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Google The Almighty Buck

No Such Thing As a Tax-Free Lunch At Google? 631

Posted by timothy
from the nothing-but-beans-and-rice-your-honor dept.
theodp writes "In search of the best corporate cafeteria in the world, Gourmet Live's Tanya Steel visited the Googleplex, where she found Petaluma chicken cacciatore, porcini-encrusted grass-fed beef, whole-wheat spaghetti pomodoro, and Parmesan-creamed onions on the menu in one of the search giant's 25 cafes. So, must all good things come to an end? The WSJ's Mark Maremont reports that it's debatable whether Silicon Valley's daily fringe-benefit meals are taxable, and the issue is now on the IRS's radar. 'What would a food tax on Google's meals look like for the average employee?' Maremont asks. 'Assuming a fair-market value of between $8 and $10 per meal, a Googler chowing down two squares a day could get dinged for taxes on an extra $4,000 to $5,000 a year.' That'd be just fine with UF tax-law Prof. Martin J. McMahon. 'I buy my lunch with after-tax dollars,' said McMahon. 'And I have to pay taxes to support free meals for those Google employees.'"
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No Such Thing As a Tax-Free Lunch At Google?

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  • slow news day? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by schneidafunk (795759) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:06AM (#43400679)
    On the otherside, an employer or contractor can 'expense' their meals if it's business related. However, I believe there is a percentage cap, based on overall income.
    • Re:slow news day? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:37AM (#43401141)

      Well Google's searches obviously provide a benefit to us as users and we pay nothing for them, therefore we are getting income, which by the same argument should be taxed. Does that mean we owe the IRS every time we do a google search?

      • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @11:25AM (#43401811)
        An audit of search results could be embarrassing. Clearing your search history would be tax evasion.
      • by Blindman (36862)

        The issue isn't our relationship with Google, but Google's relationship with its employees. If Google pays it employees in cash, this is obviously taxable. Can Google pay its employees in "free" lunch? If employees buy their own lunches, they can't deduct it from income. In effect, providing lunch to its employees is a form of tax-free compensation. In an ideal world, my employer would pay all my bills directly, and I would be taxed only on the remainder. Of course, that can't work.

        By the way, we pay

    • Re:slow news day? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Alascom (95042) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @11:43AM (#43402091)

      As a Googler, I can tell you we ARE taxed for meals, to the tune of $4,650.00 in 2012. The company then pays a 'gross up' to make it a non-event for the employees. So all this complaining about 'free lunches' is entirely off-track, and this Professor of Law has demonstrated he doesn't know how to do basic research before talking.

      • Re:slow news day? (Score:5, Informative)

        by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @02:32PM (#43404261) Homepage Journal

        As a Googler, I can tell you we ARE taxed for meals, to the tune of $4,650.00 in 2012. The company then pays a 'gross up' to make it a non-event for the employees. So all this complaining about 'free lunches' is entirely off-track, and this Professor of Law has demonstrated he doesn't know how to do basic research before talking.

        I can confirm this. My understanding was that the IRS negotiated an agreement which required taxes to be paid on meals at the smaller campuses, because on larger campuses the time it would take for Googlers to go off-campus to eat was accepted by the IRS as sufficient business value to justify it as a business expense. But that may be incorrect, or maybe the IRS changed its mind later.

        In any case, I work in the Boulder office and I do pay income taxes on my meals, and Google then offsets it with a grossed-up payment so the tax doesn't impact my income.

  • No you don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FooAtWFU (699187) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:09AM (#43400715) Homepage

    "And I have to pay taxes to support free meals for those Google employees.'

    I'm pretty sure that Google's advertisers pay Google to pay for the free meals for those Google employees. Without prejudicing any other case for equitable treatment, just because someone isn't paying taxes doesn't mean they're robbing you. It's the fruits of their own labor. In the absence of laws to the contrary, is Google not entitled to dispose of their money as they see fit?

    • Re:No you don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mwvdlee (775178) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:20AM (#43400837) Homepage

      Actually, since that Prof. McMahon is a Prof. at some U, his salary is paid from taxes. It's HIS lunches that are paid by tax dollars.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by asylumx (881307)
        You say that as if you believe he doesn't earn his income. Following that logic every dollar in your wallet, at one point, came directly from the government. You're as much a gov't leach as he is.
      • Re:No you don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:37AM (#43401133)

        his salary is paid from taxes. It's HIS lunches that are paid by tax dollars.

