On Tuesday, October 15, Representatives Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Peter King (R-NY) introduced legislation to create incentives for high-rise property owners to retrofit their buildings with fire sprinkler systems. The High Rise Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, H.R. 4685, will accelerate the depreciation rate for fire sprinkler retrofit installations to just 15 years – a significant improvement from the current rates of 39-years in non-residential buildings and 27.5 years in residential properties.
The fire service knows well the benefits of fire sprinkler systems and the protections they give to the public as well as firefighters responding to fires. Sadly, the federal tax code provides a strong disincentive for property owners to install these systems since they are forced to depreciate their costs over nearly 40-years. Despite the immense benefit that a fire sprinkler retrofit installation can bring to a building, its cost remains high. Since few businesses will own their property for this lengthy time period, the current depreciation schedule is a reminder to businesses that they likely will not recoup the cost of installing these systems.
If passed by Congress, H.R. 4685 would accelerate the depreciation rate for fire sprinkler retrofit installations to just 15-years for both residential and non-residential properties. The accelerated depreciation period will apply to all buildings with at least one occupiable floor over 75 feet in height. This depreciation period is much more likely to incentivize property owners since it places the recovery of installation costs in a realistic time period.
The IAFC strongly supports this legislation as it will be an important step toward addressing the dangers of high-rise fires. Both anecdotal experience as well as line of duty death reports show that 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.
The IAFC thanks Representatives Pascrell and King for their continued leadership and looks forward to working them to encourage Congress to pass the High Rise Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act as quickly as possible.
Evan Davis is the IAFC's government relations strategic manager and liaison to the EMS Section.