Measures to promote health in the workplace are increasingly important because they can prevent health risks and illnesses among employees. If the employer provides subsidies for the participation of employees in corresponding measures, a distinction must be made with regard to the consequences under wage tax and social security law:
If the employer’s prevention and health promotion services are predominantly in the employer’s own interest and serve to prevent occupational health impairments, this may mean that no taxable remuneration is to be recognized.
The Federal Fiscal Court
has recently ruled that this does not apply if there are only general preventive health measures and there is no sufficient reference to occupation-specific health hazards and impairments.
In the case in question, the employer assumed a large part of the costs for the participation of its employees in a so-called awareness week with, among other things, events, courses and workshops concerning nutrition, exercise, body awareness, cardiovascular training and mindfulness.
The court treated the employer’s benefits as taxable wages, since the (monetary) benefits proved to be remuneration of the employees and not merely a necessary concomitant of business functional objectives.
However, if the employer’s benefits do not exceed 500 euros in a calendar year, a special rule applies:
A (possibly difficult) examination of whether the measures are predominantly in the employer’s own interests is then not necessary. Expenses incurred by the employer to improve the (general) state of health, such as exercise programs, information on work-related physical stress (e.g. back training for VDU workstations), nutritional counseling, stress management or addiction prevention, generally remain exempt from wage tax and social security contributions up to the amount of the allowance.
However, certain certifications under social security law must be available for this on a regular basis starting in 2019 in order to receive the tax benefit.
However, for employer benefits that exceed the tax-free amount of EUR 500 per year, the employer’s own business interest continues to be the decisive factor with regard to the excess expenses for the benefit of the measures.
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