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Pa. township offers tax breaks to volunteer first responders

Eligible volunteers can receive a tax credit of up to $250 on their earned income tax levied by the township

By Bill Cameron
Pocono Record

MIDDLE SMITHFIELD TOWNSHIP, Pa. — A new set of tax credits aims to give residents of Middle Smithfield Township another reason to volunteer. Township supervisors voted unanimously April 26 to adopt Ordinance 220, which provides incentives for taxpayers who volunteer as first responders.

“The township not only supports our volunteer EMS providers, but we encourage more of our residents to donate some of their time for the betterment of our community,” Supervisor Mike Dwyer said in a statement Tuesday. “This tax credit is another way we can say ‘thank you’ to these dedicated volunteers.”

Taxpayers must have a minimum of 50 service hours a year and be in good standing with their volunteer agency to qualify for the credits. Volunteers who are on probation per their agency’s bylaws are not eligible for credits.

The incentive program should make life a little easier for volunteers who usually fund their own expenses for training and travel, said Chief Alex DiPaolo of Bushkill Volunteer Fire Company.

“It should be a helpful tool for members to keep up with their training,” he said. “They’ve got to meet certain requirements to get the tax credit. This is going to help them meet the requirement for the fire department and help them when it comes to tax season.”

The township ordinance lists five eligible agencies that serve the township. Those agencies are Bushkill Emergency Corps., Suburban EMS, and Bushkill, Marshalls Creek and Shawnee volunteer fire companies.

“As a community-based EMS service, the volunteers of Bushkill Emergency Corps appreciate the action that the Middle Smithfield Township Board of Supervisors has taken which acknowledges both the value of our volunteerism and the importance of our pre-hospital care for our residents and visitors,” Debbie Kulick, president of Bushkill Emergency Corps., said in the township statement Tuesday.

Eligible volunteers can receive a tax credit of up to $250 on their earned income tax levied by the township. Taxpayers who owe less than that amount will receive a credit equal to their tax liability.

The program also provides for a credit of 10 percent of an eligible volunteer’s real estate taxes. That ten percent applies only to property taxes owed to the township, not taxes owed to the county, library or school district. Taxpayers in the penalty period would have their 10 percent credit applied only to the base amount owed for that tax year.

Volunteer agencies often provide the only services for rural areas across the state. Pennsylvania lawmakers in 2016 passed Act 172, which authorized local governments to offer first responder tax breaks, like the ones now available in Middle Smithfield Township, to bolster agencies that have experienced a decrease in participation.

Even for agencies like Bushkill Volunteer Fire Company, where membership levels have held relatively steady, the tax credit is still a welcomed incentive to recruit and retain new volunteers.

“It’s a great benefit for our members,” DiPaolo said. “We’re pretty good right now—we took in a member last night and have a pending one—but anything is going to help to try and get our recruitment up.”

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