Saving Contributions with Meal Vouchers in France

Meal vouchers, also referred to as lunch vouchers or restaurant tickets are a very common Employee Benefit in France. It is part of French culture to eat out for lunch and meal vouchers increase the purchasing power of employees.

Saving contributions with meal vouchers in France & increasing employee motivation

Even if they are not obligatory, if you want your job offer to be competitive on the French market you will need to consider offering meal vouchers as part of the benefit package. Meal vouchers convey the image of a company committed to the well-being of its employees. As they are so common, a lot of French employees might see it as a normal advantage and the lack of them can even paint a negativ picture of an employer.
Besides, Payroll Taxes in France are very high and meal vouchers allow to save payroll costs. This can be in some cases as much as 900 Euro per year and per employee as we will explain in detail below.

What are meal vouchers ?

They are a form of payment ticket given by an employer to their employees. With these tickets employees can pay all or part of the price of a meal. They are often used in restaurants, but can also be used in some supermarkets.

Saving contributions with meal vouchers in France

Before we can give some more information about how much contributions can be saved with meal vouchers we will need to go more into depth.

How are meal vouchers financed ?

They are partially financed by the employee and employer. The employee’s part is deducted from his net. This can be found on the bottom of the French Payslip. The employer’s part is exempted from contributions and taxes.

What is the tax free amount of meal vouchers in France ?

For the employer’s part to be exempted, the value of the meal voucher has to respect two limits:
– The employer must pay between 50% and 60% of the lunch tickets value.
– The employer’s contribution must respect a maximum of € 5.92 per voucher (value applicable from 1st of September 2022, 5.69 until 31st of August 2022). This value will be revaluated each year.

What if the employer’s part exceeds one of these limits ?

If the amount respects the 60 % limit but exceeds 5.92 €, the exemption is maintained in the limit of 5.92 € and only the exceeding amount is subject to contributions.
If the limit of 5.92 Euro is respected and the limit of 60 % is exceeded, in general, the whole amount must be subject to contributions. In practice, a redress would only apply to the exceeding amount unless in the case of bad faith or repeated non-respect.

What is a good value of a meal voucher in France ?

The employer is free to determine the amount of the value of the meal vouchers. So it depends on his budget and the intention behind it.
Some examples of a maximized employer’s contribution respecting the above mentioned limits:

Total value Employer’s contribution Employee’s contribution
10 Euro 5.92 Euro (maximum amount) 4.08 Euro
8 Euro 4.80 Euro (60 % limit) 3.20 Euro
6 Euro 3.60 Euro (60 % limit) 2.40 Euro

How many meal vouchers does my employee get ?

This depends on the number of full work days.
Only one meal voucher can be awarded per working day and provided that the meal occurs during the work day. Thus, an employee working 4 full days with a lunch break and one half day without a lunch break can only receive 4 meal vouchers for this week.
Also, the employee cannot receive a restaurant ticket if his employer already paid for his lunch for instance in the case of a business lunch with clients.

Case study: Saving contributions with meal vouchers in France

Let’s take an example :
– Employee working 220 full days per year
– Value of a restaurant ticket of 10 euro
– Employer contribution of 5.69 Euro
So for a whole year the employer contribution would be 1251 Euro. This amount is tax free and exempted from all contributions.
To find out how much can be saved with meal vouchers, let’s compare this to a taxable bonus payment of 1251 Euro net. In order to cover the employee’s contributions the employer would have to pay about 1604 Euro gross plus the employer’s contributions. These can vary but if we calculate with 35 % the total cost would be 2165 Euro. So 914 Euro can be saved.

How to set up meal vouchers ?

First of all, restaurant tickets are collective benefits. In general, they have to be offered to all employees. In order to set them up, the employer has to choose a supplier of restaurant tickets like Edenred or Apetiz. They take a small commission for their services.
Once the employee has been added to the account, the employer needs to order the restaurant tickets each month.

Which different forms of meal vouchers exist?

Traditionally, lunch tickets were paper vouchers. The paper version exists until today but nowadays, cards become more and more popular. They can be used just like bank cards by swiping through a card reader or using contact free payment. Smart payments with the mobile phone via a digital wallet are also possible with apps like Apple Pay or Google Pay.
Payments with cards are not only more convenient, they have one more advantage : The exact amount of the transaction will be deducted from the card whereas meal vouchers have a fixed amount.

What are the restrictions of the usage of meal vouchers ?

Even if the meal vouchers represent mainly an advantage for the employee, there usage is subject to some rules. Here are the main restrictions.

When can meal vouchers be used ?

This is based on the work pattern of the employee. In general, they can be used from Monday to Saturday, except for public holidays.

Where can meal vouchers be used ?

In many restaurants and bakeries as well as some supermarkets for certain products such as prepared meals or fruits. Temporarily until 31 December 2023, the purchase of all food products is authorized (meal vouchers anti-inflation measure).

What is the maximum amount that can be used per day ?

19 Euro
Temporarily doubled to 38 € due to the health crisis (ended 30 June 2022).
Temporarily increased to 25 € to help struggling households to cope with rising food prices.

When do restaurant tickets expire ?

End of February for tickets issued the previous year.

Can employees refuse meal vouchers ?

The employee is free to refuse the meal vouchers offered by his employer at any time, without having to justify this refusal. The refusal can be temporary or permanent. The employee simply has to inform the employer as soon as possible. The employer should request that this is done by writing so that he can’t be accused of an unequal treatment.

Expert for tax-free incentives

Consulting in tax optimization is part of our Payroll Services in France. We can assist to set up employee incentives such as tax-free employee gift cards, employee vacation incentives and French CESU vouchers for childcare and domestic services. You can also learn more about other incentives such as tax-free corporate fitness incentives in France. We will be happy to set up meal vouchers for your company.