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Meal vouchers for business owners

A tax-friendly extra
Entrepreneurs | 17 September 2020 | Written by Frederik Dhont

Are you a business owner and do you want to optimise your remuneration? Then you may consider awarding yourself meal vouchers, eco vouchers or sports and culture vouchers. Below we explain why these employee benefits are interesting from a tax point of view.

Meal vouchers for business owners
What is an employee benefit?The best known employee benefits are meal vouchers, eco vouchers and sports and culture vouchers. But other forms are also possible. The essence is that the company grants an alternative remuneration to its manager(s) that is favourable from both a tax and a social point of view.

Normally, any direct or indirect counterpart for work in the service of the employer is considered to be wages. Retention tax and taxes are always due on this. Employee benefits are an exception to that rule: they are free of social contributions and taxes when certain conditions are met. And that makes them interesting for salary optimisation!

Note, the new consumption vouchers, which can be used in the catering/hospitality, culture and sports sector, do not apply for self-employed managers.

Meal vouchersThe ubiquitous meal vouchers no longer need an introduction. But did you know that as a manager you are also entitled to the (para) tax benefits of meal vouchers? Your company can grant you one meal voucher per day worked, up to a maximum of 220 vouchers per year.

Exempt subject to conditions
Meal vouchers are completely exempt from tax and social security under certain conditions. Or in more concrete terms:
  • no retention tax is to be withheld on meal vouchers;
  • meal vouchers do not have to be reported on the tax form 281.20;
  • the recipient (i.e. the manager) must not be charged tax on the amounts;
  • no social security contributions for the self-employed or employees need to be calculated.
Limited deductibility
The amount of the meal vouchers may not exceed € 8.00. In addition, you must pay at least € 1.09 yourself per voucher. If you award yourself the maximum amount of € 8.00, you will therefore get no more than € 6.91.

Furthermore, only € 2.00 per voucher is deductible. In our example, therefore, a balance of € 4.91 (8 - 1.09 - 2) will be considered as rejected expenses

Eco vouchersEco vouchers are also exempt from tax, provided that they:
  • have not been granted as a substitute for remuneration, premiums, benefits of any kind or any other payment;
  • are limited to € 250 per employee or manager per year;
  • meet five other conditions, including a limited validity of 24 months and non-cash exchangeability.
No withholding tax is deducted for eco vouchers. They also do not need to be reported on forms 281.10 or 281.20. Finally, no social security contributions from self-employed persons are owed on it.

Note! When eco vouchers are issued to replace remuneration, bonuses, benefits of any kind or any other payment, they are taxable for the recipient in the same way as the income they replace.

Not deductible 
Eco vouchers are professional expenses that are not deductible from the professional expenses of the employer or the company. 

Sport and culture vouchersOnly sport and culture vouchers that meet certain strict conditions are exempt from social security contributions and taxes. Therefore, no retention tax should be deducted from these amounts.
If the conditions are not met, the vouchers are still regarded as wages, on which social security contributions and taxes are due.

Award conditions and mandatory disclosures
Firstly, sports and culture vouchers must meet three award conditions, including a maximum of € 100 per year per person and non-exchangeability in cash.

In addition, the sports/culture voucher must also clearly state some information:
  • the name of the manager (or employee);
  • the period of validity limited to 15 months, from July 1 of the current year to September 30 of the following year;
  • the fact that the vouchers can only be exchanged at recognised, approved or subsidised cultural operators (museums, theatres, etc.) or with sports organizations affiliated to a recognised federation or one of the 4 national federations (hockey, boxing, football and golf). 
Note! Sports and culture vouchers must always be awarded in addition to the normal remuneration of the manager and not in substitution or conversion of remuneration, benefits in kind or any other benefit. If not, they are considered to be pay.

Not deductible
Unlike meal vouchers, sports and culture vouchers are not deductible for the employer.
Do you have any other questions about this? Just feel free to contact one of our experts!