The HoReCa industry urges the Government to maintain the system of restricted meal vouchers on cards and to consider the importance of using these funds to encourage employees to have lunch. This social policy has a significant impact on their health and performance at work, with effects on employers’ productivity.
Meal vouchers have been in Romania since 1998 and have had major benefits for employees, making it easier for them to include lunch in their routine. Since 2020, meal vouchers are exclusively given on cards, contributing to the digitalization of restaurants and income taxation. Cards issued in government social programs, through which hot meals were provided for vulnerable categories, have been a way to educate the population about card payments.
Meal vouchers should continue to be issued on cards, and their use should remain controlled by law to ensure that they are used for lunch by employees. This system operates in more than 45 countries worldwide and has been in place in Romania since 1999. The positive effects on the economies of countries implementing these vouchers are recognized by international organizations such as the International Labour Organization and the OECD.
Providing unrestricted cash amounts as a food allowance can have negative effects because these sums may enter the underground economy, employees may not use them for lunch, and ultimately, we all lose – the state, employees, and the HoReCa sector.
“This year, we find ourselves constantly having to explain and publicly oppose tax changes whose purpose we do not understand. This time, we are dealing with meal vouchers, an excellent tool that has proven its usefulness and efficiency, whether we are talking about holiday vouchers, meal vouchers, or gift vouchers. They have generated over 3 billion lei in annual revenue for the state budget, have successfully operated in Romania for over 20 years, and the most important aspect,” said Ion Biriș, President of HORA.
The fact that they are a digital tool greatly helps trace the amounts spent. Once again, we emphasize the need for dialogue and consultation with the industry regarding changes that would significantly impact an entire sector. We support the voucher issuers in their dialogue with the authorities on this matter and request the Government to keep the system of restricted meal vouchers on cards.
Currently, 75% of card amounts are withdrawn from ATMs according to the latest report from the National Bank of Romania. Therefore, the state’s efforts to stimulate digital payments must be firm and consistent. Providing cash as an alternative to vouchers ensures that they will be used for other purposes, not for lunch. Studies show that if employees receive a cash allowance, they do not use it to purchase food.
According to the opinion of the Financial and Monetary Research Center of the Romanian Academy “Victor Slăvescu,” the first consequence of providing a cash food allowance will be the cancellation of all advantages, “both at the level of society (economic, fiscal-budgetary, social), and at the level of employees (physiological and psychological): in other words, the cancellation of economic multiplier effects, on the one hand, and the reduction of possibilities to maintain an adequate quality of life for employees and their families, on the other hand.”
The food allowance should be exclusively granted on cards and used solely for lunch according to the amount determined by law, which should be established as a daily limit for use.
The HoReCa industry urges the Government to maintain the system of restricted meal vouchers on cards and to consider the importance of using these funds to encourage employees to have lunch. This social policy has a significant impact on their health and performance at work, affecting employers’ productivity. The meal voucher equation has had an impact on company performance, demonstrated for over 60 years worldwide, and should be preserved as a reference for success and not restricted.