Search and Rescue Volunteers Get Tax Break under New Federal Budget
By Nicole Halseth, News Editor
Under the new federal budget, revealed on 10 February, volunteers for search and rescue organizations across Canada will be getting financial assistance to help them pay for the high costs of necessary equipment. The budget stated that volunteers with sufficient accrued hours with a search and rescue organization, a 200 hour baseline, will receive a tax credit each year. As such, volunteers with search and rescue organizations must keep good records of their hours.
According to Prince George Search and Rescue president Jeff Smedley, “We volunteer time away from work and away from our families…a little bit of recognition from the government, it’s going to be greatly appreciated.” He elaborated by stating that the cost of a basic search and rescue kit is around $500, which contains only staples like a coat, boots, raingear, and compass. Should the volunteer wish or be required to include additional gear, such as swiftwater equipment or rope rescue devices, their costs grow exponentially. According to Smedley, a swift water set could cost up to $2,000 every five years per person. Additional annual costs, like radio licenses, also fall to the volunteers.
Stan Mitchell, Prince George KPMG tax partner, claims the 15 per cent tax credit could save volunteers up to $450 per annum. According to the Prince George Citizen, “basic training for a search and rescue volunteer runs about 100 hours and there is ongoing annual training to ensure members keep up their skills,” and the local search and rescue division “averages about 25 calls a year, including local search and rescue operations and mutual aid calls in other parts of the province.”
The initial advocate for this tax break is Prince George-Peace River MP Bob Zimmer. He received official recognition for his idea at the unveiling of the new budget in the House of Commons by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Zimmer explained his support for the idea by saying “These volunteers give countless hours to help those in need at their own expense, and this tax credit will help defer those costs.”
This financial break will help search and rescue volunteers all across Canada provide a high quality of service without incurring unreasonable costs upon themselves. It is a welcome indicator of how much these dedicated individuals are appreciated for their continued hard work.