Tax credit for firefighters now in effect

January 12, 1997


Staff Writer

More than 600 Washington County volunteer firefighters and rescue workers will owe a little less on their Maryland tax bill this year, thanks to a new state program designed to reward their volunteer work.

The Maryland tax credit, signed into law in May 1995, allows fire and rescue volunteers with at least six years of service to qualify for a $3,000 Tax Modification Credit on their state taxes, according to Jay Grimes, president of the Washington County Fire and Rescue Association. The tax credit takes effect this year.

The average firefighter will see a reduction ranging from about $200 to $300, he said.

"To a lot of people, that does mean something," he said.

This year, 637 county residents qualified, said Rick Hemphill, a member of the association's committee that is studying the issue.

Volunteers who earned at least 50 points were eligible for the break, Hemphill said. A point equals four hours completed in one of seven categories: training, drills, stand by, running on an alarm, collateral duties, meetings and being an elected or appointed official in a volunteer fire or rescue department.


Volunteers had to earn points in at least two categories and they could only earn a certain number of points in any one.

"So you couldn't just run fire calls and get the points," Hemphill said.

Hemphill said the 637 people accumulated thousands of hours.

"We had a few more people qualify than I thought would," he said. "I think we're very pleased with the process and benefits. It certainly gives a lot back to the people who give so much time and risk to the community."

Grimes said he hopes the tax credit will help attract and retain volunteers. He estimated the length of service in Washington County averages about three to five years.

"It's difficult to be an EMS technician or a firefighter," he said. "It's not like you just come in and fill out a piece of paper."

Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jeremy Gay said about 25 volunteers in his company qualified for the credit. He said he will use it as a selling point to recruit new members.

"A lot of people just don't have the time for the training. It's hard to find volunteers now," he said. "I'm hoping it will aid in recruiting. It's not like there's a lot of other benefits or regular hours."

County commissioners praised the tax credit program as an inexpensive way to provide financial incentives to volunteer fire and rescue workers. The cost of maintaining full-time professional services would be far higher, they noted.

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