        NO, the WORK he does for the University is paid for by tax dollars. He then chooses to spend them on lunch. His lunches are "paid from" his work effort.

        If his lunches were "paid by tax dollars", that would mean he was eating for free. He's not.

    • Re:No you don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BitZtream (692029) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:20AM (#43400841)

      And he doesn't support those 'free meals' for Google, Google does. Its not like the IRS is paying the bill for Google.

      He's just a whining bitch.

    • Re:No you don't. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:21AM (#43400867)

      Google is undoubtedly considering free meals as a business expense and thus it's paying lower taxes (or in Google's case, getting more money back from the government) by providing free meals. So yeah, he - and I - and you - are helping to pay for those free meals.

      • Re:No you don't. (Score:5, Informative)

        by dywolf (2673597) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:54AM (#43401405)

        no, we're not. business expenses dont work like that for companies, and not on that large a scale.
        the rules fro business expenses are quite stringent and clear cut. if that sort of thing could qualify, all goods and services would be dramatically cheaper because EVERYTHING is a business expense, and they would be writing EVERYTHING off.
        doesnt work like that; free lunch is an expense, but not a deductible one.

        "Section 162(a) of the Internal Revenue Code is the deduction provision for business or trade expenses. In order to be a trade or business expense and qualify for a deduction, it must satisfy 5 elements in addition to qualifying as an expense. It must be
        (1) ordinary and (2) necessary (Welch v. Helvering, 290 U.S. 111, defines this as necessary for the development of the business at least in that they were appropriate and helpful). Expenses paid to preserve one’s reputation do not appear to qualify (Welch v. Helvering). In addition, it must be (3) paid or incurred during the taxable year. (4) It must be paid in carrying on (meaning not prior to the start of a business or in creating it) (5) a trade or business activity. To qualify as a trade or business activity, it must be continuous and regular, and profit must be the primary motive"

        So providing free lunch (or really most employee benefits) at work is disqualified from deductibility just by the first two:
        1- lunch is ordinary, but providing free lunch to employees is not ordinary. they could just buy it themselves
        2- not necessary. again, can buy it themselves. and while labor laws say you much provide a lunch break, it doesnt say you much provide the lunch

        Essentiall the question is can the business function without it? If yes, its not deductible. If no, then it is. An independent truck driver who pays for his own gas (diesel): the diesel qualifies for deduction. The same truck driver who outfits his truck with an expanded cab with a mattress and wants to write off the installation: Most likely not (debateable; some agents I've talked to would let it go as it saves him money on long hauls, but most agree his business can function without it cause he can just sleep in a motel..which ironically would itself qualify for deduction).

        Free lunch is a benefit to the employees that helps with morale and retention.
        But while it may be an expense to the company, it is not a deductible one.

    • Re:No you don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SJHillman (1966756) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:26AM (#43400939)

      It's the RIAA model applied to taxes. If someone is getting something for free, it must be coming out of my pocket.

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      His tax money isnt paying for the lunches; Google's customers are.
      How is this guy teaching tax law if he doesnt even understand basic taxes or business sense?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jmichaelg (148257)

      I was a majority owner of a software publishing business in the 80's. After we started making money, I decided to have the company buy health insurance for all the employees including myself. Treated the health insurance as an expense just like every other corporation did.

      The difference was I was a majority owner of a privately held corporation. In 1989, the IRS decided that people in that situation should pay income tax on the health benefit. My employees weren't taxed, just the three officers/owners of

    • by Sique (173459)
      It's not Google, that is to be taxed here, it's the Google employee. Getting free meals on corporate expense is a money-equivalent, and thus should be taxed. Effectively, everyone is paying a higher share of taxes because of the lost tax revenue from Google employees. (In the countries I've lived so far, corporate meals are taxed, and so are company cars, company provided health insurance and most other money-equivalents.)
  • So, I can't imagine that most Google employees are eating TWO meals a day there - maybe a meal and a snack. So, the benefit is probably $2500/yr or so.

    And that is gross income. Even if their marginal rate is 35% they'd only pay an extra $800 in actual taxes on that.

