Volunteer firefighters and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) workers in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, may soon get a tax rebate. Last week, the county council introduced a proposal that, if approved, will offer a $250 property tax rebate from Northampton County to volunteer firefighters and EMS. The proposal will be up for voting next month.
Property Tax Rebate From Northampton County: Who Will Get It?
On Thursday, Northampton County Council introduced an ordinance that creates a new tax credit for volunteer firefighters and EMS workers. If the proposal is approved, members of volunteer firehouses or nonprofit EMS companies who own a home in the county would get an annual credit of $250 toward their property tax bill.
If any volunteer gets injured during an emergency call and is unable to serve, he or she will receive the credit for the next five tax years. Those who co-own a home in the county will get a $250 discount on their home’s tax bill.
Those who own more than one home in the county will get only one property tax rebate from Northampton County. Since a property tax rebate from Northampton County is a tax credit, residents who owe less than their refund won’t get it.
Firehouses and nonprofit EMS companies will help the county prepare a list of members who will get the property tax rebate. It must be noted that professional firefighters and ambulance crews won’t qualify for the rebate.
A public hearing and vote on the proposal is scheduled on October 5.
What’s The Need?
As per the data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s U.S. Fire Administration office, about 90% of Pennsylvania’s fire departments are volunteer companies, one of the highest in the U.S.
The objective of the property tax rebate from Northampton County is to recognize the “value and dedication of volunteer fire protection and EMS services” offered by active volunteers, as well as encourage others to pursue these services.
Northampton County’s proposal is valid on statutory grounds. In 2016, the state legislature allowed municipalities to offer a real estate or earned income tax credit of up to 20% to active volunteers on their tax liability.
Then in 2020, the General Assembly allowed counties and school districts to provide this credit as well, even up to 100%. Also, the rebate was extended to active volunteers at nonprofit emergency medical service agencies.
In April, the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners approved a similar property tax credit of up to $150 for eligible volunteer firefighters. To qualify for the credit, volunteer firefighters would need to respond to at least 20% of their company’s calls during the first 11 months of a year.
The Lehigh County ordinance also included a fine of up to $2,500 to ensure people don’t falsify their service record or submit a fraudulent application.