The Vale-Alimentação and Vale-Refeição, Portuguese for meal ticket programs are a special type of benefit normally granted to employees that work more than 30 hours a week. In this article, we will take a closer look at these meal ticket programs and learn how they work.
The Vale-Alimentação and Vale-Refeição, whenever granted by the employer and not discounted from the wage of the worker, is considered part of the employees salary, for all tax purposes. That means it is considered part of the salary and affects the payment of taxes like INSS and FGTS, as well as the payment of labor rights.
The Programa de Alimentação do Trabalhador - PAT, which is Portuguese for Worker’s Alimentation Program, was implemented in April 1976 and aims to provide proper nutrition to employees - especially for employees on low income, whose income is less than five minimum wages - in order to improve their nutritional and health conditions. The PAT is a program that was created by the government in conjunction with companies and employees.
The value of the meal ticket programs is calculated on the average price of restaurants located in the region. For example, the city of São Paulo where the average value of the meal ticket is BRL 15.75 per day. This value is considered low, as São Paulo is the most expensive city in Latin America and the average meal for one person costs about BRL 18.00.
According to the CLT, Consolidação das Leis de Trabalho, which is Portuguese for Consolidation of Labor Laws, the meal ticket programs provided by the employer may not exceed 20% of the value of the salary whenever the employer is not considering the benefit as part of the salary. Therefore, there is a maximum of 20% that can be discounted from the worker’s regular wage. When the meal ticket programs are not provided without discount by the employer, the benefit is considered compensation, hence not part of the salary.
Different types of services
Companies that participate in the PAT may provide themselves their own meal service, distribute food themselves, hire a catering service or sign an agreement with other entities that may provide this kind of service. These are the following types of services that may be offered by companies offering meal ticket programs:
- The company itself maintains a cafeteria, a kitchen and staff working in it
- The company hires a third party to produce and transport food the company
- The company hires a third party to use the companies’ facilities to operate their catering service
- The company gives a Vale-refeição to the worker, who is allowed to spend it in restaurants and similar establishments convened with the company
- The company gives a Vale-alimentação to the worker, who is allowed to spend it in grocery shops and supermarkets
- The company gives a food basket to the worker, ensuring at least one daily meal
Vale-refeição and vale-alimentação
There are two different types of meal ticket programs: Vale-refeição and Vale-alimentação. The Vale-refeição, given as a credit card or as tickets, can only be used to pay for meals in restaurants, cafeterias, bakeries and other similar locations. Whereas, the Vale-alimentação can only be used for buying food in supermarkets and grocery shops.
Different from the concession of transit programs - which are called Vale-Transporte - the concession of meal ticket programs in Brazil is not a legal requirement by the employer, unless the benefit is provided in the employment contract or in the collective working agreements between companies and syndicates.
According to the Consolidation of Labor Laws, asides from the payment in cash, the salary of the worker comprises of:
- Other kinds of material benefits that the company provides to the worker
Requisites for the companies
The companies participating in the PAT must give priority to low income employees in their meal ticket programs. The inclusion of higher income employees in the meal ticket programs is only allowed when all low income employees are receiving this benefit.
For companies that opt to offer meals to their employees, the main meals - lunch and dinner - are required to be at least 1,400 calories per meal and snacks are required to be at least 300 calories.
Benefits for the companies
The companies that participate in the PAT can take advantage of tax benefits. The main benefit is the deduction of what was spent food allowances for employees, up to a maximum of 4% over the Corporate Income Tax, the IRPJ. This rate is calculated upon what was spent on food allowances for the employees, including Vale-refeição and Vale-alimentação.
The tax deduction may not exceed 4% per year. If the amount spent on food allowances of employees exceeds 4% of the IRPJ in one year, this corresponding excess can be transferred for a span of up to 2 years into the future.
Also, the companies that participate in the PAT, besides from the deduction over the IRPJ, are exempt from paying contributions on the value of food allowances to the INSS, the Social Security National Institute, and FGTS, the Severance Indemnity Fund for Employees.