Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act General Information

Updated 01/23/2020

Overview

The Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act (Act), Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 77-3101 to 77-3106, is administered by the Nebraska Department of Revenue (DOR). 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. The volunteer member must perform services as both a firefighter and on a rescue squad, 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. The services and activities during a year of service must meet the minimum requirements for qualification as an active member of his or her volunteer department.

Active Rescue Squad Member. Active rescue squad member means a person who has been approved by the authority in control of a volunteer department as a volunteer member of the department. The volunteer member must perform services as part of a rescue squad in the protection of life or health from emergency, accident, illness, or calamity in connection with which the services of such volunteer department are required. The services and activities during a year of service must meet the minimum requirements for qualification as an active member of his or her volunteer department.

Active Volunteer Firefighter. Active volunteer firefighter means a person who has been approved by the authority in control of a volunteer department as a volunteer member of the department. The volunteer member must perform services as a firefighter in the protection of life or property from fire or other emergency, accident, or calamity in connection with which the services of such volunteer department are required. The services and activities during a year of service must 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 be confirmed and approved by the volunteer department's governing body. They 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.

In 2019, the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB 222. This new legislation requires the certification administrator to notify each volunteer member, no later than July 15, 2020, and each year thereafter, of the total points he or she has accumulated during the first six-month period of each calendar year of service. After each calendar year of service, the certification administrator has until February 1, 2020, and each year thereafter, to provide each volunteer member with the Qualified Volunteer Member Certification or the Non-Qualified Volunteer Member Certification that states the total number of points accumulated by the volunteer member during the preceding calendar year of service. These certifications are notification of whether the volunteer member has qualified as an active emergency responder, active rescue squad member, or active volunteer firefighter. In addition, no later than February 15 following the year of qualification, the certification administrator must file a completed  Annual Certification for the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act (annual certification) with DOR and its volunteer department's governing body.

The annual certification is a written report specifying the legal 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. Beginning in 2020, the only signature required on the annual certification is that of the certification administrator. The annual certification may be uploaded directly to DOR. When using this secure method of submission you will receive an email confirmation that may be kept with your records as proof your document was received by DOR. Click here to upload your annual certification or mail it to: Nebraska Department of Revenue, PO Box 94609, Lincoln, NE 68509-4609. 

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

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 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 an annual certification.

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.

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

A volunteer member who has been certified for at least two years 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 any year they continue to earn 50 points or more during a calendar year. The volunteer member should retain records of the written certification given by the certification administrator that documents the number of points earned during the immediate preceding calendar year of service, and whether the volunteer member qualified as an active emergency responder.

Example 1. An individual listed as qualified on a properly completed annual certification form or other documentation issued by a governing body and received timely by DOR for both the 2017 and 2018 calendar years may begin claiming the credit on his or her 2018 Form 1040N.

Example 2. An individual listed as qualified on a properly completed annual certification form or other documentation issued by a governing body or certification administrator and received timely by DOR for 2017, but who was not listed on the 2018 certification form, may not claim the credit on his or her 2018 Form 1040N. However, if this individual is listed as a qualified individual on a 2019 properly completed annual certification form or other documentation issued by a Nebraska certification administrator and received timely by DOR for 2019, the credit may be claimed on his or her 2019 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 and every year after that they continue to qualify. 

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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