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Meal Allowance | Legal Background
Meal Allowance | Legal Background

The legal background on which Circulas meal allowance is based.

Manuel Ensinger avatar
Written by Manuel Ensinger
Updated yesterday

At a glance

  • Meal allowances of up to € 7.23 (2024) can be paid out on working days.

  • The official non-cash remuneration value of € 4.13 (2024) must be taxed at a flat rate. In addition, a tax-free allowance of a maximum of € 3.10 (2024) can be granted.

  • A personal contribution by the employee can reduce the taxable part.


The German Federal Court of Finance (BFH) decided in its decision of 20.08.1997 (BStBl. II S. 667) that employers and employees can replace cash wages with a non-cash benefit by mutual agreement without further ado.

The legal basis for the meal subsidies by means of Circula is the BMF letter dated 18.01.2019. Accordingly, meal allowances of working days from 2024 up to €7.23 per day with the official non-cash remuneration value of €4.13 being taxable as a lump sum. This results in a division of the meal subsidy into a tax-free and a taxable part:

Food allowances that do not exceed the limit (of €4.13) can be valued as a meal taken by the respective employee at the official non-cash benefit value and taxed at a flat rate of 25%. In the case of lump-sum taxation, the non-cash benefit is exempt from social security contributions under § 1 (1) SvEV. The amount exceeding this of (maximum) €3.10 represents a tax-free subsidy from the employer. Additional payments made by the employee for the meal are to be credited against the lump-sum taxable value of the non-cash benefit.

Since 2016, in addition to physical meal vouchers, digital meal subsidies are also possible (BStBl 2016 I S. 238).

How the calculation works

The maximum benefit per day is €7.23 (2024) and is divided into two parts. A base of €4.13, which represents the "non-cash benefit value" of midday meals; taxation can take place according to the tariff by attribution to the individual employee or as a lump sum with the flat tax rate of 25% plus SolZ and church tax. The lump-sum wage taxation triggers exemption from social security contributions. In addition, the employer can provide up to € 3.10 tax-free.

  • If the employee submits less than the maximum (€7.23), the tax-free amount gets reduced by the amount of the difference. If the user submits less than €4.13 in a day, the non-cash benefit value of €4.13 is still taxable.

  • If the employee pays more than €7.23 for their lunch, the amount subject to tax (fixed tax rate) gets reduced by the amount of the difference. A receipt of €11.36 or higher will result in a tax-free reimbursement of €7.23.


What effort does Circula Lunch mean for my company?

Circula Lunch consists of far less effort than traditional paper meal vouchers. By processing and controlling the submitted vouchers through Circula, you as an employer only have to import an export file into your payroll system at the end of the month.

Can Circula Lunch be used by employees on short-time work?

Yes! The subsidy does not apply only in the case of "short-time work 0" (100% work loss).

Can Circula Lunch be used by employees who have been sick for half a day?

Since the employer can eliminate the need to monitor days of absence by awarding a fixed number of meal vouchers each month (15 meal vouchers for full-time employees, etc.), half days of illness do not affect the awarding of meal vouchers.

Can Circula Lunch be used on business trips or away from home?

No. Since the employee is entitled to a per diem allowance when traveling, benefits cannot be used on travel days.

How does Circula ensure data protection?

All information on data protection at Circula can be found here.

Any additional information on the Circula Lunch benefit can be found in our article "How to use Circula Lunch", the administrative User activation is explained in the article "Benefits Groups".

Do you still have questions?

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