Circular letter meal vouchers: actual number of labour days

You can grant meal vouchers free of taxes if the number of meal vouchers equals the number of days that the employee or the independent director has actually worked. A new circular letter of 2 September 2011 explains how to calculate the number of days actually worked which give the employee or the independent director the right to obtain tax free meal vouchers.

Tax free income

Meal vouchers are considered by the legislator as social and cultural advantages which are tax exempt. For the application of the exemption the meal vouchers should meet some conditions. The granting of meal vouchers should be foreseen in a collective labour agreement (on sector or company level) or in an individual agreement with the employee. The employer's contribution is maximum 5,91, the minimum contribution for the employee is 1,09. The meal voucher should mention the name of the employee and the period of validity. The last condition is that the employee should receive a meal voucher for every day he actually worked. A circular letter of 2 September 2011 explains by means of a general rule and some concrete examples how to calculate the number of actual working days.

Number of actual working days: general rule

The tax conditions imposed by the income tax code refer to the social legislation. Since the federal social security office is competent in this respect, its point of view is also considered for tax purposes.
You should grant meal vouchers for every day the employee has effectively worked. This means working days where the physical attendance of the employee at the workplace or any other place is required. Meal vouchers are also due for part time work.

Number of actual working days: examples

Union delegate: the days on which the union delegate attends meetings of the consultative body give right to a meal voucher. Attending these consultations contributes to the good functioning of the company.

Educational leave: a meal voucher is also due for the days on which the employee actually attends an education or training in the scope of paid educational leave, to the extent that it takes place during normal working hours. Normal working hours are the hours on which the employee normally works according to his schedule. It is not necessary that the complete training or education takes place during the working hours. A partial overlap is sufficient, e.g. the training takes place between 16h00 and 20h00, while the employee normally should work between 10h00 and 18h30. This only applies in case the employer can be sure that the employee actually follows the education or training. The employee should consequently be present in a training center or should follow an e-course. The employee which stays at home to study does not meet this condition. On the other hand, the day to take the exam gives right to a meal voucher.

Public holidays: do not forget that you cannot grant meal vouchers for public holidays, substitution or recuperation days, annual holidays, sick leave, recuperation of overtime or strikes. This means that if you grant a meal voucher for such days, this will be considered as taxable income.

Alternative calculation

You can also use an alternative calculation method by dividing the actual number of hours worked during a quarter by the number of hours to be worked per day. The quotient can be rounded up to the higher decimal. The result will be limited to the maximum number of working days in the company for a full time employee, even if the calculation gives a higher number. This alternative calculation method can only be applied by companies operating different schedules for full time and/or part time employees. Additionally, the calculation method should be laid down in a collective labour agreement or, if not available, in the employment regulation if the company does not meet the average of 50 employees. In this collective labour agreement or employment regulation the normal number of working hours  and the maximum number of working days per month should be determined.