On 1 August 2021, the 'corona premium' rules came into force in Belgium. This premium, paid in the form of consumption vouchers (either electronic or paper), can be used in certain businesses and establishments to support consumption and contribute to economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under certain conditions, the premium will receive favourable social and fiscal treatments.
According to the new regulation, companies having obtained "good results" during the crisis can grant their personnel a corona premium of up to EUR 500 per employee.
The regulations have not provided a further definition of the concept of "good results" achieved during the crisis. It is therefore up to the relevant bodies (i.e. sectors or companies) concluding agreements on this matter to determine results and, if necessary, to define the concept more precisely.
In addition, the granting of the premium must be the subject of a collective bargaining agreement at the sectoral or company level. Therefore, joint committees can provide further details in the near future.
If such an agreement cannot be concluded due to the absence of a trade union delegation, or if it concerns a category of personnel for which it is not customary to provide for such an agreement, the granting of the premium may be governed by an individual agreement.
Furthermore, the list of places where the premium-related consumption vouchers can be spent has been extended. These include establishments in the hotel and catering sector, retail businesses ("physical" outlets and not online), wellness and fitness centres, beauty salons, cinemas, driving schools, etc.
Finally, it should be noted that specific deadlines apply: the premium can be issued from 1 August 2021 until 31 December 2021 at the latest and is valid until 31 December 2022.
Social and fiscal treatment
From a social security point of view, in order not to be considered as remuneration, the corona premium must meet the following specific cumulative conditions:
- The corona premium may not be granted in lieu of, or in the conversion of, salary or salary benefits;
- The granting of the premium must be provided for in a collective bargaining agreement for a sector or a company. If such an agreement cannot be concluded, the granting of the premium may be governed by an individual written agreement;
- The collective or individual agreement must mention the maximum nominal value of the corona premium voucher (there is a maximum of 10 euros per voucher);
- The voucher must be issued in the name of the employee;
- The voucher must contain certain information, namely the date of validity and issue of the voucher and the places where the voucher can be used;
- The voucher cannot be exchanged partially or totally for cash;
- The total amount of the vouchers granted by the employer cannot exceed EUR 500 per employee.
Additional conditions apply to electronic vouchers.
If the above conditions are met, the corona premium is excluded from remuneration for social security purposes. No personal contribution is due from the employee. However, a special contribution of 16.5% is due by the employer on the amount of the premium.
From a tax point of view, the corona premium is exempt from income tax and is fully deductible for each employer.
Finally, it should be noted that the corona premium is not included in the calculation of the wage margin.
For more information on this regulation and state support of businesses in Belgium, contact your CMS client partner or local CMS experts: