Call for employer tax breaks for volunteers

The influential Commons Transport Committee is urging chancellor Gordon Brown to give employers enhanced tax breaks to encourage them to release staff for lifeboat call-out, volunteer firefighting and mountain rescue teams.

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A report on Search and Rescue said the use of unpaid volunteers willing to face danger to save lives was crucial for services such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

It said the Corporate Challenge scheme allows employers to deduct for profit purposes any costs incurred employing someone on secondment to a charity, but this was little help to companies that lost employees for a few hours in emergencies.

The MPs recommended ‘new incentives which reward employers whose employees take time off work to provide SAR services’, and said different treatment was justified because of their pivotal role and the unpredictability of call-outs.

The committee recommended extending Corporate Challenge to allow employers to deduct a much higher proportion of the costs incurred, and not just the proportion related to the period of call-outs.

The committee also called for volunteer rescue services to be relieved of all VAT, or give grants to offset VAT payments.

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