The National Revenue Minister brought words of thanks and details of a new tax credit as she addressed a large group of volunteer firefighters Monday morning in St. Jacobs.
Gail Shea was joined by Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht in announcing a new non-refundable Volunteer Firefighter Tax Credit.
The tax credit, which was as part of the 2011 federal budget, will be available to volunteer firefighters who serve more than 200 hours of service for their communities through one or more fire departments.
Any volunteer service that has been accumulated since January 1, 2011 counts towards the 200-hour total. Eligible services include responding to and being on call, attending meetings held by departments, and taking courses in prevention and suppression of fires.
There are approximately 85,000 volunteer firefighters in Canada. In Woolwich, there are 140 volunteers who serve in five stations.
“Our townships and any of the smaller communities in our area wouldn’t be able to support full-time firefighters, it’s just not fiscally possible, so now it’s just fantastic to have the availability of the volunteers who are eager to serve and this is just one way of giving them some recognition and the sacrifices they make,” said Albrecht.
For 2011, the credit is 15 per cent, which is the lowest personal income tax rate multiplied by $3,000, for a reduction of taxes payable of up to $450.
“We appreciate the recognition we are receiving through the volunteer firefighters tax credit, this is big step for our volunteer firefighter service in retention and recruiting new volunteers across the nation,” said Woolwich Township fire chief Rick Pedersen.
Currently only 10 of the 140 volunteer firefighters from Woolwich will qualify for the credit.
“Volunteer firefighting is one of those tasks that no one does for the money. From a townships view we are always looking for ways to retain the volunteers and this is just one more step,” said Woolwich Township Mayor Todd Cowan, who attended the event.
To date there are more volunteer firefighters than paid ones in Canada.
“More often than not volunteer firefighters are the first on the scene, and I can tell you that is very much appreciated by those people who need that service. This is recognition of all the volunteerism that these men and women give to our country and provide what is a very essential service,” said Shea. “Some of the men here have over 50 years of dedication to the service, they are what make Canada, Canada, and we are extremely proud of them. I just want them to know that their commitment and courage do not go unnoticed.”