Benefits Research 2010: Benefits offered through salary sacrifice

Given the tax and national insurance (NI) savings that are available when offering tax-efficient benefits through a salary sacrifice scheme, it is perhaps no surprise that 87% of respondents offer benefits through this type of arrangement to some, if not all, of their workforce.

Employers that do not offer perks on this basis are unlikely to be unaware of the potential savings, so it may be they have considered implementing such perks but decided they were not suitable for their particular workforce.

For example, employees who are paid on or near the national minimum wage may be unable to take up benefits through a salary sacrifice arrangement if it pushes their take-home pay below the legal limit. Paying for perks in this way may also affect employees’ entitlement to some state benefits.

In the case of bikes-for-work schemes, employees must also be at least 18 years old in order to sign the required consumer credit agreement.

At the end of last year, HM Revenue and Customs appeared to clamp down on salary sacrifice schemes that could not be offered to all employees because of such reasons. Clarification issued in December stated that tax-efficient benefits offered via salary sacrifice (particularly bicycle loans) must be offered to all employees in order to qualify for the tax and NI exemptions.

Coupled with the government’s decision to remove the tax breaks on salary sacrifice arrangements on workplace canteens in last year’s pre-Budget report, it will be interesting to see what impact this has on the number of salary sacrifice schemes offered by employers in the next 12 months.

In the current economic climate, the savings that employers stand to gain on NI contributions have been a valuable source of funding for other benefits, HR and wider business initiatives. However, it is encouraging to see that the percentage of employers that share at least some of these savings with staff has remained fairly stable year on year.


Read more articles from the Employee Benefits/Alexander Forbes Benefits Research 2010