The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Compensation and Employee Status of Volunteer Firefighters

Reference Number: MTAS-1421
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: April 28, 2017
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Compensation for volunteer firefighters is a complex issue. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) addresses the issue of compensation for volunteers. Different federal agencies and the courts have issued rules and opinions on whether a volunteer firefighter is a volunteer or an employee, and on whether any compensation or remuneration the volunteer firefighter receives for services provided is subject to withholding for income tax, social security or Medicare. Municipalities also face the question of whether their policies and procedures apply to volunteer firefighters. This publication will answer several questions:

  • What is the definition of a volunteer?
  • What types of compensation may a municipality provide to a volunteer without jeopardizing the person’s volunteer status?
  • What constitutes a “nominal fee” under FLSA?
  • Is volunteer compensation subject to IRS withholding rules and regulations?
  • What options are available to a municipality for compensating volunteer firefighters?
  • How should the municipality report volunteer compensation to the IRS, on a W-2 or a 1099?
  • Are volunteer firefighters subject to the rules and regulations of a municipality?
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