Our client is a new social media enterprise company and the directors are keen to encourage a healthy lifestyle amongst staff. To capitalise on all the good intentions and resolutions of January they are to pay for a corporate membership to a local gym and are offering subsidised healthy meals and snacks in their office café.
The VAT implications for employee rewards and perks are dealt with in HMRC’s manual VIT43700. The services provided to staff can be a legitimate business expense if they are provided mainly to reward or motivate staff. If so, the VAT incurred is all input tax and no apportionment is necessary. In some cases, a charge to output tax for private use may have to be made under the Supply of Services Order.
However, HMRC says:
“Where facilities are provided to all employees strictly for the purposes of the business it is generally not our policy to apply such a charge. However, perks provided to specific individuals within a business should generally be subject to an output tax charge to reflect private use.”
Specific guidance on recreational facilities confirms that where sports and recreational facilities are available to all employees, the VAT incurred on the cost of providing the facilities is input tax. Again, it is not HMRC’s policy to apply the Supply of Services Order. If any charge were to be made, then output VAT would be due on that amount.
With regard to staff meals the VAT Act 1994 specifically refers to the provision of food and drink in the course of catering by an employer to an employee. Where such supplies are made, the value of the supply is the monetary consideration alone, if any, paid by the employee. So, where an employee pays for a meal, snack or drink, the supply is standard-rated and the value of the supply is the amount paid. Where an employee is not required to pay for a meal, snack or drink the value of the supply is nil and no VAT is due.
Additionally, for completeness, following a court judgement, where employees pay for benefits under a salary sacrifice arrangement, employers must account for VAT on the value of the supplies unless they are exempt or zero-rated. Subject to the normal rules, the employer can continue to recover the VAT incurred on related purchases. Equally where deductions are made from a salary for the benefits, the value of the supply is the amount deducted. 
 Reproduced from Croner Taxwise