Public Chapter 210, Acts of 2015, was signed into law by Governor Haslam on April 20, 2015. It created T.C.A. § 68-102-309 which requires non-profit volunteer fire departments to file an annual financial report with the Comptroller of the Treasury and each local government entity from which the volunteer fire department receives appropriations. The legislation increases the transparency and accountability for non-profit volunteer fire departments so that local governments making appropriations to these entities, and the taxpayers of those local governments, know that the non-profit volunteer fire departments are using tax dollars appropriately.
The Comptroller’s Office initiated the legislation. The required filing is a report covering the annual financial activity of cash receipts, disbursements, and balances based on a fiscal year that runs from July 1 of one year through June 30 of the next year (i.e. July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018). Every non-profit volunteer fire department must file the report by December 31 of the reporting year with the Comptroller’s Office and with each local government providing appropriations. Some fire departments operate on a January-December fiscal year, but the report is simple enough to allow the non-profit volunteer fire department to use monthly financial reports and bank statements to complete the form for the July-June fiscal period.
The report is not an audit. The report does not have to be completed by an accountant, so the expense of complying with the law is minimal.
The Comptroller’s Office has ruled that the reporting requirement does not apply to volunteer fire departments operated by cities or counties regardless of whether they call themselves a volunteer fire department or whether their firefighters are volunteers. The reporting requirement only applies to non-profit volunteer fire departments whose financial activity is not accounted for in a municipal or county audit report. If the volunteer department is included in the municipal or county audit, they do not have to file the report.