    If you gave me a choice of paying for typical cafeteria fare at a typical fortune 500 at typical rates for cafeteria food (ie mediocre food at premium prices), or paying an extra $800 in taxes so that I could have gourmet food at lunch every da

    • by symes (835608)

      There is a cost that you are not measuring - I was fortunate enough to work somewhere where we also had some quite awesome food freely available at lunch time. Maybe not to Google standards, but it really was plentiful, fresh and very nice. Needless to say I then spent a small fortune on gym membership to bring my weight back down to almost normal levels.

      Now I'm hungry again, dammit

    • So, I can't imagine that most Google employees are eating TWO meals a day there - maybe a meal and a snack. So, the benefit is probably $2500/yr or so.

      And that is gross income. Even if their marginal rate is 35% they'd only pay an extra $800 in actual taxes on that.

      If you gave me a choice of paying for typical cafeteria fare at a typical fortune 500 at typical rates for cafeteria food (ie mediocre food at premium prices), or paying an extra $800 in taxes so that I could have gourmet food at lunch every day (just grab whatever you want and stop by for ice cream in the afternoon if you have a craving), I think I'd take the gourmet food. I pay way more than $800/yr on lunches already most likely, and I don't eat like they do at Google.

      A cheese steak, drink, and mushy fries at work costs me $7.50. Gourmet food for $3.50/meal in taxes - sign me up! Oh, and if your marginal rate is lower then it is even cheaper.

      From my experience two meals a day seems reasonable. It's not particularly good, mind you - it's comparable to an average college dining hall - but it's free and convenient. It's also free and convenient for local homeless people, who seem to get into some of the cafeterias by being clean and walking through the door with a purpose. Last time I was in a Google cafeteria, at least, they were taking full advantage of the lack of authentication (and so was I).

      • by shentino (1139071)

        You touch on an interesting point.

        If the meals are not reserved strictly for employees only, then it could be argued that the food doesn't even qualify as a fringe benefit to begin with since you don't have to work to get it.

  • WTF?!?

    "And I have to pay taxes to support free meals for those Google employees."

    I don't think this guy knows what he's talking about ....

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      Google is directly paying the salaries for the employees preparing the food, as well as the raw food components and any related taxes. If the US finally has free public health care to some degree, the healthy food they provide probably saves on medical expenses as well. I can see it being taxable, but to nowhere near the 'full' value.

  • by TWX (665546) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:15AM (#43400775)
    Wouldn't it be just as valid to say that this is provided as a service to enable Google employees to avoid going home to cook their own lunch or to avoid having to eat a less-desirable cold bagged-lunch, keeping them more productive at work?

    I bring my lunch 80% of the time. When I buy my lunch I don't like spending more than $5, sometimes upwards of $7 if I don't have a lot of choice in the matter. When I bring my lunch it probably costs $1.

    If Google has hired on-staff the food prep staff, it'd be more analogous to how school lunches cost, which is to say that an adult lunch in this school system for faculty is about $4.00. If Google doesn't generally allow just anyone to eat in their lunchrooms, then I don't see how they can be held to a full retail standard.
  • by BitZtream (692029) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:15AM (#43400777)

    So if I go home and eat my lunch ... no taxes since you don't get taxed on food (maybe in California, you guys are nutjobs ;).

    But if I eat it at work, where a cook makes my meal instead of my wife ... that I get taxed for?

    Lets see, whats better? Me driving home for lunch, wasting gasoline, road wear and tear and pollution ... or staying at work for lunch?

    The UF tax law professor just needs to be shot. He's just a whining bitch. Its not like he has a real job, he's a fucking professor, he doesn't actually work anyway. Two classes a week that he sits in while his assistants do all the work or someone else lectures. String his ass up from a tree until he stops talking. No, I don't like lawyers, especially ones who like to whine about how they are treated unfairly while essentially doing nothing but draining otherwise useful resources from the world and our budget.

    • There was a big to-do with a local bagel chain a couple years ago when it came to taxes. If they hand you a bagel and cream cheese, no tax because it's a food item. However, if they take the 20 seconds to slice the bagel and smear the cream cheese on it, then there's an 8% tax because now it's a "prepared food item". The bagel chain hadn't been charging that 8% extra for those 20 seconds of work.

