Meal vouchers and meal allowances: not cumulative!

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Date:
15 Dec 2010

<p><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">For several years there has been disagreement on the question whether or not meal vouchers can be cumulated with allowances awarded to employees to buy meals "on the road".</span></span></p><span style="font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">

For several years there has been disagreement on the question whether or not meal vouchers can be cumulated with allowances awarded to employees to buy meals "on the road"

The National Social Security Office (NOSS) has considered that this is not allowed.  Several court decisions however did not follow this position and decided that cumulating was perfectly possible: a meal voucher is not a kind of allowance, but a special kind of remuneration which is exempted from tax and social security contributions.  Besides, the legislation does not require the employee to buy "professional" meals with his/her meal vouchers during the working day – except in case of a canteen. The employee can thus use the meal voucher for private purchases as well, for example at the weekend.

The legislator has now joined the side of the NOSS: the Royal Decree of 12 October 2010 added to the regulation of meal vouchers a provision stipulating that meal vouchers are only exempted from contribution levies on the condition that the meal voucher is not cumulated with an allowance for the same meal on the same day.

The government clearly wanted to put an end to the practice of cumulating meal vouchers with daily allowances which are intended to cover meal costs as well. The cautious employer who grants both meal vouchers and daily allowances to its staff, will thus have to review its cost policy. The employer can, for example reduce the amount of the daily allowances that it gives to non-sedentary employees by the amount of the costs that cover a meal (the NOSS accepts a lump sum of 6 EUR.)

This new rule will enter into force on 1 January 2011.