The consumption check becomes a corona premium
Mid-2020, the government introduced the consumer cheque. An employer was allowed
to give his staff a bonus, exempt of taxes and social security, up to a maximum
of 300 euros. A year later there will be a reissue of this bonus (now called
'corona premium'), but the consumption check is also forced to be tinkered with.
Consumer vouchers for 300 euros
In the belief that the worst was behind us, the government decided mid-2020 that
employers could issue consumer vouchers to their employees. The maximum amount
was 300 euros. The checks were not subject to personal income tax or social
security and were deductible for the employer.
The most important conditions:
The check does not replace or convert wages, premiums, or any other benefit,
whether or not subject to social security contributions.
The highest nominal value of the paper consumer voucher is 10 euros per check
and the absolute maximum is 300 euros. If this absolute maximum is exceeded, the
advantage is completely lost (and not only for the exceeding part).
The check is in the employee's name.
The most important obstacle for the consumption voucher was probably how it
could be spent. After all, the underlying intention was to support those sectors
that had suffered the most from the first corona wave. Roughly speaking, the
checks could only be used in the catering sector, the retail SMEs that had to
close due to corona (such as bookstores, hairdressers or beauty salons), the
cultural sector and the (recognized) sports associations.
The checks had to be used before 1 January 2021, except for checks issued to
healthcare workers, for which the deadline was 30 June 2021.
Initially, the checks were only valid until 7 June 2021 (one year after the
catering industry was allowed to open again after the lockdown of March 2020).
But since the catering industry had to close its doors again quickly in autumn,
the validity of consumption vouchers was extended until 31 December 2021. But
that date was also modified at the end of July 2021!
Corona premium with consumer vouchers of 500 euros
In July 2021, the government repeated this exercise, this time with the
so-called corona premium. In fact, it once again gives the possibility of
issuing consumer vouchers to staff, but for a maximum of 500 euros. There are
many similarities, but there are also some striking differences.
A first similarity is that the employer may grant the premium, but is not
obliged to do so. The decision is taken either at sectoral level or at the level
of the individual company.
As it was the case for the first series of consumer vouchers, the new consumer
vouchers do not fall under the concept of wages (which means that they are not
taken into account for e.g. severance pay).
A first important difference with the 'old' consumer vouchers is the employer's
contribution of 16.5%: for the employee, the checks are still tax exempt and not
subject to social security contributions, but the employer has to pay a special
employer's contribution of 16.5%. Both the premium and the contribution are
deductible costs for the employer.
A second striking addition to the former consumer vouchers is that the employer
may issue the vouchers if the company achieved 'good results' during the crisis.
What 'good results' are is not clarified. An entrepreneur with a negative result
due to the corona crisis is not allowed to award a bonus to staff who have put
in 200% despite everything? An open question.
The premium of 500 euros must be spent in the form of consumer vouchers. These
must, if they are on paper: a) be registered, and b) state the period of
validity. They should not be worth more than 10 euros each. Fortunately, the
checks also exist in electronic form, for which these restrictions do not
The period in which you as an employer may grant a corona premium runs from 1
August 2021 to 31 December 2021. It is therefore to be expected that quite a few
employers will only decide towards the end of the year, when they have an
overview of the figures, what they are going to do.
The new consumption vouchers remain valid until 31 December 2022. Like the old
consumption vouchers, they may only be spent in establishments that have
suffered particularly from the corona crisis. However, that list will be
somewhat extended, partly due to the disappearance of the SME condition for the
retail trade. In practice, almost all shopkeepers, catering establishments,
contact professions, cultural institutions and sports associations can now
accept these checks
if they wish to do so. These establishments are not obliged
to accept consumption vouchers.
What about the old checks?
Are the old checks less interesting than the new ones? No
with the introduction
of the corona premium, the 'better conditions for spending' (the validity period
until 31 December 2022 and the wider range of establishments) were also
immediately allowed for older cheques: consumption vouchers issued in 2020
therefore also remain valid until 31 December 2022.
Attention! The exemption from social security and income tax only applies to the
granting of consumption vouchers to employees. Self-employed directors do not
fall within the scope of this arrangement. If you award consumer vouchers to a
director, this award will be treated as ordinary wages.