    • by ADRA (37398)

      Yes, that's by definition what a benefit is. If I lived in Google-ville where the company paid for every single service of my daily needs and officially paid me half the wages I'd normally receive, you expect the gov to look the other way and say "meh"? Its not even a tax grab, its simply fair exchange. If the company gives you anything of value, that's taxible. New computer? Taxible. Corporate Jet for personal matters? Taxible. Most companies still stretch the bounds of what are considered perks vs work fu

    • by Golddess (1361003)

      But if I eat it at work, where a cook makes my meal instead of my wife ... that I get taxed for?

      When put that way, sure. You get taxed if you go out to a sit-down restaurant, don't you?

      But that doesn't seem to be the angle here. It looks like the guy is saying that those "free" meals count as compensation, and are therefore taxable. Which given my limited understanding of the tax code, I can see that as being true.

  • Here in Canada ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by DavidClarkeHR (2769805) <david.clarke@nosPAM.hrgeneralist.ca> on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:18AM (#43400811)
    In Canada, this is already going on.

    We (as a country, and yes, I'll speak for my country here) tend to tax things that employees receive as part of doing their job. Like, income. Company car usage on personal business. Certain types of business accommodation perks.

    Unless google is willing to open their cafeteria to the world, getting "free" meals as part of your job is, well, part of your job. I think most people can agree that the US tax system has a few loopholes - but why is it crazy to expect people to pay taxes on their income?
    • Taxes are typically a percentage, what are you taking a percentage of? The cost the of the food? Cost of labor? Cost of maintaining the cafeteria? Average market price of a certain dish?

      Are you saying that I should have to pay tax on using the employee gym where I work too? What about the computer they have set up for employees' personal use?

    • Consider the following perks at my workplace:
      Onsite gym
      Popcorn machine
      Tea/coffee machine
      Few other (small) nice odds and ends
      Should I be paying taxes on what those items would cost me if I had to pay for them? I think not. I accept that those items cost my company money, which is results in a slightly smaller paycheck. Don't ding me twice by lowering my pay AND making me pay taxes for the value of these items.
      • by Steve Hamlin (29353) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @11:26AM (#43401823) Homepage

        "Should I be paying taxes on what those items would cost me if I had to pay for them?"

        Yes.

        Deminimis rules apply, but you are generally taxed-as-income on the compensation you receive in exchange for your labor.

        That includes cash wages, health care benefits paid by your employer, 401k matching, car allowance if you are not driving miles for work purposes, $1,000/year worth of gym membership, or $5,000/year of food.

        Would you do the job for only popcorn? Of course not. Would I take a lower wage if my employer paid my mortgage? Yes, and I should be taxed on that. Somewhere in between those extremes are what IRS Revenue Rulings define. And in this case, the IRS is taking a look at the changes in how companies provide food to employees, and is redefining the rules of what counts an "income".

  • "'I buy my lunch with after-tax dollars,' said McMahon. 'And I have to pay taxes to support free meals for those Google employees.'"

    How exactly do tax dollars go to fund the lunches at Google's cafeterias? Last time I checked, that money came from revenue earned by Google, through its business. You know, from working.

    How would the government prove that a given employee is actually eating the meals? Do they have a swipe card that tracks them? What if they are bringing their own lunch?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The argument is that because Google employers are not buying their lunch, then they're not contributing to the city/county/state tax revenue pool.

      "Huh?" you say.

      If Google's kitchens sold those lunches to the employees then the employees would pay tax on the purchase of those lunches.
      Thus by not requiring people to purchase the food and thus pay tax on the purchase, they're depriving the city/county/state of sales tax.

      From an IRS perspective, Google is effectively providing people a "fringe benefit." The ben

    • It's the government. Who cares about tracking employee meals when you can just tax potential meals? They'll come up with some formula like dividing the number of hours worked per week by four, multiplying that by the average cost of the most expensive dish on the menu at the local five star hotel and then adding 10% to account for rounding errors.

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:20AM (#43400833) Homepage Journal

    Technically, if you get free parking from your employee (i.e. you don't pay to park at a parking garage because they pay for the spot), that is considered a taxable event. You are supposed to report that on your taxes.

    This would be a similar event. You are benefiting by your employer covering the cost.

    Whether the final ruling on this matter is considered the same remains to be seen.

    • by Culture20 (968837)

      Technically, if you get free parking from your employe[r] (i.e. you don't pay to park at a parking garage because they pay for the spot), that is considered a taxable event. You are supposed to report that on your taxes.

