Special Taxes and Fees

Fire Prevention Fee – Frequently Asked Questions

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Who is responsible for paying the annual fee?

The Fire Prevention Fee is an annual fee for fire prevention services that owners of habitable structures in the State Responsibility Area (SRA) are required by law to pay. Owners of habitable structures are those of record in the county tax assessor rolls or in the records of the Department of Housing and Community Development, on July 1st of the state fiscal year for which the fee is due.

What is a habitable structure?

A habitable structure is a building containing one or more dwelling units or that can be occupied for residential use, including single family homes, multi-dwelling structures (for example, apartment buildings), mobile homes, manufactured homes, and condominiums. Habitable structures do not include commercial, industrial or incidental buildings such as detached garages, barns, outdoor sanitation facilities, and sheds.

What is the State Responsibility Area (SRA)?

The SRA is the area of the state where the State of California is financially responsible for the prevention and suppression of wildfires. The SRA does not include lands within incorporated city boundaries or federally owned land. You can see if your property is in the SRA by looking up your address here CAL FIRE – Fire Prevention Fee SRA Parcel Map.

If my habitable structure is damaged or destroyed in a natural disaster, do I owe the fee?

Beginning January 1, 2015, the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection may exempt your structure from the fire prevention fee if your habitable structure is deemed uninhabitable as a result of a natural disaster. In order for a structure to be considered for the exemption, the owner of the habitable structure must:

  • Certify that the structure is not habitable as a result of a natural disaster, and
  • Document that the structure passed a defensible space inspection conducted by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) or its agents within one year of the date the structure was damaged or destroyed, or
  • Certify that clearance as required under Public Resources Code section 4291 was in place at the time that the structure was damaged or destroyed as a result of a natural disaster.

To request a natural disaster exemption, you must submit your request to CAL FIRE. The form and mailing instructions can be found at www.firepreventionfee.org/sra_NDE.php.

If I sell my habitable structure, can I negotiate apportionment of the fee with the buyer?

As of January 1, 2016, the law provides that you may negotiate as one of the terms of the sale, apportionment of the fee. However, you remain responsible for payment of the total fee if you owned the habitable structure as of July 1st of the year for which the fee is due. For information regarding this change, please see the fire fee billing insert included with your bill.

Are there any exemptions from the fee?

The fee applies to all habitable structures within the SRA. It does not apply to habitable structures located on land within city boundaries or owned by the federal government. It also does not apply to non-habitable structures located in the State Responsibility Area (SRA) boundary. For information on the natural disaster exemption, please see the question above.

How does the billing process work?

Each year, CAL FIRE provides the Board of Equalization (BOE) with a list of owners of habitable structures located in the SRA and the amount of fee(s) to be assessed. The BOE then issues the bills and collects the fees.

When can I expect to receive my bill?

The BOE mails billings in alphabetical order by county, starting with Alameda, Alpine, and so on. The mailing schedule is located on the BOE's website. Approximately 10,000 billings are issued each business day. The BOE anticipates that the annual mailing schedule for this program will begin in March and continue through June, until all billings identified by CAL FIRE for the fiscal year have been issued.

When is my bill due?

The fee is due 30 days from the date shown on your bill. Payments must be postmarked by the due date to be considered timely. If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or state holiday, payments postmarked or received by the next business day will be considered timely. To determine when you can expect your billing to be mailed, please review the mailing schedule.

What if I cannot pay my liability in full?

The BOE offers a payment plan to help qualified feepayers pay the amount due. To request a payment plan online, visit the BOE website at www.boe.ca.gov and select "Online Services" then, the "Payment Plan" tab to login and make your request. You may also call us at 1-800-400-7115 (TTY:711) and, when prompted, select "Fire Prevention Fee" for assistance. Representatives are available to assist you Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Pacific time), except state holidays.

If I enter into a payment plan, will penalty and interest still apply?

After the due date of the bill, called a Notice of Determination, a penalty of 10% is automatically applied and interest accrues on any unpaid portion of the fee. You may be relieved of the penalty if you enter into a payment plan within 45 days of the due date on the bill, and you successfully complete the payment plan. When a payment plan is completed, the penalty will be automatically waived.

Is the Fire Prevention Fee deductible from income taxes?

The BOE does not offer advice in regard to tax deductibility of fees, interest or penalty paid. Generally, fees are not deductible for either state or federal income tax purposes, unless it is an ordinary and necessary expense of a business. For specific guidance regarding whether a fee or other charge is deductible, please consult with an income tax professional or the income tax agency for guidance.

Can I appeal the fee?

If you believe you do not owe the fee, you may submit an appeal (known as a petition for redetermination) to CAL FIRE after you receive the bill from the BOE. For additional information, see How Do I Appeal the Fee? at www.boe.ca.gov/sptaxprog/fire_prev_fee.htm.

Please note that the filing of a petition does not prevent the accrual of interest. You may wish to remit payment of the fee portion of your billing while your petition is being considered by CAL FIRE. Payment is not an acknowledgment by you that the fees are due, and does not in any way affect consideration of your petition.

For more information on the appeals process, visit: http://www.firepreventionfee.org/.

What happens if my appeal is denied or if my bill amount changes?

If your appeal, known as a petition, is denied or the adjustment results in a fee amount due, you will have 30 days from the date of the Notice of Redetermination to pay. If any portion of the fee remains unpaid after 30 days, a penalty will be applied at the rate of 10 percent of the unpaid fee determined to be due.

Prior to January 1, 2015, a 20 percent monthly penalty was applied to any fee that remained unpaid or any fee that was not paid when due and payable after the petition was denied. Penalties applied prior to January 1, 2015 remain due and payable.

What happens when the SRA boundaries change?

SRA boundaries are reviewed every five (5) years and the next expected reviewis scheduled for completion in 2015. After the boundary changes are formally approved by the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, you will not be billed for any succeeding fiscal year's fees if your habitable structure is no longer located in the SRA.

How do I contest my habitable structure being included in the SRA boundaries?

Whether a habitable structure is included within the SRA boundary is determined by the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. If you are a property owner and wish to have your property reviewed for SRA exclusion, please contact the Fire Prevention Fee Administrator at the following address:

Attn: Fire Prevention Fee Administrator
P.O. Box 944246
Sacramento, CA 94244-2460