Q&A: VAT and healthy staff perks

In our regular Q&A series from Croner Taxwise, VAT advice consultant, Sally Atkins, looks at the VAT implications of paying for staff gym memberships and subsidised healthy meals 

Q. My client is a new social media enterprise company and the directors are keen to encourage a healthy lifestyle amongst staff.

To capitalise on all the good intentions and resolutions of January they are to pay for a corporate membership to a local gym and are offering subsidised healthy meals and snacks in their office café. Please could you advise of the VAT implications of these initiatives.

A. Employee rewards and perks are dealt with in HMRC’s manual VAT Input Tax (VIT43700). Here it explains that services provided to staff can be a legitimate business expense, if they are provided mainly to reward or motivate staff.

If so, the VAT incurred is all input tax. No apportionment under s.24(5) of the VAT Act 1994 (VATA1994) is necessary. In some cases, a charge to output tax for private use may have to be made under the Supply of Services Order.

However, HMRC said: ‘Where facilities are provided to all employees strictly for the purposes of the business it is generally not our policy to apply such a charge.

‘But perks provided to specific individuals within a business should generally be subject to an output tax charge to reflect private use.’

Specific guidance on recreational facilities can be found at VIT43950 and here it is confirmed that where sports and recreational facilities are available to all employees, the VAT incurred on the cost of providing the facilities is input tax.

Again it is not HMRC’s policy to apply the Supply of Services Order. If any charge were to be made, then output VAT would be due on that amount.

With regard to staff meals, HMRC’s manual VAT Food (VFOOD5060); paragraph 10 of Schedule 6 of the VAT Act 1994 specifically refers to the provision of food and drink in the course of catering by an employer to an employee.

Where such supplies are made, the value of the supply is the monetary consideration alone, if any, paid by the employee. So where an employee pays for a meal, snack or drink, the supply is standard-rated and the value of the supply is the amount paid.

Where an employee is not required to pay for a meal, snack or drink the value of the supply is nil and no VAT is due.

Additionally, for completeness, following the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Astra Zeneca (Case C-40/09), where employees pay for benefits under a salary sacrifice arrangement, employers must account for VAT on the value of the supplies unless they are exempt or zero-rated.

Subject to the normal rules, the employer can continue to recover the VAT incurred on related purchases. Equally where deductions are made from salary for the benefits, the value of the supply is the amount deducted.

About the author

Sally Atkins, VAT advice consultant at Croner Taxwise, tel:  0844 892 2470

This article first appeared on Croner Taxwise

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