A bill recently introduced in Congress seeks to encourage building owners to invest in fire sprinkler retrofits by accelerating the depreciation rate for high-rise residential and non-residential buildings to 15 years. Current depreciation rates are 39 years for non-residential buildings and 27.5 for residential properties.
Sponsored by Representatives Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Peter King (R-NY), the High-Rise Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act of 2019 (H.R. 4685) would apply to buildings 75 feet tall or higher.
The National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA)helped lead the drive to introduce the bill in partnership with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the International Fire Chiefs Association (IFCA).
“We’re happy we have support from all the key national stakeholders,” said Vickie Pritchett, Director of Outreach & Government Relations for NFSA. “The success we had in getting fire sprinkler incentives into the 2017 tax reform bill will help us make the case that this approach does work – that this is the way to accelerate life-saving sprinklers into a much larger pool of buildings.”
IAFC expressed its strong support for the bill, stating “fires in high-rise buildings can be exceptionally dangerous for occupants and firefighters alike. Expanding the presence of fire sprinklers in high-rise buildings is one of the easiest ways to decrease the number of people who die in fires each year.”
Builds on Success of Incentives in 2017 Tax Reform Bill
H.R. 4685’s introduction builds on NFSA’s success in getting tax breaks for small businesses in the 2017 tax reform legislation. The Federal Fire Sprinkler Tax Incentive enables small businesses covered under section 179 to deduct the cost of retrofitting their buildings up to $1 million for each year of the expense. Building owners can also deduct interest from any loan they receive to install, retrofit or upgrade fire sprinkler systems.
“We’ve seen the benefits for a variety of mainstream American small businesses such as restaurants, stores and night clubs,” Pritchett said. “We have many examples where business owners were able to take action by installing fire sprinkler systems that protect their employees, patrons and local emergency personnel plus file their taxes and realize the incentive.”
Grassroots Campaign Coming Soon
The bill introduction is the first step in a long-term process to secure passage. A companion bill will be introduced in the Senate in the near future.
NFSA will launch a campaign to generate grassroots support for H.B 4685 in the near future. The campaign will feature online tools that make it easy to identify your legislators and contact them using a templated letter.
“Elected officials count the number of contacts that come into those offices,” Pritchett said. “We’ll need to develop a sustained ground swell of support. That old adage that the squeaky wheel gets the grease is true.”
We’ll share the details on how to get involved in future blog posts. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like to get involved, contact Vickie Pritchett at firstname.lastname@example.org 443.863.4398.