Press Advisories

22. 6. 2020 19:57

Government proposes meal voucher reform, decides on support for organisers of cultural events and at-risk children

The government meeting took place again at the Straka Academy, 22 June 2020.
The government meeting took place again at the Straka Academy, 22 June 2020.
In the near future employers should have the opportunity to contribute to employees' meals without using paper vouchers through a "flat-rate" meal programme. This is one of the changes that the government approved at its meeting on Monday 22 June 2020 as part of the proposed new tax package. It also approved financial aid for organisers of cultural events and organisations that take care of at-risk children and appointed a new chief public health officer.

The flat-rate meal programme allows employers to offer employees a contribution directly in the form of money in addition to canteens and classic meal vouchers. This contribution will not be counted for calculating tax or insurance payments, yet the employer will be able to deduct it just like in the case of paper meal vouchers. The government expects this to lower costs for companies, as they will no longer have to pay fees to voucher companies, plus administration of the contribution will be simpler. At the same time the government will help out restaurants and grocery stores that also pay out a commission for meal vouchers, sometimes as much as seven percent.

The tax package, which will move on to Parliament, also contains a number of other changes. It will allow municipalities to establish a local coefficient for various districts for real estate tax, levels out the conditions between domestic and foreign investors for taxing income from bonds, simplifies the accounting costs of business trips by electric vehicle, and proposes a gradual increase in the excise duty on tobacco products through to 2023. You can find further details in the Finance Ministry's press release (in Czech language).

The government also addressed aid for at-risk children. It proposed a draft amendment to the act on socio-legal children's aid, which primarily raises the state contribution to facilities for children requiring assistance, specifically from CZK 22 800 to CZK 30 000 per child and month. The reason for the increase is the fact that the state contribution to care for at-risk children has not been raised since 2013 and its current amount is unsustainable for such facilities considering the rise in costs.

The bill also raises the benefits for foster care. For a temporary period, a foster parent should receive CZK 22 000 a month for one child instead of the current CZK 20 000 a month. At the same time they will now receive a contribution when they take in the child, the amount of which is graduated based on age from CZK 8 000 to 10 000. It also raises the contribution for long-term foster parents taking care of groups of siblings and children with handicaps. Young unprovided-for adults will also now receive a monthly contribution of CZK 15 000 after completing institutional or foster care so that they can continue with their studies. More information in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs' press release (in Czech language).

At the same time the government dealt with the situation of facilities for children requiring assistance in the current year, i.e. while the current act on socio-legal children's aid is still in force. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will provide operators with the lacking funds, the shortage of which was further intensified by the increased costs associated with the coronavirus epidemic, in the form of a grant. The government approved releasing CZK 26 million from the ministry's budget for this subsidy programme. More in the press release of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (in Czech language).

Cabinet also approved a new subsidy programme for the cultural and creative industry, which the Ministry of Industry and Trade prepared in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture. The programme is entitled COVID – cultural and creative industries and has an expected budget of CZK 1 billion. The money will be used to mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on this sector. Under this programme the state will cover 50 percent of costs for, for example, organisers of cultural events that had to be delayed or cancelled due to the epidemic, up to five million CZK. It will also support small and medium enterprises in the creative industry, specifically in the form of subsidies and creative vouchers.

Both subsidies and creative vouchers will be possible to use retroactively as well for the purchase of already paid services and already made expenditures. Creative vouchers will be focused for example on the design of furniture or services, film and video, photography, graphic design, music and sound, cultural heritage, etc. with a maximum subsidy of CZK 150 000 and product design, industrial design and trades with a maximum subsidy of CZK 250 000. More on the assistance to the cultural and creative industry on the website of the Ministry of Culture (in Czech language).

The government also appointed a new chief public health officer. On the basis of a selection procedure, to which three candidates applied, Dr Jarmila Rážová was chosen for the function, having been acting director of the chief public health office section since Eva Gottvaldová was removed on 12 March of this year. Dr Rážová will also take up the position of deputy health minister for running the section for public health protection and support. You can find statements from Health Minister Adam Vojtěch and the new chief public health officer along with other details in the Ministry of Health's press release (in Czech language).

The government also issued a new measure in connection with the epidemiological situation abroad, prolonging the validity of permits for residing in the Czech Republic on the basis of short-term work or seasonal visas and employee permits for foreigners from third countries through till 16 September 2020. Foreigners living in the Czech Republic temporarily under these conditions must be employed for the whole duration of their stay and are obliged to leave the Czech Republic by 16 September at the latest.

The reason for the further extension of employee permits and visas is the worsened epidemiological situation in the countries of origin of these foreign nationals, particularly in Ukraine, where far-reaching incidence of new COVID-19 cases persists. At the same time, these employees are very important for Czech employers, particularly in the sectors of agriculture, construction and industry. In order to accommodate employers and at the same time limit the risk of infection for the Czech population, the government decided to prolong the option of working in the Czech Republic for those foreigners who have already been in the country for some time and thus do not pose nearly as high a risk in terms of possible infection.

The ministers also approved an amendment to the government order on setting binding rules for provision of financial contributions for forest management and selected hunting activities. The amendment allows for more massive support of rapid renewal of wooded areas left empty by the clearing of bark-beetle-infested wood, also supporting the use of predatory birds in protecting agricultural crops against voles, at the same time leading to a reduced administrative burden for applicants and streamlining of application administration on the part of regional authorities. The government freed up a further CZK 2.5 billion from the government budget reserve for supporting the reforestation of cleared areas and undertook to raise the amount for reforestation by CZK 600 million every year for the next four years.

The government also passed a new act on public auctions. Thanks to this, a fundamental conceptual change will take place in the method by which ownership is obtained, the auction process will be simplified and accelerated, thus lowering the costs for holding an auction, and rules will also be established for those auctions that had to date been being conducted without clear rules outside the legal regulation of public auctions. The act is now heading to Parliament. More information on the website of the Ministry for Regional Development (in Czech language).

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