Special Taxes and Fees

Fire Prevention Fee – Frequently Asked Questions

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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, apartment buildings, mobile, and manufactured homes. Habitable structures do not include detached garages, barns, outdoor sanitation facilities, or sheds.

Who is responsible for paying the fee?

Owners of habitable structures, which are listed as the owners on record, as of July 1st of the fiscal year for which the fee is due.

Are there any exemptions from the fee?

The fee does not apply to habitable structures located on land within city boundaries or in federal ownership. It also does not apply to non-habitable structures located in theState Responsibility Area (SRA) boundary.

How does the billing process work?

There are no returns or reports to file. Each year, CAL FIRE provides the Board of Equalization (BOE) a list of fee payers 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?

Each year, CAL FIRE provides BOE with a list of owners of habitable structures and the amount of fee(s) to be assessed. This list, which is actually in the form of a data file, is provided to BOE by January 1st. The BOE processes the data file by uploading the data into the BOE’s computer system in preparation for mailing out billings. Billings are mailed out in county order, alphabetically, starting with Alameda County, then Alpine County and so on. A mailing schedule is located on BOE’s website. Approximately 10,000 billings are issued each business day. It is anticipated 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.

Why did I receive two billings during fiscal year 2013/2014 (July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014)?

During the course of this fiscal year (July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014), two billings will be mailed out. These billings are for two different fiscal yearly periods, 12-13 and 13-14. The compressed schedule, with two billing cycles being mailed out within one fiscal year, was a one-time occurrence. CAL FIRE and BOE needed several months to implement the new fee program after the law went into effect. Next year's billing, for fiscal year 14-15, is anticipated to be mailed beginning in March 2015. It is anticipated 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 after your billing is mailed. 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 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.  Or 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 (Notice of Determination), a penalty of 10% is automatically imposed and interest accrues on any unpaid portion of the fee. You may be relieved of that 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. For specific guidance regarding whether a fee or other charges are deductible, please consult with an income tax professional or the income tax agency for guidance.

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

If your appeal (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 remaining fee balance is not paid within 30 days, a penalty will begin to accrue at the rate of 20% of the unpaid fee determined to be due for each 30 day period in which the fee remains unpaid.

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 when the SRA boundaries change?

SRA boundaries are reviewed every five (5) years and the next expected review is scheduled for completion in 2015.  After the boundary changes are formally approved, 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 Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. If you are a property owner and wish to have your property reviewed for SRA exclusion, please contact your local CAL FIRE unit. The local unit is best suited to provide assistance, has local information specific to the resident’s area and will be able to provide additional information regarding the process, timeline and criteria upon which your request will be reviewed.

I understand the SRA boundaries changed in 2013. Will I owe the fee for the fiscal year 2013/2014?

The changes to the SRA boundaries were approved May 2013 and affect the 2013/14 billing cycle. The fee is due from the owner of record, of a habitable structure located in the SRA, on July 1st of the fiscal year in which the fee is due. Accordingly, for the fiscal year 2013/14, billings are being mailed to owners of habitable structures located within the new SRA boundaries on July 1, 2013. SRA boundaries may change again in the future.