June 20, 2013 – On Thursday, June 13th, Senators Thomas Carper (DE) and Susan Collins (ME) introduced S. 1163, the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act. The legislation was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. Senators Carper and Collins both serve as co-chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.
The original measure was introduced in 2004 following the tragic nightclub fire in West Warwick, RI that claimed the lives of 100 victims. Since then, the legislation has been reintroduced in subsequent Congresses with various changes made to address concerns raised by members of Congress regarding cost estimates.
Under the current legislation, automatic sprinklers could be treated as Section 179 property under the tax code. Section 179 allows small and medium-sized businesses to write off the full cost of equipment purchases, up to $125,000, in a single year. While automatic fire sprinklers are not currently classified as a Section 179 property, passage of the legislation would allow property owners to retrofit a large majority of high fire risk properties, such as certain off campus housing, night clubs, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
The legislation would also create a financial incentive for high-rise building owners to install sprinkler systems by reducing the depreciation schedule to 15 years. Currently the depreciation schedule is 39 years for commercial properties and 27.5 years for residential properties. This reduction will also put sprinkler improvements more in line with the current tax code that allows 15-year depreciation for leasehold improvements.