Langevin Reintroduces Legislation to Provide Tax Breaks for Sprinkler Installation

Mar 3, 2005

(Washington, D.C.)–Congressman Jim Langevin has reintroduced bipartisan legislation he co-authored that creates expedited tax incentives for property owners to install automatic fire sprinkler systems.

Langevin joined with his colleague Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA), Chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, to introduce this legislation in response to the horrific Station Nightclub Fire that killed 100 people and left hundreds more injured. Proposals being considered in 2003 by the Rhode Island General Assembly to mandate the installation of sprinklers in certain structures of public gathering also contributed to the introduction of this legislation. A sprinkler requirement was eventually enacted in Rhode Island after Langevin's bill was originally introduced.

The Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act of 2005 would make changes to the current Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Tax Code, providing an incentive to business owners for retrofitting existing buildings with life-saving sprinklers. Specifically, the legislation would reduce the tax depreciation time for retrofitting sprinklers in nonresidential real property from 39 years to only five. The bill is retroactive to April 2003, so any property owner in Rhode Island who retrofitted a building with sprinklers following the state mandate would be eligible for benefits.

"The National Fire Protection Association has no record of a fire killing more than two people in a public assembly, educational, institutional or residential building with a complete and fully operational automatic fire sprinkler system," said Congressman Langevin. "Unfortunately, due to the high cost of installing such safety measures, property owners have faced tremendous financial burdens when considering the addition of such systems. Passage of this legislation would not only provide an incentive for property owners, but also increase public safety."

Fire departments respond to a fire every 20 seconds; a fire breaks out in a commercial structure every 61 seconds and in a residential structure every 79 seconds in the United States. Fire departments responded to approximately 1.7 million fires in 2003, resulting in 3,925 deaths in the United States, more than 18,000 civilian injuries and $12.3 billion in direct property damage.

Fortunately, sprinkler systems dramatically improve the chances of survival of those who cannot save themselves, specifically older adults, young children and people with disabilities. Sprinklers are responsible for a 70 percent reduction in property damage from fires in public assembly, educational, residential, commercial, industrial and manufacturing buildings.

"The importance of automatic fire sprinkler systems was tragically demonstrated in February of 2003 in Rhode Island," added Langevin. "Three days earlier, there was another pyrotechnic fire in a nightclub in Minnesota. That establishment had an automatic fire sprinkler system and the fire did not cause a single injury."