      That is quite dumb. My employer also provides me with free water, electricity, heating, cooling, shelter from rain, several computers with which I do my work, etc. And I don't pay taxes on any of it. No one does because everyone gets these sorts of things from their employer including parking space unless you work in Manhattan or Chicago. Now if they gave me a parking space I could use when not working, I could see how that might be a benefit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:21AM (#43400847)

    ... and while we're at it let's tax free coffee, free snacks, hell even all that free water workers drink on break.

    Even better, let's tax all time spent on break -- I'm sick of supporting lazy workers on break with my hard-earned-no-break hours!

  • by phayes (202222) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:21AM (#43400865) Homepage

    Say the professor prefers tea & fills his teapot from his university's tap. Does he have an individual meter so that his usage is not coming out of the pocket of the rest of the faculty or the students? If a corporate lunch is an untaxed benefit shouldn't he have one for his tea? Shouldn't he also have one for the toilets he uses? How is his use of these common resources any different from free lunches -- or is it just a matter of time until this becomes the norm as well??

    • The university, unless it uses well water, pays for its water like everyone else via the water taxes.

      By the way: $10 of water is an ENORMOUS amount of water. $10 barely gets you a nice cheeseburger or salad in many US cities. Typical US household water bill is $330/year, according to a quick search.

      • by sribe (304414)

        The university, unless it uses well water, pays for its water like everyone else via the water taxes.

        WTF??? That attempt at an analogy is a double miss:

        1) No, there is no "water tax" that pays for water. The university pays for water, on top of which there might or might not be tax charged, depending on the locality.

        2) Google pays for the food, and pays taxes on it.

        By the way: $10 of water is an ENORMOUS amount of water. $10 barely gets you a nice cheeseburger or salad in many US cities. Typical US household water bill is $330/year, according to a quick search.

        So? From that we can guess that an employee might use $50/year of water at work. So, why shouldn't that also be treated as a taxable benefit to the employee? Not to mention the cost of toilet paper and paper towels and (we hope) soap, which is

    • by stanjo74 (922718)
      Tap water and toilets are mandatory for an office - it is not a benefit.

      If Google lunches were truly free, open to the public, then it can be argued it's not employment benefit/compensation - merely a charitable expense for Google. But if one needs to be a Google employee to get Google lunches, then the lunches are clearly compensation for employment, and it stands to reason that it should be taxable as such.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:26AM (#43400959)

    I have to pay taxes to support free meals for those Google employees

    Only in the most roundabout way. It's not like they're getting state funded lunches, they're just not paying a tax. Just like I don't pay a tax when I eat some raspberries that grew on my land. Of course the commissaries at Google probably pay a tax on the foodstuffs when they buy the bulk ingredients.

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      And before anyone complains that picking berries isn't the same as serving a free meal: You don't pay taxes when your mom heats up a hot pocket and brings it to the basement either.
    • by asylumx (881307)

      Of course the commissaries at Google probably pay a tax on the foodstuffs when they buy the bulk ingredients.

      That's the same thing I was thinking. Not sure why this guy thinks taxpayers are paying for google employee lunches.

  • I'm pretty sure the transaction between google and whoever is preparing the meals is still getting taxed. The only difference is that google is paying the bill and not the individual who gets the food.
  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @10:42AM (#43401207)

    I'm so sick of the expression "cost the government". It's a weasel expression intended to convince people that all money belongs to the government first and they let you have some only after they've spent whatever they want. Bulldinky. Every day you hear about how things have gotten too expensive. Food? Too expensive. Coffee? Too expensive. Air travel? Too expensive. Higher education? Too expensive. Gasoline? Too expensive. Electricity? Too expensive. Insurance? Too expensive. Rent? Too damn high. Healthcare? Too expensive. Why the hell isn't government too expensive? IMHO, if the government got rid of baseline budgeting and actually reduced expenses across the board, those of us who pay for all that crap might not be hell bent on looking for every write-off under the sun.

  • by westlake (615356) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @11:09AM (#43401581)

    The rules are clear if you are working on an oil rig or a deep-diving submersible --- any site so remote and secured that only your employer can keep you fed and housed and the costs are astronomical.

    The five-star buffet in Mountain View?

    That is taxable as income.

    This is not a new issue. Although the concept of tech companies offering their employees gourmet catered dining is relatively recent, restaurants, hotels, bars, and other hospitality businesses have offered their staffs free meals since time immemorial.

