Senate Committee Approves Three Bills Intended to Assist Emergency Responder Volunteers in New Jersey, Including Hatzolah Members

The New Jersey state Senate Law and Public Safety Committee approved a package of three bills which are intended to help with recruiting and retaining volunteer first responders in the state.

The first bill which was approved would establish a refundable gross income tax credit to volunteer firefighters or volunteer first aid squad members, including Hatzolah members, who use their personal vehicles while responding to emergencies.

The amount of the credit would be determined by multiplying the business standard mileage rate set by the Internal Revenue Service for transportation or travel expenses by the number of miles the taxpayer actually and necessarily traveled by the taxpayer in the tax year when using their vehicle for the purpose of responding to a call.

The maximum amount of the credit would be $500. If married individuals filing a joint return both qualify, they would be allowed a joint credit of up to $1,000.

To be eligible for the credit, a taxpayer would, in the taxable year for which the credit was claimed, have to: (1) have been an unpaid member in good standing of the organization; and (2) have completed “qualifying service” with the organization.

The bill, which is sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth), defines “qualifying service” as:

(a) for a volunteer who does not have duty hours, active participation in at least 60 percent of the regular alarms or other calls to active duty to which the organization responds during the taxable year, recorded attendance at not less than 60 percent of the organization’s mandatory meetings during the year, participation in all of the organization’s mandatory meetings during the year, and performance during the year of not less than 60 percent of any other miscellaneous duty required by the organization; or

(b) for a volunteer who does have duty hours, performance of at least 400 duty hours during the year, of which no more than 50 percent could be for drills or other training classes or exercises.

The bill was approved by a 4-0 vote and awaits action in the Assembly as well.

The second bill would permit eligible volunteer firefighters and first aid or rescue squad members to take an additional $2,000 exemption as a deduction from gross income under the New Jersey gross income tax.

The purpose of the bill, according to its sponsors, is to provide an incentive for more residents to become active volunteers, and to encourage those who are already volunteering to continue their service.

The third bill proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow municipalities to provide a partial property tax exemption for certain volunteer first responders.

If the amendment were approved by the voters, the Legislature would be required to enact a law permitting municipalities to provide a partial property tax exemption of up to 15 percent of the assessed value of a home for certain volunteer first responders.

A municipality would have to pass an ordinance in order to provide the exemption.

All bills were approved unanimously.

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  1. Frankly, its about time that volunteer first responders were given some credit and financial relief for selfless commitment. Many volunteers are not reimbursed for clothing or other items they purchase to support their efforts. Passing these bills will provide some support in acquiring new volunteers in a society where volunteerism is at an all time low and in some cases, the reason for closures of fire stations and EMS squads.

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