In the world of employee perks, free food is king.
Oh, your job offers free day care, or $500 in clothing credit to build the professional wardrobe of your dreams? Well, these don't come close to making you feel as good as free work-issued lunches, which can save you up to an estimated $1,000 annually (the current cost that all of those quick work lunches are costing Americans nowadays). And many major Silicon Valley companies now include meals as standard-issue benefits, with companies such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and TripAdvisor offering full-blown cafeterias to employees. Yep—in addition to enjoying high industry salaries, people who work at these corporations are also chowing down on free sushi and frozen yogurt. You've probably heard, and envied, all of this before.
However, you may no longer have to suffer through this jealousy while begrudgingly eating your own overpriced turkey sandwich from that place across the street from your office. As it turns out, these free work lunches may soon become a thing of the past thanks to good ol' Uncle Sam.
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A new IRS project titled the Priority Guidance Plan—that just got the green light last week—will reexamine the current exemption of free food perks for employees, and it could potentially make freeloading employees have to file taxes for all of those free meals.
Under current tax-free exemptions, meals at tech offices can be provided for free if they can be proved to be issued in the name of employee convenience. But now, the IRS is starting to question whether these free meals are really in favor of employees or are actually benefitting the tech companies. After all, it is no secret that if you never have to leave the office, you're probably going to work longer hours.
If the IRS does decide that work-issued free meals must be taxed, the combined costs of all of their free lunches and dinners will to need to be added to employees' W-2 forms once tax season comes around.
The moral of this story? It turns out the old saying was right along: there really is no such thing as a free lunch. Even if you are a tech genius who makes $180,000 a year and work at a company worth $47.9 billion.
Now eat as much of that free sashimi as you can before it goes away.