New provincial tax credit announced for B.C. search and rescue, fire volunteers

New tax credit for B.C. volunteer rescuers

VANCOUVER — The province has announced a new tax credit for the more than 7,000 volunteers who save lives across British Columbia.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Naomi Yamamoto said the credit will reduce the taxable income for volunteer firefighters and search and rescue crews by $3,000.

The credit will translate into a benefit of up to $151 each year, which combined with an existing federal tax credit, will amount to about $600 for volunteers.

Yamamoto said the credit is a token of appreciation to the many volunteers who volunteer their time to save others.

“We certainly know there is nobody else who could do this type of work as well as these volunteers,” she said in an interview.

There are about 177 active volunteer fire departments supporting communities across the province, along with 80 search and rescue groups.

B.C. Search and Rescue Association vice-president Colin Wiebe said the tax break is welcomed by volunteers who foot the bill for much of their gear.

The 2,500 volunteers across the province are typically expected to supply and carry their own 24-hour pack with essentials like clothes, food and water in the event they get stuck in the backcountry while on a rescue, Wiebe said.

While some volunteers already own gear, others must buy the appropriate packs or boots that can cost hundreds of dollars.

Wiebe said the credit “is not going to outfit a person with full search and rescue gear but it is a recognition of the effort that our volunteers put out there.”

He said previous grants from both provincial and federal governments are ensuring operations and equipment are maintained and public education campaigns can continue to prevent future incidents.

The association is in talks with the provincial government to develop a more sustainable, long-term funding model, but Yamamoto said a timeline hasn’t been established and decision isn’t likely to be made until after the spring election.

The credit takes effect for the 2017 tax year.

The Canadian Press

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