Volunteer firefighters may work in circumstances that establish an employment relationship,
and they are employees. Regardless of being termed a volunteer, when a worker receives
payments, and an employer-employee relationship exists, his or her pay is wages subject
to Social Security and Medicare tax. Therefore, unless an exception under the Social
Security Act applies, Social Security covers volunteer firefighter’s services. Firefighters
may receive payments on a call basis, hourly, or monthly. In certain cases, firefighters
may receive cash, bonuses, or in-kind benefits (in lieu of a salary) that may be wages.
Employers report firefighters’ earnings on Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) as wages.
To determine if a volunteer firefighter is an employee, develop the case using the
SSA-7160 (Employment Relationship Questionnaire).
Fax and store the SSA-7160 in the Non-Disability Repository for Evidentiary Documents
(NDRED). You can access the NDRED application here
For State and local government cases, refer to Public Law 110-245, the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) Act of
For the years 2008 through 2010, the HEART Act provides wage exclusions for the following
state or local government payments to volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency
rebates or reductions of property or income tax, and
qualified payments (i.e., reimbursements for expenses or equipment allowances).