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Allowances for free or reduced-price meals that employees receive from their employer are regularly subject to wage tax and social security contributions. However, special features apply to these benefits: Regardless of the actual value of the meal, only a so-called official non-cash benefit value determined annually is taxable. In 2019, this non-monetary remuneration value amounts to €3.30 each for a lunch or dinner. Any additional payments made by the employee reduce the non-cash remuneration value.

The recognition of the (favorable) non-monetary remuneration value is regularly considered for

  1. Meals provided by the employer to employees on a workday basis in a self-operated canteen, restaurant or comparable facility;
  2. Benefits provided by the employer to meal distributing establishments (e.g., restaurants) that help reduce the cost of meals served during the workday, if the subsidy does not exceed the actual price of the meal;
  3. the distribution of restaurant vouchers/vouchers to employees for redemption in restaurants, etc. The prerequisite for recognition at the non-cash remuneration value is that the restaurant voucher does not exceed a value of 6.40 euros (for 2019) per meal.
  4. Cash allowances paid by the employer – e.g. instead of vouchers – to its employees for the purchase of a workday meal up to the amount of 6.40 euros per meal without a contractual relationship with an acceptance point.

Tax-deferred meal allowances are also available to employees who perform their duties in a home office or to part-time employees who work no more than 6 hours per day.

The favorable non-cash benefit values can only be applied if only one meal per workday is purchased and subsidized by the employer. Purchasing meals for other days “in advance” is harmful and leads to the recognition of corresponding allowances as cash wages at nominal value.

To verify these requirements, the employer shall determine the days of absence for each employee, e.g., due to outside employment, vacation, or illness, and adjust the issuance of the meal voucher or allowance; this verification is not required if no employee receives more than 15 allowances per month.

If the provision of meals free of charge or at a reduced price results in an amount subject to wage tax, the employer may deduct this amount in accordance with Section 4 of the German Income Tax Act (Einkommensteuergesetz). § 40 para. 2 EStG at a flat rate of 25%; in this case, the employee is exempt from social security contributions.

(For further comments, information and examples, please refer to our information letter 04/2019).

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Neumann & Walczak – tax consulting company GmbH – Robert-Bosch-Strasse 1 – 59439 Holzwickede

Neumann & Walczak Tax Consultants – Partnership –
Robert-Bosch-Strasse 1 – 59439 Holzwickede

Website: www.neumann-walczak.de – E-mail: info@neumann-walczak.de

Phone: (0049) 02301 – 91 291 0 – Fax: (0049) 02301 – 91 291 21