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Tickets-restaurant could be taxed

Unions say employees could lose access to the popular meal voucher scheme if businesses are made to pay a tax on them

UNIONS have condemned a proposal by the government to start taxing the lunchtime meal vouchers that many French companies give out to their employees.

Until now, tickets-restaurant have been completely exempt from tax and social charges - making them a popular benefit for workplaces to offer staff.

According to Les Echos, the Finance Ministry is now considering applying a 4% tax - called the forfait social - to the vouchers, bringing in several hundred million euros a year.

This would be paid by the employer - prompting concern from unions that some workplaces might stop offering the scheme altogether.

The CFDT said the government was wrong to target a scheme enjoyed by those on relatively low incomes instead of focusing on tax breaks for the highest earners.

Force Ouvrière said the proposal was "a new attack against people's spending power".

The Chèque-Déjeuner group, one of the providers of the restaurant vouchers, said 170,000 of the smallest businesses in France would be particularly hard-hit.

Many French employers provide tickets-restaurant to staff to contribute towards the cost of their lunchtime meal in a tax-efficient way.

Employees are entitled to one voucher for every day worked, up to a value of €8.65. Up to 60% is paid for by the company and is exempt from social charges.

Their popularity has grown rapidly in the past decade. About three million workers in France use them today, up 42% since 2000.

The government is looking at almost 500 tax breaks it offers individuals and businesses to see where it can bring in extra revenue.

It comes after the official auditor, the Cour des Comptes, said France was offering too many opportunities to save tax while failing to find ways of making up for the lost money.

The Cour des Comptes also believes the ticket-restaurant system is being abused by some employers, who are offering staff more tickets-restaurant instead of a wage increase.

Les Echos says no decisions have been made yet and the government is aware that making changes to the system would be a sensitive issue for unions.

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