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Google Chef Jason Wilson, right, holds some chocolate chip cookies
Google Chef Jason Wilson, right, holds some chocolate chip cookies

Free food is almost synonymous these days with technology companies, the fuel that helps HR recruiters attract and retain employees.

In Kirkland, Google hired world-renowned chef Jason Wilson to run the kitchen, while Seattle startup Has Offers last year brought on board chef Chris Blanco to keep the geeks well fed and hydrated.

But could the free gravy train come to an end?

The Wall Street Journal reports that the IRS is currently investigating whether employees should pay additional taxes on the free food as added compensation.

Journal reporter Mark Maremont writes:

Tax rules around fringe benefits are complex, but in general they categorize meals regularly provided by an employer as a taxable perk, similar to personal use of a company car. That leads several tax experts to wonder if some companies providing free food may be skirting the rules.

The story quotes some accounting experts as saying that the meals should be counted as taxable income, part of an employee’s compensation. If the meals are charged at $8 to $10, The Journal notes that employees could take a tax hit for as much as $5,000.

This will certainly be a hot issue to watch in the lunch rooms and cafes of tech companies everywhere. What do you think? Should an employee’s free lunch be counted as taxable income?

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