Some companies provide their employees with free meals (e.g. Google).

Would these meals need to be claimed on my taxes?

If not, what if a company provided all meals, laundry, car, house, entertainment, etc. for employees (could it do this by giving each employee a credit card that the company would pay)? Would the employees not pay any income taxes?

  • I can tell you that I was provided at hotel room during an internship and this was a taxable benefit. If the company owns the housing then it might be different. Also, see- csus.edu/aba/audit/Tax-Compliance/…
    – user606723
    Sep 8, 2011 at 17:27
  • The employer is required to withhold if the benefit is taxable and it should be on your 1099 or W2. Your question is hard to answer with out knowing what you are trying to do. If you are trying to avoid taxes by negoatiating it into a contract, it is taxable if it is a compensation included in your contract, even if it is not taxable to other employeeds. When I was in the military we did not pay taxes on housing or our housing allowance but that may have a special exemption.
    – user4127
    Sep 9, 2011 at 18:40

3 Answers 3


It looks like the resource to deciding these is here

Concerning the meals, the law seems a bit vague to me.

You can exclude the value of meals you furnish to an employee from the employee's wages if they meet the following tests.

  • They are furnished on your business premises.
  • They are furnished for your convenience.

This exclusion does not apply if you allow your employee to choose to receive additional pay instead of meals.

If the whole point of google providing meals is to benefit Google as such people will not leave the googleplex when to obtain meals elsewhere causing increased productivity for Google, then this is covered as a business expense. (Even if it wasn't, Google would have to notify you that it was providing you a non-expensable benefit, i.e. compensation, by giving you a 1099 at the end of the year).

Concerning the other benefits, the only way I could see those items not being taxable benefits is if one of the two applies.

  1. The employee is compelled to live on the premises in order to perform their job duties. Perhaps a butler. Perhaps they live in a research center far from civilization? Those are the only two I can think of off hand.. Obviously the employee wouldn't need a credit card in this case.
  2. The employee's job consists of 100% travel time.
  • Also, I am pretty sure it's the employer's responsibility to file these as taxable benefits, not yours.
    – user606723
    Sep 8, 2011 at 19:40
  • You got an upvote because your answer is the closest to being right. But you should edit the Google part. Because of te reasons you listed, the benefit IS allowed to be expensed by Google and it is not income to you. Sep 11, 2011 at 13:25
  • 1
    Michael Pryor, I don't know enough to make that claim. If you feel that's the truth, please edit the answer yourself.
    – user606723
    Sep 12, 2011 at 14:39

I believe there is an overtime meal allowance. That is, if an employee works "overtime" (defined as 7:00 p.m. for a 9:00 start, or ten-plus hours after the shift starts), the company can provide a non-taxable meal free of charge, or give a "reasonable" allowance ($15-$20) that must be spent outside on a meal (no drinks). This is because the employee is working extra hours at the convenience of the company.

Lunches can be subsidized. That is the company can provide lunch on company premises, and must charge employees the direct costs of the food and preparing it, but can forego charging for "overhead" (e.g. the implied rent for the lunch facility) and profit.

  • You can also receive meals if leaving isn't really an option. I worked in a facilty once that took about 20 minutes to get in or out of -- heading off to grab something to eat was not an option, so the employer catered lunch. Sep 9, 2011 at 3:10

In many cases yes.

In the case of an employer handing employees a credit card to use, that is clearly income if the card is used for something other than a business expense.

Generally speaking, if you're receiving something with a significant value without strings attached, it is likely taxable. Google no doubt has an army of tax attorneys, so perhaps they are able to exploit loopholes of some sort.

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