A royal decree published in Belgium’s official gazette on 28 April 2023 gives employers the possibility of granting a one-time tax-free payment known as the “purchasing power premium” to employees. Subsequently, on 4 May 2023, the social security authorities released guidelines (Dutch | French) confirming the practicalities of the scheme, which are comparable to those of the COVID-19 premium that was introduced in the period 2021 to 2022.
The Belgian federal government previously agreed that remuneration in Belgium could not be increased in 2023 or 2024, other than for the mandatory indexation. However, to enable companies to increase the purchasing power of employees, a specific one-time premium can be granted as from 1 June 2023 until 31 December 2023 in the form of a consumption voucher valid until 31 December 2024. The voucher must not be either partially or fully convertible into cash.
For companies where the purchasing power premium is provided for in a (sub)sectoral collective labour agreement (CLA) (“sectoral purchasing power premium”) the premium per employee may not exceed:
For companies where the purchasing power premium is provided for in a company CLA (“company purchasing power premium”), the maximum amount is EUR 750 per employee and the only criterion is that the company achieved “high profits” in 2022.
It is possible to combine a sectoral purchasing power premium with a company purchasing power premium; however, the total of both premiums cannot exceed EUR 750.
The terms “high profits” and “exceptionally high profits” are not defined, so must be determined by the social partners and clearly stated in a CLA.
The premium can be paid in all industries and companies when an agreement has been concluded between the employer and employee representatives regarding the implementation of such a premium via a CLA, or via a written individual agreement if no CLA is in place or the CLA does not usually apply to the category of personnel concerned.
The decision to grant a purchasing power premium must be made and entitlement to the premium determined prior to 1 January 2024 and included in a CLA or written individual agreement concluded by 31 December 2023.
The premium will not be taxable for the employee but will be 100% deductible for the employer provided that the above conditions are met.
The royal decree excludes the premium from regular social security contributions, but a specific employer social security contribution of 16.5% will be due. The necessary legislation imposing the specific contribution is yet to be issued.
If the conditions are not met, the premium granted will be treated as remuneration taxable at progressive income tax rates and subject to regular employee and employer social security contributions.
Alexis Ceuterick joined Deloitte Legal – Lawyer’s Employment, Pensions and Benefits team in June 2022. Alexis is an employment law and social security specialist and known for finding innovative and pragmatic solutions for all his clients’ personnel related legal matters, from onboarding to offboarding employees. Alexis advises both Belgian and international companies. His main focus areas are employment and social security law related aspects of compensation packages, structuring self-employment relations (consultancy and management agreements). He often negotiates with unions in matters related to compensation, working time or in the event of a collective dismissal. Alexis also advises on the employment, social security and pensions aspects of corporate restructurings (mergers and acquisitions), including cross-border transfers of employees. Alexis has extensive experience advising corporate clients in the financial industry, especially relating compensation and benefits related matters. In addition, Alexis is a frequent speaker at seminars/webinars and (co)author of various legal publications.
Sofie is specialised in the broad scope of reward, including reward strategy, tax & legal analysis and compliance. She leads Deloitte's reward team, assisting both international as Belgian clients, both public as private clients. This includes reward strategy, equity and incentives, pension and benefits, flexible benefits, executive reward, M&A related reward topics, in-depth tax advisory, and more. Next to that, Sofie is the Tax & Legal sustainability lead, closely connecting with the sustainability consulting team, strongly committed to help clients on their sustainability journey, including advice on legal obligations, policy drafting linked to the different sustainability platforms, assisting clients to obtain funds and incentives, apply tax efficient measures and advise on ESG KPIs linked to executives' bonus plans.