I don't think I need explain what a tip is, but do you know what a tronc is? The expression appears in the United Kingdom Licence conditions and codes of practice (consolidated version) December 2011 and is therefore very relevant to bingo and other gambling establishments.
It is a French word meaning an alms for the poor box in a church. Its common usage in the UK refers to a system whereby tips, gratuities and other financial gifts are paid into a central fund, and then shared out amongst relevant employees. It is common in restaurants, hairdressers, Bingo Halls and other places where tips are given. The person who shares out the tips is called a 'troncmaster'.
However, under UK tax law, when the tips are shared out, the troncmaster has to deduct Income Tax from them through the PAYE (Pat As You Earn) system. Also, if the employer decides, either directly or indirectly, how the tips are shared out, the employees will have to pay National Insurance contributions on them as well as tax. The employer (not the troncmaster) has to collect the National Insurance contributions through PAYE as well.
So what does all that mean if you're in a Bingo Hall, and have a win and want to tip the Bingo Caller? Well, if there's a tronc system, your tip won't go to the individual you want it to. Instead it will go to a troncmaster who will allocate it amongst staff according to some proportionate share. And the Bingo Caller will therefore only get a small share of the tip you gave him/her and will also have to pay tax and possible national insurance on it! Is that fair? I have a view, as an ex-Caller, but it wouldn't be right for me to express it, I think!
But before you ask the management at your local Bingo hall if they operate a tronc, I can save you the trouble- they do! Because it is part of the regulations that Bingo Halls must follow in order to get a licence and be able to operate in the UK.
Under a section of the Licence conditions, Licensees must only permit tipping of staff holding personal licences where a tronc system is operated; that is to say, where all tips are pooled and distributed amongst the employees concerned. A separate tronc may be operated for each of a number of categories of licensed staff.
So what do you do if you want to show your appreciation and reward a particular individual at a Bingo Hall who has given you a personal service? Well, by all means give him or her a tip, but you must be aware that it will be "tronc'd" and shared out amongst other employees there, and then taxed.
The UK Business Secretary, John Hutton has called for greater transparency from companies about their policies with regard to tips and service charge, something that some restaurants and bars have already initiated.
What is it like in other countries?
"Cough up a buck ya cheap bastid."
In the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs, actor Lawrence Tierney's character, Joe Cabot, makes this concise and convincing closing argument to a protracted debate about the practice of tipping waitresses, including issues such as minimum wage and taxation on tips. Joe Buscemi's character (Mr Pink) is reluctant to give a dollar tip to a waitress because she only refilled his coffee three times!
This was back in 1992, but it has been a controversial issue for much longer than that. Tipping was once illegal in several US states, thanks to the work of an anti-tipping movement! While these laws may have been repealed, it remains a subject plagued by dispute in the US and many other countries.
So there you have it- I bet you never thought things could get so complicated when all you wanted to do was throw a chip to the dealer when you had a Blackjack win, or give a few quid for a drink to the Bingo Caller who called the winning number!