also extend additional record keeping requirements which require even more man power for compliance.
Our system is broken and needs repairs.
Perhaps is lawmakers were more in-tune to the lives of their constituents they would be more understanding. It's easy to mandate expensive policies when the lawmakers themselves aren't affected.
The lawmakers have to look at the policies affecting the volunteer firefighters and other emergency personnel. We can't afford to lose volunteers or have volunteer organizations fold.
Without these volunteer organizations, our property taxes to pay for paid fire departments in our small towns would rise to unaffordable levels.
Lawmakers have to start to truly represent the people who put them in office. That's not always happening.
By RON GOWER