Law No. 12,761/2012 established the Worker Culture Program and created the cultural voucher, which was later given a regulatory framework by Decree No. 8,084/2013 and establishes that joining the program and granting this benefit are optional for employers.

The program seeks to guarantee, expand, and foster the access of Brazilian citizens to cultural goods and services, thereby providing the population the ability to fully exercise its social rights to culture and stimulating the generation of work, income, and employment through the democratic development of the culture economy.

The benefit of the cultural voucher consists of a monthly amount of R$ 50.00, cumulative, to be provided by the employer to workers with an employment relationship. It is not classified as salary and is not factored into remuneration for any effects. Therefore, it is not subject to social security contribution and is not included in the income tax calculation basis or for FGTS deposits.

The program is primarily intended for employees who earn up to five minimum wages. Those who have remuneration higher than this limit can only receive the cultural voucher if the company guarantees the service to all employees with lower remuneration, according to article 7 of Law No. 12,761/12.

The provision of the cultural voucher will depend on prior acceptance by the worker, who may reconsider his decision at any time. For this reason, companies that choose to provide this benefit must ask employees for their written acceptance. In this document, it is advisable for companies to state the value of the benefit and also whether any portion of it will be deducted from employees opting in, since article 15 of Decree No. 8,084/2013 allows employers to discount it from employee’s remuneration, and article 16 requires the discount in the following percentages:

I) Article 15 - Workers with remuneration up to five minimum wages:

  • Up to one minimum wage - 2%.
  • Above one and up to two minimum wages - 4%.
  • Above two and up to three minimum wages - 6%.
  • Above three and up to four minimum wages - 8%.
  • Above four and up to five minimum wages - 10%.

 II) Article 16 - Workers with remuneration of more than five minimum wages:

  • Above five and up to six minimum wages - 20%.
  • Above six and up to eight minimum wages - 35%
  • Above eight and up to ten minimum wages - 55%.
  • Above ten and up to twelve minimum wages- 70%.
  • Above twelve minimum wages: 90%

It is important to clarify that the benefit is intended for the worker, called a user, and preferably must be provided by a magnetic card, and payment in cash is prohibited.

In order for the user/employee to be entitled to the benefit, the employer (company providing the benefit) must register in advance with the Ministry of Culture, which authorizes the employer to distribute cultural vouchers to its employees. The voucher will be produced and marketed by operating companies, which are legal entities registered with the Ministry of Culture and authorized to operate in this industry, and should be used at accredited establishments.

By fiscal year 2017, calendar year 2016, amounts spent on purchasing cultural vouchers could be deducted from the Corporate Income Tax (IRPJ) due from the beneficiary company taxed using the actual profit tax regime. The deduction was limited to 1% of income tax due based on actual quarterly profit or actual profit calculated in the annual adjustment.

Considering that the validity of this tax incentive has expired, Draft Bill No. 6233/2016, which intends to extend it until 2021, is pending before the Chamber of Deputies. The procedure is conclusive, that is, the draft bill will be voted on only by the committees designated to review it, thereby dispensing with a resolution by the full chamber. It loses its conclusive nature, however, if there is a dissenting decision among the committees or if, regardless of whether it is approved or rejected, there is an appeal signed by 51 deputies seeking a review of the matter by the full chamber.

On May 3, 2017, the Cultural Committee unanimously approved the opinion, which will now be reviewed by three committees: Finance and Taxation, Constitution, and Justice and Citizenship.

The benefit may be terminated by the employer at any time, as it is not incorporated into the employee's remuneration for any purpose, as provided for in item I of article 11 of Law No. 12,761/12.