January 16, 2013 –
We, along with other national fire service organizations, are presently working with previous sponsors in the House and Senate to reintroduce the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (FSIA) in the 113th Congress. When introduced it will be the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act of 2013; however, we will not have bill numbers in either the House or Senate until the bills are actually introduced.
The cost of fire in the United States is enormous. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), during 2011 there were more than 1.3 million structure fires reported in the U.S. These fires caused more than 3,005 civilian deaths, 61 firefighter deaths, 17,500 civilian injuries and $11.7 billion in property damage. One of the most effective ways to minimize the loss of life and property from fire is through automatic fire sprinklers.
Current building codes require fire sprinklers in many of the most vulnerable occupancies like student housing, residential and commercial high-rises, and entertainment complexes. The problem, however, is there are thousands of structures that were built and put in service before fire sprinklers were required. In many jurisdictions, these structures are grandfathered from current standards despite the dangers of these occupancies.
The primary challenge to retrofitting these structures is the Internal Revenue Code.
Under current depreciation rules, building owners have a strong disincentive to invest in a fire sprinkler system given the 39-year depreciation schedule for commercial buildings and 27.5-year schedule for residential structures.
In order to effectively and efficiently target the most high-risk structures, the legislation has two parts:
1. Section 179 Tax Treatment: Section 179 of the tax code allows small- and medium-sized businesses to fully expense certain types of equipment purchases like machines, equipment, vehicles, and computers. Fire sprinkler systems are not currently a 179 property. This legislation would make them eligible for 179 tax treatment.
Under current law, this change would allow owners of small- and medium-sized properties to fully deduct the cost of a fire sprinkler system up to $125,000. Assuming a retrofit cost of $2.50 per square foot, this could cover up to a 50,000- square-foot structure and accommodate most of the high-risk properties such as off-campus housing, night clubs, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
2. High-Rise Retrofits: The most vulnerable structures not covered by section 179 tax treatment are high-rise structures (those seven stories or higher). In the United States, there are nearly 10,000 high-rise fires annually. They are some of the most deadly fires for civilians and firefighters.
This legislation will provide a financial incentive for high-rise building owners to install fire sprinkler systems by reducing the depreciation schedule from 39 years to 15 years. This reduction will also place fire sprinkler improvements more in line with the current tax code that allows 15-year depreciation for leasehold improvements.
For more information, and to stay up to date with progress made, please visit us at www.fireadvocates.org for the latest updates.
We appreciate your support and help in sharing with legislators and the public the importance of this legislation to our mission of creating a Fire Safe America. Working together, our voices do share our message of fire safety and prevention in a more compelling way. Your assistance is appreciated!