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Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act

This guidance document is advisory in nature but is binding on the Nebraska Department of Revenue (Department) until amended. A guidance document does not include internal procedural documents that only affect the internal operations of the Department and does not impose additional requirements or penalties on regulated parties or include confidential information or rules and regulations made in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. If you believe that this guidance document imposes additional requirements or penalties on regulated parties, you may request a review of the document.

This guidance document may change with updated information or added examples. The Department recommends you do not print this document. Instead, sign up for the subscription service at revenue.nebraska.gov to get updates on your topics of interest.

Overview

The Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act (Act), Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 77-3101 to 77-3106, is administered by the Nebraska Department of Revenue (Department). The Act provides a $250 refundable income tax credit, beginning January 1, 2017, to qualified active emergency responders, active rescue squad members, or active volunteer firefighters (volunteer members) who serve a county, city, village, or rural or suburban fire protection district (governing body) in Nebraska.  

Terms 

Active Emergency Responder. Active emergency responder means a person who has been approved by the authority in control of a volunteer department as a volunteer member of the department, who is performing services, as either a firefighter or a rescue squad member, in the protection of life, health, or property from fire or other emergency, accident, illness, or calamity in connection with which the services of such volunteer department are required, and whose services and activities during a year of service meet the minimum requirements for qualification as an active member of his or her volunteer department.

Volunteer Department. Volunteer department means any volunteer fire department, any volunteer first aid, rescue, ambulance, or emergency squad, or any volunteer fire company, association, or organization serving any county, city, village, or rural or suburban fire protection district by providing fire protection or emergency response services for the purpose of protecting human life, health, or property.

Certification Administrator

The volunteer department must designate one of its members to serve as the certification administrator. The certification administrator must keep and maintain records of the activities of all volunteer members and award points for each activity based upon the standard criteria for qualified active service. See the "Accumulating Points" section below.

The certification administrator is required to notify each volunteer member of the total points he or she has accumulated during each six-month period of each calendar year of service. 

After each calendar year of service, the certification administrator has until January 30 to provide the governing body with a completed Annual Certification for the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act (annual certification).  The annual certification is a written report specifying the name and address of each volunteer member who has qualified during their year of service, the last four digits of his or her social security number, and the number of points he or she accumulated.

The certification administrator must also notify a volunteer member in writing if his or her name does not appear on its department’s qualified certification list.  The notification is made by first-class United States mail, postage prepaid, to the last-known address of the volunteer member.

Qualified Volunteer Members

Each volunteer member must earn a minimum of 50 points in each of two qualifying calendar service years before the volunteer member qualifies for the $250 tax credit on his or her income tax return.  

Volunteer members, who earn 50 points or more in any two calendar years, and who are included on an annual certification submitted by a governing body, may claim the $250 refundable credit on their Nebraska income tax return for the second qualifying year and any subsequent year for which the volunteer member is included on the annual certification.


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Accumulating Points

Volunteer members may earn points by participating in the activities as described below.

25 points for responding to 10% of the emergency response calls which are dispatched from his or her assigned station or company during a year of service and which are relevant to the duty category of the individual.

A maximum of 25 points for participating in training courses as follows:

  • Courses under 20 hours duration, one point will be awarded per two hours in the course, with a maximum of five points awarded per course;
  • Courses of 20 to 40 hours in duration, five points will be awarded, plus one point awarded for each hour after the first 20 hours in the course, with a maximum of ten points awarded per course; and
  • Courses over 40 hours duration, 15 points will be awarded per course.

One point for participating in each drill, with a maximum total of 20 points. Each drill must last at least two hours. Drill means regular monthly drills used for instructional and educational purposes, as well as mock emergency response exercises to evaluate the efficiency or performance by the personnel of a volunteer department.

One point per meeting for attending an official meeting of the volunteer department or mutual aid organization, with a maximum total of not more than ten points.

