SZÉP card is the most popular form of fringe benefits in Hungary. It can normally be used for recreational activities, but because of the pandemic, some alterations were introduced. Among these, users were allowed to use the SZÉP card for buying foodstuff as well – with July that has come to an end.
The term “fringe benefit” covers various types of compensation employers can give their employees above their salaries. These benefits are taxed more favorably than regular salaries while their application makes the economy more transparent while it can also give a boost to certain sectors. In Hungary, they are referred to as “cafeteria” because employers can decide which fringe benefit options they include in their fringe benefit plan, same as you can pick what you want from a menu in a cafeteria.
The SZÉP card is intended to motivate employees to spend more on recreational activities, which is essential for a good work-life balance and the prevention of burnout. In line with this, the SZÉP card has three “pockets”, each dedicated to a specific type of activity. Employers can freely decide how much money they want to put in each pocket, but there is a limit for applying tax benefits:
Please note: Providers can decide whether they accept SZÉP card payments or not. Users should always check in advance, when planning a trip, whether they can pay with their SZÉP card at their intended provider.
For employers, the main motivation for providing the SZÉP card fringe benefit is the tax benefit related to it. The net sums listed above and received to the employees’ SZÉP card mean lower total costs to the employers than equivalent net sums in regular salaries. When providing the SZÉP card fringe benefit under the above limits, the employer pays a tax of 28% (which is made up of the 15% personal income tax and the 13% social contribution tax). When providing the SZÉP card fringe benefit above these limits, the tax base changes: for the part above limit, the tax base is multiplied by 1.18. For example:
The employer pays HUF 225,000 / year to the accommodation pocket.
The employer pays HUF 300,000 / year to the accommodation pocket.
To mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the sectors most affected by social distancing requirements, in 2021 the SZÉP card limit for tax benefits was increased to HUF 800,000 for the year. At the same time, pockets of the SZÉP card were made interoperable, meaning that you could pay for any of the listed recreational activities from either pocket.
As the latest measure, at the start of 2022 it was decided that starting from January, users could also buy foodstuff with the SZÉP card, not only hot meals. The measure was first in force until 31 May, but it was later extended until 1 July. Now this deadline has also expired, so users can again spend the money on their SZÉP cards on accommodation, leisure, and hot meals. However, the interoperability of pockets will remain in force until 31 December 2022.
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