Lump sum meal allowance: when is it worth it and when is it better to avoid it?

Until recently, meal allowances took only two forms – either as paper meal vouchers or cards, or in the form of a factory canteen or canteen operation. Now we have a third option – a meal allowance lump sum. Who does it pay out to and when?

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What is a meal voucher lump sum?

A meal allowance is where an employer gives its employees a cash payment instead of meal allowances in the form of meal vouchers or subsidised lunches in the canteen. Even though this amount is intended for meals, it does not matter how the employee uses it or what he buys with it.

The aim of introducing this new option is to save the employer time and money that has to be invested in purchasing and registering meal vouchers, where a significant part of the cost is the commission to the providers of the meal vouchers (usually between 5 and 7%). This does not mean that meal vouchers are being abolished. This still leaves employers with these three options for paying their employees:

  • paper meal vouchers or meal cards,
  • subsidising lunches in the company canteen or canteen,
  • a meal voucher lump sum.

Where can I find the flat-rate meal voucher adjustment?

The law, or rather an amendment to the law, regulating the meal allowance was passed and came into force in 2021 as part of the tax package. So where to find the section on the meal allowance in the statute book?

The 2021 tax package is published in the Act amending certain tax laws and certain other laws. The broader context is provided by the Income Tax Act.

Traditional vouchers vs. meal vouchers

For classic meal vouchers, the employer is able to claim up to 55% of the cost of a meal in the company canteen or the cost of the meal voucher as a tax expense. The remaining 45% is then deducted from the employee’s salary. Thus, for example, if it is a paper meal voucher worth CZK 100, the employer pays CZK 55 and the employee pays the remaining CZK 45 from his/her salary.

This principle remains the same for the meal voucher lump sum. In this case, however, it works in such a way that the employer directly pays the CZK 55 to the employee as a cash amount and the remaining CZK 45 is not deducted from the employee’s salary.

Tip: Read more about benefits and payroll deductions in a separate article.

So how does meal voucher flat rate accounting work? This amount is tax-free, including the payment of social security and health insurance. It is also not included in net pay, so it is not subject to garnishment or insolvency. However, this is only the case if the amount paid by the employer does not exceed the limit of 70% of the upper limit of the meal allowance that can be granted to salaried employees during a business trip lasting between 5 and 12 hours. The upper limit of the meal allowance is set each year by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. In 2023, this limit is set at CZK 153 and 70% therefore means CZK 107.10.

Tip: You can read about what can and cannot be subject to foreclosure in our separate article.

When is a meal voucher lump sum worthwhile?

The meal allowance is most likely to be paid when the above-mentioned upper limit of the meal allowance is not exceeded. In this case, the amount is neither taxable nor subject to execution or insolvency and the employer can put it towards tax expenses.

However, once the situation arises that the amount of the meal allowance ceiling should be exceeded, then the employer must already pay the employee’s 33.8% insurance premium, the employee’s 11% insurance premium and 15% income tax on the amount. Whereas in the case of an excess meal voucher, only 15% income tax is payable.

Advantages and disadvantages of the meal allowance

A meal allowance carries significant benefits for both the employer and the employee. However, it also carries several disadvantages. Here is an overview:

From the employer’s point of view, the meal allowance

Advantages

  • Less administration involved in setting up a meal voucher = no time to invest in purchasing and recording meal vouchers.
  • Employees may be more positively affected by a meal voucher than a traditional meal voucher = improved recruitment.
  • Money saved on commissions to companies selling meal vouchers.

Disadvantages

  • Tax savings and overall value for money are reduced if the flat rate is above the limit.
  • Lack of control over how employees use the money.
  • It is harder for home office employees to prove time worked and therefore in this case a traditional meal voucher is more likely to be worthwhile due to the lower penalties in the event of not proving time worked.

Lump sum meal allowance from the employee’s position

Benefits

  • There is no specified purpose for the meal allowance money = you can do with it what you want.
  • Many caterers do not accept meal vouchers = the meal voucher does not give you a limited choice.
  • Meal voucher is not time limited = you don’t lose your money due to forfeiture of the meal voucher.
  • Meal plan money cannot be subject to foreclosure or insolvency.
  • Unlike traditional food stamps, you do not put your own money into a food stamp.

Disadvantages

  • The unspecified purpose of a food stamp can lead to neglect of good lifestyle habits.
  • For shifts longer than 11 hours, a meal voucher is not worthwhile compared to a traditional meal voucher. A meal allowance can be given twice for such a long shift, whereas a lump sum can only be given once.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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