Christmas is fast approaching. At this time of year, employers may wish to reward their employees for a job well done over the past year. Employers often ask how they can reward their employees in a tax-friendly manner.

One option is to provide a gift, i.e. gifts in kind, in cash or vouchers, i.e. for books, sporting and cultural events, movies, etc. Please note, however, that meal vouchers are governed by specific rules.

As a general rule, gifts are considered remuneration and thus subject to social security contributions and taxes.

However, provided certain conditions are met, a gift will not be considered remuneration and thus will not be subject to social security contributions or taxes. In this case, the gift will be interesting for both the employer and its employees:

  • a fully deductible business expense for the employer, and;
  • a tax-free benefit for the employee.  

As mentioned, however, certain conditions must be met.

Conditions  

Firstly, the gift in kind or in cash or the gift voucher must be granted to all employees. Gift vouchers must have an insignificant value and should be granted for a clear purpose and not as compensation for services rendered. Furthermore, the following specific conditions must be met for gift vouchers:

  • the gift voucher must be used within one year’s time;
  • the gift voucher can only be used in stores that have concluded an agreement with the company issuing the voucher;
  • the gift voucher cannot be exchanged for cash;
  • each employee must be granted the same benefit.  

The occasions on which an employer can grant gifts in kind or in cash or gift vouchers during the Christmas period are limited, as set out below:[1]

Please click here to view table.

For example:

An employee with three dependent children can receive four gift vouchers of up to EUR 35 per year, i.e. three for his or her dependent children for Christmas, New Year’s or December 6 and one for himself/herself for Christmas, New Year’s or December 6.

Separate rules apply for cultural and sports vouchers.

Sanctions  

Please note that if any of the above conditions are not met or if the vouchers are granted on occasions not provided for by law, social security contributions and taxes will be due on the total value of the gift or gift voucher.