Volunteer Fire Fighters and the Affordable Care Act
The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced last week that volunteer fire fighters won’t count as employees for purposes of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Beginning January 1, 2015, the ACA’s “large employer mandate” will become effective. The mandate will require that most employers with 50 or more employees must provide employee health coverage or pay a penalty for not doing so. The fear has been that volunteer fire firefighters might count as employees, making more departments or small cities subject to the mandate than would be otherwise.
The Department of the Treasury has determined that the hours of volunteer firefighters and other volunteer emergency responders are not be counted under Internal Revenue Service rules used to determine a local government’s obligations under the ACA. As a result, volunteer fire and volunteer emergency services departments will not have to include their volunteer firefighters and first responders in their count when determining if they are subject to the large employer mandate.
According to the Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy:
The forthcoming final regulations relating to employer shared responsibility generally will not require volunteer hours of bona fide volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical personnel at governmental or tax-exempt organizations to be counted when determining full-time employees (or full-time equivalents).
The National League of Cities (NLC) and others expressed concern that subjecting volunteer departments to the mandate would have placed an unanticipated financial burden on those departments. The department agreed with NLC in its statement, ensuring that volunteer fire departments may continue to operate and provide firefighting and other emergency services.