In an environment such as the present one, with prices soaring and the loss of purchasing power on the agenda, it becomes necessary to resort to instruments that facilitate a degree of immunisation against inflation.

In October, the CPI recorded a year-on-year increase of 7.3%, having reached a peak of almost 11 points in July, based on figures from Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE). In contrast, data from Spain’s Ministry of Labour show that the rise in wages in Spain in 2022 was 2.6%, a much lower figure. In summary, while the CPI has risen by more than 10%, gross salaries have barely increased by 4.3%, which translates into a reality: salaries are not able to keep up with the rise in prices and employees have less money to meet their everyday expenses.

As a solution to this disparity and in parallel to the search for ways to manage increases in their items, many of the country’s companies are implementing medium and long-term mechanisms in an attempt to maintain their workers’ economic capacity, all without increasing costs.

Alternative remuneration through Restaurant Vouchers In order to address the new needs and financial capacity of their workforces, companies can implement flexible remuneration plans and social benefits, which increase employees’ purchasing power without directly modifying their salary base. This remuneration model allows employees to purchase various products and services directly from their salary and, consequently, to make savings.

This is the case of meal vouchers, which, in the form of restaurant coupons or cards, form part of the payments in kind that some companies make to their employees through social benefits and flexible remuneration. This service allows companies to offer their employees assistance for the total or partial payment of their daily meals, free of tax (IRPF), up to an amount of 11 euros per working day for 20 days per month. Per year, 2,640 euros.

However, inflation is impacting on menu prices, meaning that these 11 euros are no longer enough to pay for a set menu in some parts of Spain. According to the latest data gathered by Hostelería de España, the average daily set menu in Spain costs 12.8 euros. In cities such as Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, Murcia, Malaga, Palma and Bilbao, it exceeds the 13 euro threshold, and in Barcelona and Madrid, it is close to 14 euros.

To counter this, several organisations are advocating a rise in the maximum exemption for meal vouchers to 13 euros, as this figure has remained unchanged since 2018. Thus, the increase would help users of this service who work in major cities, such as Madrid or Barcelona, to avoid having to pay the difference in the meal price with the taxable part of their salary.

Apart from meal vouchers, companies’ flexible remuneration schemes may include health-related products, such as health insurance, gym vouchers and psychological care; financial products, such as pension plans and retirement insurance; products to cover daily expenses, such as transport vouchers; and work-life balance products, such as childcare vouchers.

Calculate the savings As they are exempt from personal income tax, it is estimated that this type of benefit can represent a significant saving for workers, given that the law allows up to a maximum of 30% of their gross salary to be spent on this type of product. In other words, through flexible remuneration, a worker with an annual salary of 30,000 euros can save, on average, up to 2,500 euros. However, the tax savings from such exemptions will depend on the individual worker and their personal circumstances.

To discover the tax savings that you can make by allocating part of your gross salary to the purchase of tax-exempt products, you can use online tools such as RibéSalat’s Flexible Remuneration Calculator. By simply entering your gross annual salary and filling in the data requested in each section, it calculates the net monthly salary that you would receive if you were a beneficiary of a flexible remuneration plan.

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