Executive Summary: The Department of Treasury has posted a statement on its blog indicating that the volunteer hours of volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical personnel do not need to be included in determining whether the employer meets the 50 employee threshold for the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) shared responsibility provision.
Under the ACA's employer mandate, an employer with 50 or more full-time employees generally must offer minimum essential health coverage that provides minimum value and is affordable to its full-time employees or it will be assessed a penalty (the shared responsibility payment) if one or more full-time employees obtains coverage from a state or federal health insurance exchange and is eligible for a subsidy or cost-sharing reduction. The Department of Treasury and the IRS published proposed regulations on the shared responsibility provision in 2012 and received a number of comments suggesting that these rules should not count the volunteer hours of nominally compensated volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel in determining full-time employees (or full-time equivalents). Subsequently, the Department of Treasure published a blog post stating, "the forthcoming final regulations relating to employer shared responsibility generally will not require volunteer hours of bona fide volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical personnel at governmental or tax-exempt organizations to be counted when determining full-time employees (or full-time equivalents)."
The Department states that the upcoming final regulations are intended to provide timely guidance to the volunteer emergency responder community. We will provide more information when the final regulations are published.