Congressmen roll out fire sprinkler incentive bill

Thursday, April 24, 2003

April 24, 2003

WASHINGTON - In the wake of February’s fatal nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., two congressmen have introduced legislation that would provide tax incentives for property owners to install fire sprinkler systems.

Under H.R. 1824, sprinkler systems would be classified as five-year property for the purpose of depreciation under federal tax codes. That means a system valued at $100,000 could be depreciated at $20,000 a year for five years, compared to depreciation under the current schedule that occurs over 30 years, industry officials said.

"The vast majority of older buildings are exempt from installing sprinkler systems, but unfortunately for many business owners who want to install them, the costs are extremely prohibitive," said Bud DeFlaviis, spokesperson for Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), the sponsor of the bill. "This legislation provides an incentive for building owners to move forward since they have the ability to write off the costs more quickly."

While Weldon and co-sponsor Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.) introduced the bill soon after the fatal nightclub fire that killed about 100 people, the concept of the legislation has been in development through a fire industry ad hoc committee since the beginning of the year. Members of the committee include trade associations National Fire Sprinkler Association and the Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association.

"Through the committee we developed a concept paper," said Jim Dalton, director of public fire protection for the NFSA. "After the multiple loss fire occurred (in February) and interest peaked on Capitol Hill, we had the concept already laid out and were able to go in and meet with the congressmen and present it to them quickly."

Shortly after its introduction on April 11, the bill was referred to the Ways and Means Committee. Industry groups are targeting that committee’s membership in a campaign to garner enough votes to bring H.R. 1824 out of committee and onto the floor for a vote.

Dalton said the industry is also scouting for sponsors in the U.S. Senate to introduce companion legislation in that legislative body.