Ten points for completing a term in one of the following:

  • An elected or appointed position defined in the volunteer department's constitution or bylaws;
  • An elected or appointed position for a mutual aid organization; or
  • An elected office of the Nebraska State Volunteer Firefighters Association, the Nebraska Emergency Medical Services Association, or other organized associations dealing with emergency response services in Nebraska.

One point per activity, but no more than one point per day, with a maximum total of no more than ten points, for:

  • Participating in activities of fire prevention communicated to the public at open houses or speaking engagements on behalf of the volunteer department;
  • Presenting fire or rescue equipment at a parade or other public event;
  • Attending the Nebraska State Volunteer Firefighters Association annual meeting;
  • Attending the Nebraska Emergency Medical Services Association annual meeting;
  • Attending a meeting of a governing body of a county, city, village, or rural or suburban fire protection district on behalf of the volunteer department; or
  • Other activities related to emergency services as approved by the county, city, village, or rural or suburban fire protection district.

Activities that qualify a person to receive points in more than one of the categories can only be credited to one category.

Governing Body

The governing body must approve and certify the annual certification of the qualified volunteer members to the Department.  The certification administrator is required to provide the annual certification to the governing body by January 30 following the end of each calendar year.  The governing body must then approve and certify the annual certification and submit it to the Department no later than February 15 following the end of each calendar year.  When an email address of a governing body official is included with the annual certification, the Department will send an email confirming receipt and approval.  The governing body may send the annual certification by certified or registered mail as proof, if needed, that the document was mailed and received by the Department on time.  

The Department will only accept annual certifications that are properly completed.  Incomplete annual certifications will be returned to the governing body for correction. The governing body has 60 days to correct any errors and resubmit the annual certification to the Department. Individuals listed on an incomplete annual certification that is not corrected and returned within 60 days, will be ineligible to use that year as a qualifying year, or to claim the $250 credit on their Nebraska Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040N, for the year. Volunteer members who claim the $250 credit on their income tax returns should expect delays in refunds until the Department has received and processed all annual certifications.

Volunteers Who Receive Compensation

Volunteer members who receive an hourly wage for attending training or responding to service calls lose their volunteer status and are not eligible for the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act credit. Volunteer members who receive reimbursement for expenses, reasonable benefits, or a stipend for attending training or responding to service calls do not lose their volunteer status and remain eligible for the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act credit.

Claiming the Credit

Beginning with the 2017 tax year, a volunteer member who was certified for at least two years by a Nebraska county, city, village, or rural or suburban fire protection district as meeting the qualifications of the Act may claim a $250 refundable credit on his or her Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040N. Volunteer members who have met the two-year certification requirement may claim a $250 credit on the Form 1040N for each year they continue to earn 50 points or more during a service year.

Example 1. An individual listed as qualified on a properly completed annual certification form or other documentation issued by a Nebraska county, city, village, or rural or suburban fire protection district and received timely by the Department for both the 2016 and 2017 calendar years may begin claiming the credit on his or her 2017 Form 1040N.

Example 2. An individual listed as qualified on a properly completed annual certification form or other documentation issued by a Nebraska county, city, village, or rural or suburban fire protection district and received timely by the Department for 2016, but who was not listed on the 2017 certification form, may not claim the credit on his or her 2017 Form 1040N. However, if this individual is listed as a qualified individual on a 2018 properly completed annual certification form or other documentation issued by a Nebraska governing body and received timely by the Department for 2018, the credit may be claimed on his or her 2018 Form 1040N. The initial two qualifying years do not need to be consecutive. A volunteer member may claim the refundable income tax credit beginning with the second service year in which the qualified volunteer member was included on an annual certification. 

Questions regarding the Act may be directed to:

Lee Glaser
Revenue Tax Specialist, Policy Section
Nebraska Department of Revenue   
301 Centennial Mall South
PO Box 94818
Lincoln, NE 68509-4818
402-471-5669  Fax: 402-471-5946
lee.glaser@nebraska.gov


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