$500 Illinois Tax Credit for Firefighters: How to Claim It

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Illinois recently announced a state-wide tax rebate for active volunteer firefighters. This new Illinois tax credit for firefighters offers $500 in non-refundable credit to firefighters who meet certain criteria. The credit will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Illinois tax credit for firefighters: who will get it and how?

In April, Illinois announced the “Volunteer Emergency Worker Credit” that reduces $500 from a volunteer firefighter’s 2023 income provided they meet certain requirements. In other words, the Illinois tax credit for firefighters reduces the state income tax liability for a taxable year.

To qualify for the credit, volunteer firefighters must have served their respective organizations for a minimum of nine months and earned below $5,000 (in compensation for services as a volunteer emergency worker) over the past year.

Also, a chief needs to verify the firefighter’s work, and firefighters need to apply for the credit. Visit the IDOR website for more information on the tax credit, including how to apply.

The credit will be applied to the firefighters’ state income tax before withholding and refundable credits. It must be noted that the credit can only be used to reduce the state income tax liability, and that it won’t result in a refund as the credit is non-refundable.

Also, a person who receives a property tax credit and/or a K-12 education expense credit that reduces their tax liability to zero won’t be able to use this new credit. Also, the credit is non-transferable, meaning if you are not able to use it, you can’t allow someone to use it to reduce their tax liability.

The total amount of credit awarded can’t exceed $5,000,000 in a calendar year. This means 10,000 firefighters could receive the Illinois tax credit for firefighters in a calendar year. This credit is on a first-come, first-served basis, so you need to apply early to improve your chances of receiving the credit.

What’s the need?

With this new credit, Illinois hopes to address the shortages of first responders in the state, an issue that is rampant across the nation. According to the National Volunteer Fire Council, the number of volunteer firefighters reached a low in 2020.

Further, the council also identified challenges in recruiting and retaining firefighters, such as increased training and time requirements, people having less time to volunteer, many leaving small-town and rural areas and people holding multiple jobs. A person usually takes about 18 months to become a fully trained volunteer.

All such reasons leave people with less time to volunteer and squeezes the pool of new recruits. Owing to such reasons, several states have developed similar credits to encourage people to become volunteer firefighters.

Those interested in joining the fire department as a volunteer can find opportunities through the website MakeMeAFirefighter.org, which is managed by the National Volunteer Fire Council.