Tax Planning for Firefighters: A Beginner’s Guide

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Taxes… not most people’s favorite word, no matter your profession. But as a firefighter household, there are certain steps you can take to make the tax season smoother and easier. And who doesn’t want that?

You want to be able to get the biggest ‘bang for your buck,’ so to speak, and tap into the tax breaks and deductions that are relevant to firefighters… but you probably have questions about what’s deductible and what is not. 

So let’s talk about what tax planning looks like for firefighters, starting with the basics. Then, we’ll break down some frequently-asked questions and look at how to avoid the headache when April rolls around.

Disclaimer: This content is intended for informational purposes only. For specific legal, tax planning, or financial advice, please consult a professional.

What does tax season look like for a firefighter household?

According to the good ol’ IRS, regardless of whether or not firefighters are called volunteers or employees, in most cases they’re subject to the same federal tax laws as any other worker. In other words, if they are hired and paid by an employer, firefighters are W-2 employees. 

Therefore, come tax season, you or your firefighter should expect to receive a W-2 from your fire station and to file a Form 1040 to the IRS by April 15th. Easy peasy, right? 

Right… though there are a few other things to touch on first, like tax deductions!

What tax deductions can firefighters claim?

If you or your spouse are just starting out in their firefighting career, or if you’ve simply never thought to look into the tax breaks available to firefighters, then here are the items that qualify for deductions:

Uniform Upkeep Expenses

Yes, that’s right… if your firefighter’s uniform was not paid for by the fire station, then you can deduct any costs relating to it!

However, there are two caveats: first, the uniform has to be required by the employer (which of course it is). Second, it can’t be intended for streetwear (which of course it isn’t, because it’ll have the fire station’s emblem on it – that’s how you know).

In addition, protective gear like goggles and boots are also deductible!

Equipment Repairs

If you have firefighting equipment that is 1) used every day and necessary to the job and 2) is not reimbursable by your fire station, then yes, you can deduct those costs on your taxes. 

However, keep in mind that items that have a lifespan of a year or longer usually go into a different category of deductions. 

If you’re spending a lot out of pocket per year on supplies, then this is worth tapping into… if you’re organized enough to keep track of your receipts (or at least keep a record somewhere)!

Education

If you or your firefighter are required to take classes, or if you choose to take a class because it will help you do your job better, then those costs can be deducted.

However, you want to be careful about this one: courses you had to take in order to BECOME a firefighter don’t count. This is for continued education once you’re already employed!

Professional Fees and Dues

If you or your firefighter are members of professional organizations that have to do with your career, any fees or dues you pay to them are deductible! These include societies, chambers of commerce, business leagues, trade or civic associations, and any other boards of trade. If it relates directly to your career as a firefighter on a professional level, it counts!

What doesn’t count are fees and dues paid to recreational organizations or clubs, even if they’ve been organized by your fire station. So, sorry to say, but you can’t deduct those Saturday afternoons at the golf course… even if the Chief did invite you. 

Meals

So, when it comes to deducting meals, this one has specific requirements. Because as you know, firefighters eat a lot of meals at the station house. However, you can only deduct meals if the fire station has a common mess fund that you are required to contribute to whether you’re at the station for every meal or not.

Phones

If for some reason you receive toll calls that are business-related to your personal phone, then those calls are deductible. Also, if you have a business phone whose costs aren’t reimbursed by the fire station, any costs relating to that phone are deductible.

If you have a phone that is half-personal and half-business, you can deduct any costs or fees relating to the business-related calls. But that requires you to dig up phone records and mark all the eligible calls… so you decide if it’s worth it to you!

Business Miles

Unfortunately, if you commute to the same station every day, those miles are NOT deductible. However, if you travel between business locations (such as from station to station) or from your home to a temporary work site, those miles ARE deductible.

But just a heads-up, this one can get tedious: you have to keep record of the date, purpose, number of miles, and the odometer readings of each trip.

You should also keep record of any gas or maintenance expenses relating to business miles that aren’t reimbursed by the station. Again, you decide if it’s worth it!

Travel

Travel expenses are deductible if your firefighter goes out-of-town for something business related, like a seminar or conference, and they’re not reimbursed by their employer. If not, then transportation, meals, lodging, tips, and anything else non-recreational are eligible for deduction.

Like with the miles, you have to keep a record of expenses that notes the when, the where, and the why. For lodging, you should keep your receipts. For any other purchase less that $75, you don’t have to keep the receipt as long as you log it in a record… but it probably wouldn’t hurt to keep it anyway. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Now let’s dive into some FAQs relating to tax planning for firefighters…

Do volunteer firefighters get a tax breaks?

Unfortunately, they do not… at least not on a federal tax form. However, there are certain states that have passed laws to offer incentives to their volunteer firefighters. 

Nebraska, Delaware, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, and South Carolina all offer income tax credits to volunteer firefighters.

Subsequently, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Alaska, and New York all offer property tax OR local income tax credits to their volunteers.

So before you file your state taxes, look up your local tax laws and see if there’s anything you can claim!

Can firefighters claim gym memberships?

Unfortunately, no they cannot. Gym memberships are recreational and don’t count as a business-related organization, even if your firefighter is highly encouraged to get one. 

However, you may want to be on the lookout (in general) for special discounts and offers for first responders… you never know!

Can firefighters deduct meals on taxes?

See the “Meals” section above, but in a nutshell, no they cannot – unless they’re required to contribute to a house fund. 

Conclusion

Tax season doesn’t have to be a drag… and for firefighters, you can definitely stand to benefit from some strategic tax planning! Just know what is and isn’t deductible, file them on your tax return, and you could save yourself some money in the long run!

About the Author: Becca is passionate about writing and sharing content with people that will benefit the most. A master at reading books, and an aspiring writer herself, She lives in Missouri with her husky puppy and her newlywed Husband, Jon. Find her at simplify-media. com

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