Upcoming: exceptional tax-free bonus, telework expenses, and help for businesses

Published on : 29/03/2021 29 March Mar 03 2021

The "Macron bonus" is back 

The payment by employers of a tax-free bonus of up to €2,000 in certain companies will be possible again this year.

Indeed, the "Macron bonus" has risen from the ashes. Following his discussions with the social partners in mid-March, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that the payment of a €1,000 bonus, tax-free and exempt from social security contributions, would be authorized again in 2021. A boost intended primarily for "second line workers". That is to say, the Prime Minister specified, "those whose presence at work has proved essential to ensure the economic continuity of the country throughout the crisis", without however giving further details of the jobs concerned. 

In a press release of October 2020, the Ministry of Labour grouped together under this term "cashier hosts and hostesses, refuse collectors, maintenance agents, home helps...". 

"Although second-line workers should be the preferred beneficiaries, this bonus will be open to all employees," explained the Prime Minister.  

However, this bonus comes with conditions: that it does not exceed a certain salary level, which will be defined at the end of negotiations with the social partners. The Prime Minister also announced that this new Macron bonus could be exempted up to a limit of  €2,000 "for companies and professional branches that either: have concluded a profit-sharing agreement by the end of the year or will have opened negotiations on the development of remuneration of the professions concerned".

As a reminder, in the spring of 2020, the Minister of the Economy had encouraged companies to make use of the exceptional purchasing power bonus to reward employees present at their workplace during the first lockdown. 

Clarifications on social and tax treatment of remote work expenses

Although there is still an ambiguity as to the legal duty for the employers to reimburse expenses linked to telework where imposed by the French government due to the pandemic, there is now at least more clarity on the social and tax treatment of remote work expenses. 

Both the tax authority and social security authority in charge of collecting national dues (URSSAF) have expressed their views on this treatment. Both have issued guidelines and granted a “tolerance” due to the particular circumstances.

The URSSAF basically reminded that professional expenses may be reimbursed on euro per euro basis, subject to the production of the relevant evidence of the professional expense but also reminded the other methodology, easier to manage from an administrative standpoint. Indeed, where the employer pays a lump sum aiming at covering telework professional expenses, it indicates that this lump sum is deemed to qualify as professional expense and not wages (therefore, not triggering national dues which would increase its costs for the company). However, this favorable treatment applies only if the amount remains within the limits of a specific grading scale based on the number of days actually teleworked (for example: €10 per month if one day per week, €20 if two days, etc.). The URSSAF extended this tolerance to any such lump sum even exceeding the above-mentioned limits, provided that this amount is provided for by a collective bargaining agreement and is based on the number of days actually teleworked.

This URSSAF’s tolerance is now binding this body as, since 1 April 2021, the URSSAF’s circulars published on its new official internet website (boss.gouv.fr) have become enforceable.

From a tax standpoint, the Ministry of the Economy (supervising the tax administration) has announced in a Press release dated 2 March 2021 that allowances paid by employers to cover expenses related to employees' work at home (allowances, lump-sum reimbursements, reimbursement of actual expenses) will continue to be exempt from income tax, although employers will have to identify these allowances in the information submitted to the tax administration. 

The amount of taxable income pre-filled on the tax return should not, in principle, include such allowances. 

Employees will be able to check this when they declare their income in 2020, by reviewing the pre-filled amounts against their pay slips (or the annual tax certificate issued by their employer), according to the Ministry of the Economy and the Ministry of Public Accounts.  

The lump sum allowances are tax-free up to a limit of €2.5 per day of home-based teleworking, i.e., €50 per month for 20 days of teleworking, with a ceiling of €550 per year. 

This tolerance applies "if the allowance covers exclusively professional expenses incurred in the course of home teleworking, which excludes ordinary expenses generally required for the exercise of the profession, which include in particular travel expenses between home and the workplace and catering expenses.”

This press release should be transposed into a binding legal instrument shortly. 
 

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