Regular readers already know that I’m not a fan of the messy Sodexo Meal Vouchers. Even as recently as a few days back, paying at a department store using these paper vouchers turned out to be a 15-minute nightmare with counting, recounting, tallying, re-tallying, sorry can’t give you the change but do you want these chocolates in lieu episodes. At this point in time, I simply don’t care about any income tax benefits. I’d rather pay the extra income tax and have my time and my peace of mind.
Going forward, I’ll therefore be opting out from receiving these vouchers. My office hasn’t yet declared a Sodexo Meal Voucher policy for the new financial year but for the last two months we have had the option to opt-out and I did since I had a bunch of them leftover from previous months. I simply received the equivalent amount in the form of taxable income.
But here’s what D’s office is proposing for the Sodexo Meal Vouchers for Financial Year 2012 – 2013 —
[Excerpts from an email sent by their HR.]
Please refer to an earlier mail sent by [Company] with respect to Sodexo Meal Vouchers. Some of you had raised questions based on the fact that the Meal Vouchers were not accepted by some of the establishments. Based on this input, a Cross Functional Team has reviewed various aspects which included compliance to the Income Tax Rules, the benchmark information (of what other companies are doing) and the administration.
- Based on the above review and information, we have decided that effective April 01, 2012 (new Income Tax year), the value of Meal Credit would be Rs 9,000 per annum. The remaining Rs 9,000 per annum will be paid to Employees in 12 equal monthly installments as allowance and will be taxed at the applicable tax rate.
- Going forward, your FBP [Flexible Benefits Plan] will include the value of Meal Credit and you can choose to opt-in by including Rs 9,000 as part of your FBP-declaration. In case you choose to opt out, a total of Rs 18,000 will become part of your taxable income. Please note that your decision can be revoked only for the next Income Tax year (which starts on April 01, 2013). The default option would be opt-out for payroll processing.
- Those of you who choose Sodexo Meal Credit as part of FBP selection, will have their Meal Cards loaded with Rs 750 per month. These Meal Cards can only be used at [Company] Cafeteria. [Company] will send a survey very soon to check your interest to sign up for Meal Credit. Please respond immediately with â€œYES or NOâ€ so that the Cards can be loaded with the Credit effective April â€™12 for those who say â€œYESâ€.
- Further, if you happen to have an outstanding amount on your cards as of March 31, 2012 you can convert it into physical vouchers before April 30, 2012 at the Sodexo Helpdesk. Please note that there will be no similar exchange for physical vouchers at the end of March 2013.
D asked what she should do and I recommended that she too opt-out since she doesn’t anyway eat at the Company Cafeteria.
At Rs 750 per month and considering an average of 22-working days per month, that works out to about Rs 34 per day. These days what can you get for that amount?
What’s your office proposing? And what have you decided to do?
I think Sodexo/Ticket Restaurant vouchers are a very good incentive to save tax. Earlier we used to get Rs.3,000 now my employer has fixed it to Rs. 1,100. They say that as per Income Tax rule meal vouchers should be used for use of meal only(rubbish). Though many stores have stopped taking these voucher, I still do make use of them to buy my weekly groceries. For a person in 30% tax bracket and getting Rs. 12,000 as vouchers its a savings of Rs. 3600. I know there are a lot of hassles but then i don’t think its worth paying tax to the government for the pathetic service that we receive.
My company is offered HDFC’s Food Card as a replacement for Sodexo coupons as most big retailers have stopped accepting Sodexo coupons. After looking at the outlet options that HDFC Food Card offers, I decided to opt out of meal vouchers itself.
You’re right. The income-tax saved is indeed a pretty good amount. But the whole experience in using these coupons is so damn frustrating (always!) that I have started to think that my time is worth more than the amount of income-tax saved. He he he…
D’s previous employer had the HDFC Food Card option. Back then, I was able to use the card pretty much everywhere. Have they now placed restrictions on where this card can be used? That’s a real bummer!