    In those cases, the US federal tax code allows a business to exclude the cost of meals from its employees' income only as long as the meals are eaten on the employer's business premises and they are provided "for the employer's convenience."

    A company like Google might have a hard time proving the latter clause. A recent job posting for a "Food Experience Design Manager" would seem to suggest that mealtimes at the Chocolate Factory's over 120 cafes are designed as much for its employees' enjoyment as to bolster the bottom line:

    As the Global Service and Experience Design Manager, you think about everything that goes into how Googlers interact with food. From our ever-popular micro-kitchens to multi-course meals at cafes, the design, layout and experience of eating at Google should promote healthy habits and social serendipity for Googlers. Our food venues need to support the healthiest, happiest workforce on the planet.

    Similarly, Yahoo! started offering its employees free food last August, with a spokesperson telling El Reg that the move was "part of how Yahoo! looks after its talent." But meals offered as a recruitment or retention tactic don't count as being ''for the employer's convenience'' either, according to experts.

    Tax man to take a bite of tech employees' free meals? [theregister.co.uk]

  • I'm a tad envious... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by realsilly (186931) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @11:13AM (#43401649)

    Who says "No Thanks" to a meal that they didn't have to pay for? Any college student will tell you the best meal they had was "free" not because of the food quality, but because it was free. I'm assuming Google just has a cafeteria that employees can just walk into and get a meal or two during any given day while they are working, and that this is an every day occurrence. I can honestly say, I'm a tad jealous, but I see that as a perk of working for that company. If the IRS is going to tax lunches, CEOs across the nation will have to start paying taxes for their elaborate lunches. But wait, so would every college student who didn't pay taxes on food they ate. Oh and what about all those free day care services some places offer or exercise room, shouldn't those perks be taxable also? Wouldn't this then also impact me going over to a friends house and receiving a meal from a party? I didn't pay for it so I wasn't taxed on it.

    This is a slippery slope, and one that if pushed as taxable then it opens up a whole new can of worms. If Google is paying the taxes on the food and upon purchasing the food for giving away, wouldn't taxing the employees be double - taxation?

    I'd love it if I could reap such awesome benefits, but I do not begrudge a Google employee from enjoying the perks of working for Google. I'm happy to learn that a company that large is still so generous to their employees.

  • IRS LINK!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by istartedi (132515) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @11:37AM (#43402003) Journal

    Did he bother to google (heheh) the IRS Publication [irs.gov] for this? (warning, PDF). Scroll down and:

    The fair market value of meals or lodging furnished to an employee by an employer may be nontaxable to the employee. IRC Â119 provides an exclusion for meals and lodging under certain circumstances. Cash provided for meals is not excludable under this Code section; however, under certain circumstances cash can be excluded as a de minimis fringe benefit. IRC Â119

    And a few other paragraphs clarifying this seem to indicate that Google and all the other Valley companies that do this are following the rules just fine. Sheesh! I'm not even a lawyer and certainly not a friggin' professor of such.

  • by MDillenbeck (1739920) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @01:22PM (#43403347)

    I've worked many years in a restaurant as a waiter, and my wife has moved up from working as a server to a manager in the restaurant industry. Did you know many restaurant employees have employee meals? These are either discounted (50% typically) or free meals, and sometimes free fountain drinks also. If Google employees have to report the meal as income, does that mean the servers (who in my state make $2.33 an hour plus tips) have to report the 50% discount as income also? Additionally, almost every manager gets free meals during their work shift - so do they have to record those? What of free fountain drinks - do you charge one per shift, or is each soda refill a full drink charge?

    I understand that some people are upset that they pay in post-tax dollars while others are getting a free perk. I don't get a company car - but should those that do be charged the lease value as income when they are provided with one? If a company provides you a uniform, do you pay taxes on it as if you earned the money to buy it? If you make personal printouts or use a company computer for personal activities, if you are provided a company mobile phone and free plan, or any other of the "perks" a job provides, does that have to be counted as income?

    Again, I understand you are upset. However, if a company wants to give their employees a perk, I think it should be. If a company is required to report food given to an employee as income in goods to an employee, then it should apply to every little perk given and not just food. In other words, take a pen home, then be taxed on that income - which would mean a much more totalitarian system at work to monitor every little thing every employee does.

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