One of the obligations of employers is to enable employees to eat (Section 236 (1) of the Labor Code). The employer has a number of options for fulfilling this obligation. In addition to cafeterias and canteens, it is probably the most common way to provide meal vouchers. The motivation is often to reduce the tax burden. Meal vouchers are a tax deductible expense for employers and tax-exempt income from dependent activities for employees.
So what changes does the new meal voucher bring?
The Income Tax Act uses the term "allowance provided by the employer to employees for meals per shift" or "allowance provided for meals". This contribution will thus co-exist with the existing meal voucher system, i.e. it does not replace it.
Simply put, it will be a purely non-taxable financial contribution, but unlike meal vouchers, it will be exempt from tax and levies on the part of the employee only up to 70 % of the upper limit of meals, which can be paid to employees . The limit is currently CZK 75.60 per day / one shift. Any employee's income provided in the form of a meal allowance in excess of this amount will thus be subject to income tax from dependent activity (i.e. it is included in the employee's gross salary).
However, for the employer, the provided meal allowance in the form of a lump sum is a tax deductible expense in full (i.e. also in the amount of over CZK 75.60), compared to the current limit of up to 55 %.
The new system caters to employers in particular, as it reduces administration by issuing meal vouchers or allocating funds to electronic meal voucher cards. There is also no commission for meal voucher issuers and no calculation of the contribution for tax deductibility purposes. The meal voucher will be paid directly. In this respect, the relevant internal regulation needs to be adapted.
On the part of the employee, the advantage of non-taxed income is limited, but at the same time unlike when applying meal vouchers there are no restraints of time or of the willingness of a store or restaurant to accept the meal voucher.
In the conditions of the current limited meal offer, the meal voucher flat rate may represent a more advantageous option for both employees and employers.
The law on experts in a new guise
The most visible change brought by the law is the division of the existing expert institutes into expert offices and expert institutes. Only public institutions (e.g. scientific institutes, universities) will continue to be expert institutes (with minor exceptions). Private companies will have the status of an expert office. The law also seeks to increase the credibility of entities by requiring at least two registered experts to work for an expert office. It requires the work of one registered expert for the institute.
At the same time, the requirements for expert opinions are significantly increasing, which in the case of an expert office's opinion will have to be signed by at least one registered expert. From a formal point of view, the opinions should have a more uniform structure, which should contribute to their comparability.
The law also contains very high sanctions for non-compliance with the duties of an expert, including, for example, non-compliance with the deadline for issuing an opinion. The expert will also be responsible for taking out professional liability insurance.
From the practice perspective, in particular the modification of the central register of expert opinions raises questions. All testimonials will be registered here, from the assignment phase to their processing. The Ministry of Justice, which keeps the records, may allow the state administration to inspect these records. Strictly speaking, it is not at all impossible for a court to find out, for example, that an opinion has been given on a particular case and - although the client did not wish to use the opinion or the opinion was not completed - the court used the opinion in the proceedings or invited the expert to the hearing.
The conditions of the law must be met by expert offices within one year. Registered experts now have a temporary authorization to work for 5 years. Then they will have to pass a new enrollment and probably exams. One may assume from the responses so far, that the number of experts who will be willing to continue working under these conditions will be significantly reduced.
Impact of the amendment to the Money Laundering Act on developers
The amendment modified the list of so-called obliged persons. Thus, in addition to persons authorized to trade in real estate or to real estate brokering, also other persons who buy or sell real estate within the scope of their business activities or operate as a real estate intermediary pursuant to the forthcoming Real Estate Brokerage Act are now included among the obliged persons. This applies to brokerage of real estate lease only if the service concerns a lease with a monthly payment exceeding EUR 10,000.
In the past, there was uncertainty as to whether a company (developer) that buys land without itself being a real estate agent was one of the obliged persons. The amendment therefore removed this ambiguity. In practice, the obliged person will be any developer, lease brokerage, or service company that provides intermediary services within the holding (if it exceeds the limit of EUR 10,000 per year).
For the company, this means in particular the obligation to put in place appropriate internal processes for identifying and controlling clients, to develop an internal system for implementing the AML policy, and to establish a relevant responsible statutory body member and a contact person for AML purposes.