ESA supports 'balanced approach'

The association wants fire detection systems to be eligible for same tax depreciation status as suppression systems
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Monday, May 12, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Electronic Security Association is ramping up efforts in support of the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, a bill that would give installers of fire detection systems the same access to federal tax incentives currently available only to fire suppression companies.

The issue was among the core issues ESA brought to the attention of lawmakers during its annual Day on Capitol Hill, held May 6-7 in Washington D.C.

The ESA, which has long advocated a “balanced approach,” has been unable to get a provision for fire detection systems included on past bills, which have tended to favor fire suppression installers by giving sprinkler companies tax depreciations on installations and retrofits for certain buildings, John Chwat, director, ESA government relations, told Security Systems News.

The overarching principle behind the bill, which is pending in the Senate, is that fire suppression and fire detection systems together constitute fire safety, and thus deserve equal legislative footing when it comes to tax deductions.

By providing advance warning to building occupants, fire detection systems bolster the value of automated sprinkler and suppression systems, which do not activate until the temperature has reached 170 degrees, Chwat said.

“That’s our point,” Chwat said. “Historically, we didn’t have this technological linkage between the two, but now we do.”

He added: “If you’re going to insist on mandating these systems, we think it’s a better approach that they be both fire and smoke alarm systems with suppression.”

ESA has been advocating a balanced approach for about five or six years, according to Chwat, who said the effort has been foiled in the past by a deep-rooted opposition to the notion of a technological linkage between detection and suppression systems.

“It’s a hard issue to lobby,” Chwat said. “It’s a small issue in the general scheme of a multibillion dollar tax bill, but from our industry I think we’ve had some very positive feedback for our support.”

Chwat said the association is monitoring the large annual tax bills in the House and Senate to see if they might serve as vehicles to get the legislation passed. But he characterized either scenario as “very doubtful,” given that a tax depreciation would constitute a cost for the Treasury that the tax committees would want to offset.

The Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act does not have a counterpart bill in the House, Chwat noted.

Chwat remains optimistic that ESA’s push for equal footing for fire detection and suppression systems will ultimately benefit the fire industry as a whole. “It might in the future create some sort of dialogue between the suppression and detection groups, which I wholeheartedly advocate.”