Lawmakers debate dueling security tax breaks

Thursday, January 1, 2004

WASHINGTON - Just days before the end of the 2003 legislative session, lawmakers began discussions on a new piece of legislation that would grant businesses tax breaks for buying security equipment, the second such bill to be unveiled in 2003.

Introduced in late November by Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, HR 3562 would grant businesses tax credits for purchasing security equipment as well as security services, such as a threat or risk assessment and the development of other contingency plans.

Known as the Prevent Act of 2003, HR 3562 is similar to the Public Safety and Protection Investment Act of 2003, or HR 1259, which was introduced by Rep. Jerry Weller of Illinois. At press time, both bills had been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means for review.

Joel Brubaker, legislative director for Rep. Shuster, said that while the bills are similar, Shuster’s bill encompasses security services, such as risk analyses and the development of alternate operational sites for businesses in the event of a disaster as part of a business’s contingency plan.

That portion of the legislation was motivated by discussions with constituents in Shuster’s Pennsylvania district, he said.

“The purpose of this is to protect our businesses and our workforce after 9/11,” Brubaker said. “We also have a lot of security companies there and we think this would open doors for them.”

Officials from the Security Industry Association, which worked closely with Weller on HR 1259, said that they were planning to contact Shuster’s office to “see his awareness of the Weller bill,” and that the two bills before Ways and Means members will only further the cause.

“The more people on the hill that are hearing the message that security is a mainstream business aspect of the tax code, we are all for it,” said David Saddler, associate executive director of SIA.

Weller’s bill, which was introduced in March, would allow businesses to expense 100 percent of qualified security equipment. By comparison, Shuster’s bill offers compensation in the form of tax credits for equipment and assessments. Saddler said HR 1259 had been originally developed as a tax credit bill but changed because of Weller’s belief that expensing is the most appropriate method of business deductions.

Rick Ostopowicz, communications manager for the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, said that his organization was also not aware of Shuster’s bill and had not yet had a chance to make a thorough comparison of the two.