Heard about Sodexo Card or food meal card being offered by employers? Should you opt for it to save tax or avoid it? Let’s discuss.
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Buckle up, here we go!
What are food or meal pass?
If you have been employed for some time, you would have seen many companies provide free food to their employees on the office premises. And others provide meal pass to compensate employees for their food expenses during working hours.
Now, the expense of the meal pass is added to your CTC (Cost to Company). And this component can change your tax payable amount.
Because according to Rule 3(7)(iii) of income tax, food or meal pass are tax-exempt up to the limit of ₹50 per meal. Such meal pass issued by a company to its employees should be used only during working hours. It is restricted to two meals per day.
So, if we assume two meals per day, this works to ₹100 per working day.
Let’s assume that if you consume two meals a day using meal pass in a working day and work for 22 days in a month, then meal pass can be tax-exempt to the extent of ₹2,200 per month (₹50 per meal*2*22 days).
Most companies offer meal card of ₹1,100 to ₹2,200. If you work for 26 days per month, you might get a meal card for ₹2,600.
Therefore, your net taxable income can be reduced by up to ₹31,200. And this can save you around ₹9k in taxes (In 30% slab, excluding surcharge).
Remember, this tax exemption is over and above the exemption allowed under section 80C. So you will find the meal card allowance amount in your Form 16.
Also, things have changed these days. Companies offer meal card to employees, and they use them anytime they want at eateries. They do not restrict it to working hours.
What is Sodexo Card?
Sodexo is a company that offers prepaid meal cards and other prepaid services. Employers partner with Sodexo to provide meal pass to their employees through Sodexo meal cards.
Sodexo is the most famous meal pass card company in India because they have partnered with many merchants. Their meal card is accepted across 1,00,000+ unique points of acceptance in 1,700+ small towns and cities pan-India.
You can use these cards with a partnered merchant to purchase food and beverages. These days, you can also buy your groceries with meal cards.
The below image shows the top merchants in Sodexo’s network.
Also, many supermarkets and kirana stores have started accepting Sodexo cards. You can check which stores accept it in your locality here.
While many companies don’t offer Sodexo card as of now. Most of which do offer, keep it optional. Only if you ask, the HR department will add it to your CTC. So, you can ask your employer to offer these meal cards.
You might worry as adding the Sodexo card might reduce your in-hand salary. But think of it as allocating your grocery and food expenses to a separate card to save tax.
Sodexo Card Benefits
Sodexo cards can be used at a wide range of merchants, making it easy to pay for purchases without having to carry cash or a credit card.
If you have a Sodexo card with a fixed amount of funds, it can help you stick to a budget by limiting your spending to the available balance on the card.
Some Sodexo cards offer rewards or discounts for certain purchases, which can make them more attractive to users. You can check the offers here.
However, there are some potential drawbacks too.
Sodexo Card Drawbacks
1. Limited acceptance
Not all merchants accept Sodexo cards. The acceptance is low in tier 2 & 3 cities. So you may need to plan your purchases carefully.
Some Sodexo cards may come with fees for certain transactions or account maintenance. Sodexo deducts ₹20/month if your card is inactive for over 3 months.
3. Lack of protection
In the event of fraud or other issues, you may not have the same level of protection as you would with a credit card or other payment method.
Should you use Sodexo card?
Definitely yes, if you are living in tier 1 cities. Because the acceptance rate is high. And, you will easily spend around ₹3k on your groceries and food anyway.
So, why not use this card to save some money on tax? Yes, initially, you might have to plan your purchases. But after some time it gets easy.
It depends if you are living in tier 2 or 3 cities. You have to check which stores near you accept Sodexo cards and whether you will be able to utilize ₹2 to 3k every month using this card.
We wouldn’t want our money stuck in a useless card, do we? So do your own research and see if it is feasible for you or not.
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