Transfer of eco vouchers into meal vouchers possible as from 1 October 2011

As from 1 October 2011 you can transfer eco vouchers into meal vouchers and vice versa. If you comply with all conditions, no social security contributions are due on this transfer. The tax authorities and the social security authorities share the same opinion.

General conditions for eco vouchers

In 2009 a new circulating medium was created: the eco voucher or green voucher is a bonus which you can grant to your employees. This voucher is not considered as income and therefore exempt of taxes and social security contributions ... under certain conditions:

granting the eco vouchers should be provided for in a collective labour agreement at sector or company level. In case there is no union delegation or if it is not common for a certain category of employees that such agreements are made, granting the eco voucher can be done by a written individual agreement. In this case, the amount of the eco voucher cannot exceed the highest amount granted by collective labour agreement in the same company;

the collective labour agreement determines the highest nominal value of the eco voucher, with a maximum of ten eco vouchers per year, and the frequency of granting the vouchers during the calender year;

the eco voucher is issued on the name of the employee;

the eco voucher clearly states that its validity is limited to 24 months, as from the granting to the employee, and that it can only be used to buy ecological products and services. These ecological products and services can be found in the annex of the collective labour agreements n° 98 of the National Labour Council;

the eco vouchers cannot be transferred in cash;

the total amount of eco vouchers per employee cannot exceed 125 for 2009 and 250 for the following years.

Transfer of eco vouchers

In 2009 and 2010, 53 parity comities, the sectorial consultative bodies between employers and employees, foresaw in ecovouchers. In 2011 only 29 remain and there are no new sectors. The administrative burden for the eco vouchers is still (too) high. Eco vouchers are only issued on paper. Meanwhile, for meal vouchers you can use electronic meal vouchers or e-meal vouchers.

The Union of Independent Entrepreneurs (UNIZO) was informed by a number of member sectors that they face difficulties due to the lack of possibilities to transfer eco vouchers into meal vouchers or another equal benefit. UNIZO now realized at the level of the management comittee of the Federal Social Security Service (RSZ) an escape route towards meal vouchers. This transfer was in the past subject to social security contributions. As from 1 October 2011 contributions are no longer due on meal vouchers which are granted or increased as replacement for eco vouchers, or on eco vouchers which are granted instead of meal vouchers (intermediate instruction RSZ 2011/03 of 19 October 2011). This provided that all general conditions are met.

Tax authorities follow social security

The tax authorities share the opinion of the Federal Social Security Service. Also the tax authorities allow to transfer eco vouchers into meal vouchers or vice verse without losing the tax advantage. Watch out! Granting meal vouchers or eco vouchers instead of all other existing benefits (salary, bonusses, ..) remains prohibited.

Consequences for employers

Many companies want to transfer eco vouchers into meal vouchers or want to increase the employer's contribution in the meal voucher. The procedures are different depending whether there is a union delegation or not. Sectorial collective labour agreements usually provide an ultimate date before which the transfer should be decided. Keep an eye on that date.