Google And Facebook May Have To Pay Tax On 'Free' Lunches For US Employees

Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook are famously excellent places to work - with employees treated to great benefits, cool offices, hefty pay packets -- and free lunches.

Google alone has more than 120 cafes around the world, and serves 50,000 meals a day. And in HuffPost's experience, the food is irritatingly delicious.

But now it turns out that those free meals might not be so free at all.

According to US media reports, the American taxman might be considering whether or not free food for employees should be taxed as income.

The Wall Street Journal said that the Internal Revenue Service may be looking into the practice, while the HuffPost US quoted a tax expert as saying the food should be taxable.

Martin J. McMahon, Jr., professor of tax law at the University of Florida, told HuffPost that Google and Facebook report free food as tax-free fringe benefits, when they should be considered part of the employee's salary.

"Let's say that an employee gets $2,000 in free meals and makes $50,000 a year. The company should report to the IRS that it paid the employee $52,000 in compensation on which the employee would be taxed, he said.

However, it's unlikely Googlers will be handing over cash for their sushi any time soon.

The IRS hasn't commented on the repot, neither company has been accused on any wrongdoing, and it is unlikely employees themselves would have to foot the bill even if the tax situation did change.

Meanwhile Facebook gave no comment to our US colleagues, and told the WSJ that it is "compliant" with the law.

So for now it seems that Googlers and Facebookers will continue to chow down, while the rest of us trudge to the sandwich shop like chumps. Sigh.