Drinks for everyone

Jan Tuerlinckx

Since all the ministers were local politicians in a past life, they remember that a pint of beer can be as healing as it is refreshing. Their first suggestion therefore is: “Give the people money so that they can enjoy a refreshing pint, and the atmosphere will change quickly.” They almost immediately reach consensus on such an admirable idea. An Olympic euphoria takes over the meeting.

Until the smartest among them comments that this costs the equivalent of about 2.5 pints per person. That’s because, if a beer costs 3 euros, then the overall contribution must be 7.5 euros: 3 euros for the beer, but also 4.5 euros in tax. Euphoria turns to disbelief. Pay for 2.5 half pints and only drink one? The Belgian code of state taxation is dusted off for the occasion, and guess what? It is true. The initial sentiment of disbelief now turns into gloom, paired with a fourth place in the Olympics. However, the ministers would not be ministers if they decided to throw in the towel without a fight.

The suggestion to pay for one pint, letting the people find out later that it is actually only worth as good as a third of a pint, is put forward. The aide definitely advises against it. This could really make matters worse and anger the people. Under normal circumstances, the workers usually aim their frustration at their employer when they realise how little disposable income they actually get from a bonus. But things are different now. The premium will be seen as coming from the ministers themselves. And if there’s one thing they’re sensitive about, it’s their reputation.

The leaden silence is broken by the most cunning of all ministers. “But, aren’t we the ministers? If we say it, then it is so, isn’t it?

We simply rule that this silly and excessive tax does not apply to our premium. Sure, that’s quite tricky. But there is also a solution to this problem. We package the premium in the form of a voucher. Such a voucher does not count as remuneration. That, too, we simply declare it so. This means that there is no tax liability on it. And this voucher entitles the holder to one pint. I believe this is totally watertight,” he concludes. As if they just won a gold medal, the ministers fall into each other’s arms.

The aide can’t believe his ears. The situation of his friend/company manager suddenly comes to mind. A few years ago, he had a difficult year. However, his foreman had been extremely helpful. Since there was no money for a bonus, he had told his foreman: “You know what, have a beer at the company’s expense and I’ll run the invoice through accounts.” So, he essentially did exactly the same as the solution put forward by the ministers. Only, the manager did not receive a laurel wreath; rather, he got a huge penalty because of the secret commissions tax.

From the standpoint of morality and the consistency of taxation, the corona premium vouchers are bound to elicit a lot of criticism.


Until the end of the year, employers can reward their staff with a so-called “Corona Premium” voucher worth 500 euros at most. The vouchers can be used in the hospitality and retail sectors, among other industries. Indeed, people can use them to drink pints of beer. Just as healing as they are refreshing. Yet, from the standpoint of morality and the consistency of taxation, the subject is bound to elicit a lot of criticism. You might understand now why some employers are angry about it.

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