New childcare tax plan at Argos and Homebase

Argos Retail Group (ARG) is launching a new childcare programme for staff offering them uncapped tax and national insurance (NI) savings on nursery places paid for through salary sacrifice.

ARG, which includes Argos and Homebase, has worked with Kidsunlimited to select 500 childcare facilities across the country which are suitable to be included in its Workplace Nursery Partnership programme. In order for employees to qualify for uncapped tax and national insurance relief on childcare costs through salary sacrifice, the employer must wholly or partly manage or finance the nursery provision.

Argos staff who are unable to access the registered childcare nurseries will be able to use so-called virtual vouchers, which offer the same tax savings as childcare vouchers, but operate in electronic form. Following last month’s Budget, from 6 April these will allow staff to take £55 a week of their gross salary paid in childcare vouchers, free from both tax and NI contributions.

Vicky West, ARG benefits manager, said: "Our employees have been asking for help with their childcare costs and through uncapped and capped salary sacrifice, we’ve been able to offer a full childcare package that to our knowledge exceeds the majority of, if not all other, schemes the retail sector is offering staff."

Jason Myers, director at Kidsunlimited, provider of the scheme, explained: "The full workplace partnership scheme is uncapped through a full salary sacrifice scheme, though the company must follow certain rules laid out by HM Revenue & Customs."

To communicate the changes, Argos has been working with Kidsunlimited to ensure all 40,000 employees are aware of the scheme, how it operates and whether or not it would be suitable for individual employees, particularly those who are close to the minimum wage.

Myers explained: "Argos put together an effective communication campaign which saw us visiting workplaces across the country. Those employees who cannot take part have been pointed towards other government initiatives, such as tax credits."