VAT: 6% on all restaurant and catering services

One of the measures taken by the federal government to support companies in the restart after covid-19 is the temporarily reduced VAT rate of 6% for restaurant and catering services. And that measure goes further than you might think.

Temporary VAT rate reduction

This VAT rate reduction was introduced by a Royal Decree of 27 April 2021, published in the Belgian Official Journal of 30 April 2021. This Royal Decree is very concise and clear: “Notwithstanding Article 1, (i.e. the standard VAT rate of 21%), restaurant and catering services are subject to the reduced rate of 6% as from 8 May 2021 to 30 September 2021.”

What is covered by the VAT rate reduction? There are three main groups of transactions:

1. The supply of food in restaurants and cafes for consumption on site: these were previously subject to the 12% rate and are now going to 6%.
2. Supplying drinks in restaurants and cafes for consumption on site. These services were still subject to the standard rate of 21%, but they are now also going to 6%. The rate reduction also explicitly applies to alcoholic drinks, but always for consumption on the spot.
3. The simultaneous supply, as one service, of both food and drinks for consumption on the spot. Until now, the restaurant owner had to apply 12% to the food and 21% to the drink... now that is no longer necessary. It will be 6% for both.

So it is clear that services are concerned and not the mere supply of food and drink. The latter is not foreseen in this temporary measure. With respect to the VAT rate, however, there isn't that much of a difference between the two. In most cases, the supply of food is also subject to the 6% rate (with the exception of certain fish, crustaceans and molluscs such as caviar and lobsters). And also delivery of drinks is usually subject to the rate of 6% with the exception of alcoholic drinks.
However, you have to make the distinction right when you make both supplies and services because you have to declare them separately in your VAT accounting and VAT return.

The name of the service or service provider is irrelevant. A selection from the offer:

fast food and self-service restaurants;

restaurants in theaters (clubs ...), museums and shopping centers;

canteens and company restaurants;

hotels or guest rooms with half or full board;

cafeterias, cafes, bars, brasseries, inns, tea rooms and nightclubs.

But also:

food trucks, snack bar cars;

caterers, bakeries with a consumer salon;

temporary stands for sale or consumption during a festival, at a market, at a fair.

The "specials"

Snacks and refreshments for consumption on site (such as a packet of chips, an ice cream, pre-packaged cheese or salami cubes) qualify for the reduced rate of 6%. After 30 September 2021, the rate will be 12%.

Also the provision of (light) meals (plate of tapas, a lasagne, a croque from the hand, a sandwich, a salad) can temporarily enjoy the reduced rate, always on the condition that they are consumed on the spot.

The provision by undertakers of food or drinks to be consumed on the spot can temporarily reduced to 6%.

Providing a breakfast as part of furnished accommodation to the guests, can fully benefit from the reduced rate of 6%. The provision of food and drinks by a hotelier to his guests in their room is considered a restaurant service and is therefore subject to the rate of 12%. But thanks to this temporary measure, the applicable VAT rate from 8 May to 30 September 2021 is 6%.

The registered cash register system

Due to the reduced VAT rate of 6% for the restaurant and catering services, an adjustment of the programming of the registered cash register system is necessary. During reprogramming, the commonly used codes ('A' for 21%, 'B' for 12%, 'C' for 6% and 'D' for 0%) do not need to be changed. Only the distribution of the deliveries of goods and the services provided over the different rates needs to be adjusted.

If this does not happen immediately, this is not a problem: the VAT authorities makes it possible to recalculate the amount of the VAT due afterwards, pending the reprogramming.

The usual rate of 12% and thus stated on all invoices and receipts may be manually corrected by crossing out the statement '12% 'and replacing it with' 6% '. The VAT authorities also report that, as this is only a temporary measure, it is not necessary to order new receipt booklets with a new box for the 6% rate.